Guide to Asian Handicap Betting

Asian Handicaps explained & which bookies to use

If you think that Asian handicap betting sounds like distasteful wagering on a location specific, debilitating physical condition, read on to make sure you do not get seriously confused by one of the betting options offered by many online bookies.

What are Asian handicaps?

They are just a system for betting on football that originated in Asia where, unlike the rest of world in the late 1990s, bookies chose to handicap the favourite team and preferred not to provide odds for the likelihood of a game ending in a draw.

The aim of the handicap is usually to enable the bookmaker to offer both teams at odds of around even money.

What are the advantages of Asian handicap betting?

You have a significantly better chance of winning money than with traditional markets for a number of reasons:

1. You will bet on one of only two possible outcomes, a home team win or a visiting team win as the traditional third outcome of a draw is not included, giving you a significantly greater chance of achieving returns.

2. You can potentially win money even if your selection loses the match or if the match ends in a draw if the margin is less than the handicap.

3. If, after the handicap is applied to the match result, the outcome is a draw you will not lose your money but will have your original stake outlay refunded.

4. Bookmakers make a lower percentage of profit on Asian handicaps than they do with traditional betting, making them fantastic value bets.

They can also make matches that would otherwise be unappealing from a betting perspective an attractive proposition. For example, if Manchester United were to play a substantially inferior team they would be so heavily odds on that the majority of punters probably would not bother having a bet on them in a traditional market. The heavy handicap that would be applied in such a match would reflect the disparity in the teams’ abilities and potentially provide a much more alluring betting market.

So how does Asian handicap betting work?

They quite simply give the favourite team a handicap which has to be overcome for a bet on the favourite side to pay out. The handicap is expressed in goals and is applied to the ultimate result of the match. Odds are then provided for each team in the usual way.

The favourite team’s handicap will usually be indicated with a minus sign and the underdog will have a corresponding advantage expressed as a plus sign.

The easiest way to explain is probably to look at a couple of examples.

Half Goal Asian Handicaps

If Chelsea were playing Arsenal at home at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea might well be considered by the market to have an advantage over the visiting side. Bookmakers offering Asian Handicap betting might consequently decide on a half goal handicap for Chelsea.

This would usually be expressed as follows:

Team…….Asian Handicap…….Returns



We all know that it there is no such thing as a half goal but, in Asian handicap betting parlance, a half goal is higher than zero goals. If, at the end of the game, the match ended in a draw, bets on Arsenal would pay out and bets on Chelsea would lose. The outcome after the handicap is applied would make Arsenal the victor as follows:

Match Outcome……………….Outcome after handicap is applied

Chelsea 0 Arsenal 0……………….Chelsea 0 Arsenal 0.5

Chelsea 1 Arsenal 1……………….Chelsea 1 Arsenal 1.5

Chelsea 2 Arsenal 2……………….Chelsea 2 Arsenal 2.5

If Chelsea won by a single goal or more, Asian handicap bets on Chelsea would pay out as they have successfully overcome their half goal handicap:

Match Outcome……………….Outcome after handicap is applied

Chelsea 1 Arsenal 0……………….Chelsea 1 Arsenal 0.5

Chelsea 2 Arsenal 0……………….Chelsea 2 Arsenal 0.5

A half goal handicap is usually expressed as either -0.5 or -1/2.

If half points are used in the handicap then a draw can not be a possibility and there will be a result after the handicap is applied whatever happens.

Whole Goal

If teams of more widely diverging abilities play each other, you will find handicaps much higher than half a goal. One or two goal disparities are quite common and, very occasionally, a handicap as great as 3 may be applied if the market feels that this is the scale required to offer both teams at approximately evens. In this case, the favourite will simply have to win by a margin greater than 3 goals for a bet on them to pay out.

You just have to apply the handicap to the final score to determine whether or not your bet will pay out. If, after that, the outcome of the match is a draw, you will simply receive a refund of your stake.

Zero Goal

If two teams of very similar ability take on each other, a zero goal handicap may be offered. So what is the point of Asian handicap betting if this is the scenario? The big advantage of this type of bet in this situation is that, in the event of a draw, you will have your stake refunded. The draw does not exist for these purposes.

When did it start?

The term was coined in 1998 by Joe Saumarez Smith, who happened to be writing about betting on soccer for Vegas Insider, a US gambling information website, at the time. He received a query from someone called Joseph Phan in November 1998 who claimed to be creating the first betting website in Asia.

Phan explained the Asian method of betting on soccer, known locally as Hang Cheng to Saumarez Smith and asked for guidance on what it could be called for a wider audience. Hang Cheng was well established in Asia but Phan sensibly thought it should be given a more easily comprehensible name on his website.

Saumarez Smith suggested that this style of betting could be called Asian Handicap as no one had heard of Hang Cheng in Europe. Phan used that term throughout his website. The term was adopted initially by certain spread betting firms who chose to use Phan’s odds for calculating markets and, gradually, the term spread across the gambling industry. Asian handicap betting is now a term that is recognised across the world.