Asian Handicap Betting Explained | How AH Bets Work

Asian Handicap markets enable punters to bet on the outcome of a football match where one of the teams are given a goal “handicap” that’s either positive or negative. It evens out the odds between two opponents, where the stronger team must win by more goals for it to count.

Asian Handicap betting might sound complex at first, but it’s relatively simple once you see some worked examples. I’ll explain exactly how Asian Handicap betting works.


The Basics Of Asian Handicap Betting

Every Asian Handicap (AH) betting market is distinguished by the team name followed by a figures such as -0.5, +1.0, +1.5, -1.5, and so on. The figures go up and down in increments of 0.5 and each represent an imaginary head start, or a goals deficit, awarded to a team before kick-off.

The Betfair Exchange Asian Handicap Markets for Fulham vs Manchester United

Asian Handicap Football Betting Explained (How It Works)

For example, an Asian Handicap market would enable you to bet on the outcome of Fulham vs Man United after giving Fulham a theoretical +0.5 goals head start before kick-off (back @ 2.42, as shown above). This means that Fulham will win you the bet if they:

  1. Beat beat Man United. Their goal margin will just be exaggerated by an additional +0.5 goals. Or,
  2. Draw with Man United. For example, if the final score is 2–2, the Asian Handicap awards Fulham the additional 0.5 goals making it Fulham 2.5–2 Man United.

A loss for Fulham — even by a one goal margin — is not enough to win this bet because it means Man United still win by 0.5 goals. For example if the final score is 2–3, then the handicap makes it Fulham 2.5–3 Man United. Hence you lose.

Of course you can’t really win or lose a football match by half a goal. These markets do require a little bit of imagination!

Asian Handicap bets cover all kinds of matches, including games that are likely to be close and those where there’s a clear cut winner. They can be traded pre-match, or in-play — just like any other sports betting market.

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Why Asian Handicap Markets Were Created

It’s not immediately obvious to everyone why Asian Handicap markets were formed, and how they’ve managed to become so popular. Here’s my thoughts.

Asian Handicap markets achieve three things:

  1. More flexibility. By assessing the perceived bias between two teams, it allows bettors to select a market that fits their view on the match more effectively.
  2. Eliminates draws. In real life all goals count as whole numbers. Asian Handicap markets eliminate draws by applying decimal values for goal handicaps (e.g. -1.5/+1.5 and -2.5/+2.5).
  3. Evens out events. By applying a handicap to one team, the other has an improved chance of winning. Therefore the odds are evened out, making for steadier betting results with less variance.

I’ll elaborate on this last point — evening out events.

An Example Fixture That’s Dull for Bettors!

Let’s suppose Spurs are playing Plymouth Argyle in an FA cup fixture.

It’s highly likely that Spurs will win this game (especially at home), and thus their price in the 1×2 market will be extremely short. Let’s say 1.1 for arguments sake.

The dilemma here is:

  • Backing Spurs is not a particularly exciting bet to make, and the punter only stands to earn a very small profit. Most would consider this more risk than it’s worth.
  • Backing Plymouth is a bet that’s highly likely to lose. Most punters would consider an alternative, more likely outcome to risk their money on.

The reality is that most bettors will feel as if this fixture doesn’t offer a lot of opportunity (or excitement) in the standard 1×2 market.

How Asian Handicap Markets Improve the Outlook

Asian Handicap markets manipulate the scoreline, making for a more exciting proposition.

Let’s instead suppose you give Spurs a theoretical handicap, such as -2.5 goals before the match starts (“Spurs -2.5”). This is the same as Plymouth having a +2.5 goals head start before kick off. Does that even the game out a tad?

Yes, it does. Suddenly Spurs have really got to show their superiority.

They’ve got to win by three goals or more for the bet to come off — which is by no means guaranteed in any FA cup fixture. The odds in the Asian Handicap markets reflect this theoretical chance. You’d expect the odds for Spurs and Plymouth to be tighter together, as if they’re more evenly matched.

But exactly how superior will Spurs be on the day, if at all?

Team superiority is an area that I’ll address in the following section. You want to select the appropriate Asian Handicap market.


How To Choose the Right Asian Handicap Market

Let’s continue with the same Spurs v Plymouth example fixture and assume that we believe the populist view that Spurs will beat Plymouth Argyle in the FA cup.

If you’re looking to bet in the Asian Handicap markets, you need to decide how many goals you believe Spurs will beat Plymoth Argyle by. Will Spurs beat Plymouth by a fine margin (e.g. 1 goal)? Or will they annihilate them in a landslide victory (e.g. 6 goals)?

Note that Asian Handicap payouts do not reward you any more for a landslide win than a low-margin win, like Spread Betting goal markets do. You do however have the option to choose the appropriate market to take on more, or less, risk.

If you perceive the advantage Spurs has over Plymouth as being fairly small (accounting for the gulf in divisions), then you might opt to take odds on Spurs -1.5, for example. This gives (safer) shorter odds than those on Spurs -2.5 — because Spurs stand a better chance of overcoming a -1.5 goal start than a -2.5 start. The more goals to overcome, the less likely it is to happen, and the longer the odds will be.

Basically, it’s important to remember that there’s multiple Asian Handicap markets that exist for the same fixture. Your choice of bet ultimately depends on your analysis of the game.

Selecting the appropriate market is tricky, though. My advice, as always, is to focus on what market you believe offers value as opposed to making selections based what you believe will actually happen.


Round Number Asian Handicap Markets (e.g. -2.0/+2.0)

Some Asian Handicap markets use round numbers — such as -2.0/+2.0. The exact same handicapping process applies, as before.

The only difference here is that the draw outcome is not eliminated. In this scenario a team handicapped by exactly two goals (-2.0) could win by a two goal margin, thus creating a ‘draw’ with no winner.

In this occurrence, your stake is refunded. It’s as simple as that.


Asian Handicap +0 Market

The Asian Handicap +0 market allows you to bet on the winner of a game without ever losing money if a draw occurs. It works exactly the same as the ‘Draw No Bet’ market (i.e. no goal handicap is applied).

Imagine it’s Liverpool v Manchester United, and you predict Liverpool will only win by a very fine margin. By backing Liverpool in the +0 Asian Handicap market, you create a safety net whereby your stake is returned if the game is a draw.

Remember that in the Asian Handicap +0 market you are eliminating one of the three potential outcomes of the football match (the draw). So the odds will be shorter for winners.


Combined Asian Handicaps (e.g. +2.0 & +2.5)

This type of Asian Handicap market splits your stake equally across the two handicaps listed.

Let’s say you bet on Chelsea -2.0 & -2.5 against Brighton. Half your stake goes on Chelsea with a -2.0 goal start, the other half on Chelsea to win with a -2.5 goal start. It’s essentially two bets in one click.

Chelsea drawing or losing the game means you lose both bets. If they win by three goals or more, you win both bets. But if Chelsea win by exactly two goals you:

  • Lose half your stake (the bet placed at -2.5), and
  • Get half your stake back (the bet placed at -2.0).


Quarter Asian Handicaps (e.g. -1.25, +0.75, or -2.75)

You’ll find the “quarter” notation used on some Asian Handicap markets. It’s not a very intuitive format. Nonetheless it’s easy enough to unravel.

Quarter handicap markets split your stake into two separate bets, exactly as described in the previous section. The two stakes are placed on the Asian Handicap markets on either side of the quarter notation.

For example:

  • -1.25 = -1.0 & -1.5
  • +0.75 = +0.5 & 1.0
  • -2.75 = -2.5 & -3.0
  • +2.25 = +2.0 & +2.5
  • -0.25 = +0 & -0.5

Just remember that the quarter notation denotes the mid-point of two separate bets. Its easy if you just subtract 0.25 to get reach the “below” market, and add 0.25 to reach the “above” market.

Quarter notation is unnecessarily confusing. But that’s as difficult as the markets get.


Where to Bet on Asian Handicap Odds

You can use regular Bookmakers and Betting Exchanges to bet on Asian Handicap odds. I recommend Betfair and Matchbook.

However, for some bettors the liquidity (and stake limitations) are too low at these sites. If you require higher limits, then you may want to consider a specialist Bet Broker which has no account restrictions. Read my review of the Best Sports Betting Brokers to learn more.

High Limit Asian Handicap Betting Sites


How Asian Handicap Odds Can Be Used In Your Betting Strategy

Firstly, try to determine when teams are under-hyped or over-hyped. That’s a good starting point.

For example, if you can detect when the strong favourite is unlikely to win as easily as the Asian Handicap markets show, then an Asian Handicap market would enable you to back the underdog with a relatively cautious, low variance bet. You could, for instance, take -1.5 goals away from the favourite, if this aligns with your estimations.

Your approach to identifying profitable bets in the Asian Handicap markets can be strengthened by:

An Easier Way to Profit from Asian Handicap Markets…

Use a ready-made value bet finder to identify profitable bets in the Asian Handicap markets with zero research or analysis required.

There’s two excellent value bet finders I recommend on this site.

  1. RebelBetting (a very well priced desktop application)
  2. Trademate Sport (a sleek, but more expensive, in-browser platform)

Both of these products work. Check out my Value Betting Software Review to learn more.


Why Professionals Flock To Asian Handicap Markets

I’ve pondered this question many times.

Here’s my thoughts on why the Asian handicap markets attract so many professional bettors:

  • Various statistics and other elements help bettors to predict, with more certainty, that a price is wrongly assigned to a handicap.
  • Eliminating the draw means bettors have less variables to consider when they compile their own odds. Rather they just need to decide if the market is right or wrong about how the two teams match up.
  • The added complexity of the markets means there’s less participants, and therefore more exploitable value, than in popular markets (e.g, 1×2).

Asian Handicap markets are also hugely popular with high-rollers, because they turn every football match into an “even” win or lose proposition. That’s not to say they’re all earning a profit, though…

Could it be possible that some high stakes bettors create opportunities for profitable professionals by distorting the Asian Handicap markets and driving prices in one direction? Just a thought.

To learn how other bet types work, check out my post Popular Football Betting Markets Explained.

Toby @ Punter2Pro
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