Handicap betting is popular in many sports, particularly football (soccer), but also rugby, American football, basketball and really anything in which two teams or individuals compete against one another. It is a mechanism used by bookmakers to even out the odds between a favourite and an underdog in which one side is given an advantage and the other a disadvantage in terms of points / goals. For instance if Manchester United played against Grimsby Town in a football match, the bookies may offer odds on 10/11 for Grimsby to win with a +3 goal handicap and the same odds for United to win with a -3 goal handicap.

In the above example, punters could bet on either side to win based on the handicap given, or for the draw, which – in this case – would occur if Man United won the match by exactly three goals as – based on the handicap given – the result would be parity between the sides.

Asian Handicaps

Asian handicap betting – as the name suggests – is popular in many Asian countries but also the USA and other areas of the world. The main difference between Asian handicaps and the more conventional variety is that they offer just two options (as opposed to the three offered by standard handicaps). As such, based on the above example, if the bet was placed in an Asian handicap market and United won the match by three goals, the bet would become a “push” and your stake would be returned.

Things get a little more confused, however, as Asian handicaps are not always quoted as single, whole numbers. When they are, there is the possibility of the push where the stake is refunded (so, for instance, an Asian handicap of -0 in a football match is equivalent to the “draw no bet” market). But the Asian handicaps can also be quoted as half or even quarter goal/point values. For instance, if Chelsea are playing Tottenham the Asian handicap might be -0.5 goals on Chelsea and +0.5 for Spurs. If Chelsea win the match they have covered the handicap, where Spurs only need to draw (or win) to cover theirs.

Bookies may quote their Asian handicaps in different ways, so +1, +1.5 is the same as +1.25, and +0.5, +1 is the same as +0.75. When you see the Asian handicaps written as such – that is giving a handicap of a quarter of a goal/point – it means your bet is being split between two bets, half on the upper value, half on the lower. So placing £10 on Hull City with an Asian handicap of +0.75 means £5 will go on them with a +0.5 advantage and £5 will go on the +1 advantage. So if Hull draw or win the match you will win both sides of the bet; if they lose by a single goal you would lose the portion of the bet that went on at +0.5 and the +1 side would be a push; and if they lost by two or more goals both sides of the bet will lose.

While handicaps – and particularly Asian handicaps – can appear a little confusing at first glance, they are a great way to bet on a team who you think will definitely not lose (by backing them with a +0.5 advantage) or to get nice odds on an underdog to avoid a hammering (for instance to back Grimsby with a +1.5 goal advantage against Man United). In short, handicap betting gives a greater degree of flexibility when choosing you bets.