Handicap betting was developed to even up contests for bettors, bringing more excitement to wagering on a game where one team is expected to dominate. In rugby league, Leeds Rhinos would be hugely favoured over Wakefield Wildcats, meaning that traditional ‘to win’ odds on Leeds would not offer a very tempting payout. However, the odds become more favourable if you handicap Leeds by ten points, meaning they have to win the game by at least eleven in order for your bet to come off.
Asian handicap is a variation on this theme and is usually associated with football betting, in which it differs from a European handicap by eliminating the possibility of a draw, narrowing the bet to two potential outcomes - win or lose. This type of bet makes games much more nail-biting because bookies work it out so both teams have pretty much the same chance of winning the bet as each other.
The handicap for the favourite and head start for the underdog are represented in brackets after the team’s name, so a Premier League fixture might look like this:
Manchester City (-0.5) vs. West Ham United (0.5)
If you choose to bet on Manchester City, they will have half a goal deducted from their final tally. This means they have to win the match for your bet to pay out. If you bet on West Ham, half a goal is added to their score at the end of the game, so you will win if they draw or win the match.
Sometimes the Asian handicap can be a round figure. For instance:
Arsenal (-1) vs. Norwich (-1)
In this case, backing Arsenal would see them have to win by two clear goals for your bet to pay off. If they only win by one goal, your stake is returned. If you backed Norwich, you would win the bet if they were victorious or drew and you would receive your stake back if they lost by just one goal, giving you a safety net if they don’t perform as you expected them to.
With any Asian handicap bet, the handicap or head start only applies to the team on which you are betting.
In a double Asian handicap, you split your bet between two handicaps. The fixture might look like this:
Manchester City (-0.5, -1) vs. Newcastle United (+0.5, +1)
If you back Manchester City and they win by two goals, you win the whole bet. If they win by one goal, then half your bet will win at the stated odds and the other half of the stake is returned to you. If they draw then you lose the bet. Similarly, if you bet on Newcastle and they win or draw, you will win the whole bet. If they lose by a goal, you lose half your bet and receive the stake back for the other half. If they lose by two goals, then you lose your bet completely.
A double Asian handicap of (0, -0.5) is often written as -0.25, (-0.5, -1) becomes -0.75 and (-1, -1.5) is -1.25. This type of handicap is also sometimes known as a split or a twin handicap.