Asian Handicap betting (named so simply because of its Eastern origins) is a form of betting on football that has gained popularity over the years. The handicaps typically range from one quarter goal to several goals and can be described in terms of half or even quarter goals.
Most importantly, Asian Handicap betting reduces the possible number of outcomes from three (in traditional 1X2 wagering) to two by eliminating the draw outcome. This simplification delivers two betting options that each have a near 50% chance of success.
Asian Handicaps are both good and bad for bookmakers. On one hand, they help bookmakers minimize risk by facilitating trading with parity or balancing the amount of wagering on each side of the match. This enables bookmakers to take larger positions on major matches. On the other hand, Asian Handicap markets are typically low margin offerings that do not contribute as significantly to the gross win as other, higher vigorish betting options like 1X2.
The term “Asian Handicap” was coined by journalist Joe Saumarez Smith in November 1998. He was asked by an Indonesia bookmaker, Joe Phan, to provide a translation of the betting method that was termed ‘hang cheng betting’ by bookmakers in Asia.
Football (soccer) is one of the few sports in the world where a tie is a fairly common outcome. With traditional fixed odds, ties are treated as an additional outcome to the game. In other words, bettors lose when they place a wager on either team to win and the game ties. With Asian Handicaps, however, the chance for a tie is eliminated by use of a handicap that forces a winner. This creates a situation where each team has a 50-50 chance of winning; similar to the odds for a basketball or football spread handicap typically offered by Las Vegas sportsbooks.
This system works in a straightforward manner. The bookmakers’s goal is to create a handicap or “line” that will make the chance of either team winning (considering the handicap) as close to 50% as possible. Since the odds are as close to 50% as possible, bookmakers offer payouts close to even money, or 1.90 to 2.00. Asian Handicaps start at a quarter goal and can go as high as 2.5 or 3 goals in matches with a huge disparity in ability. What makes Asian Handicaps most interesting is the use of quarter goals to get the “line” as close as possible. Taken in conjunction with the posted total for the game, the handicap essentially predicts the game’s final score.
Subsequently, many matches are handicapped in ½ and ¼ intervals; both of which eliminate the possibility of a push since no one can score a half-goal. Quarter (¼) handicaps split the bet between the two next closest ¼ intervals. For instance, a $1000 bet with a handicap of 1 ¾ is the same as betting $500 at 1 ½ and $500 at 2. With ¼ handicap bets, you can win and tie (win ½ of wager) or lose and tie (lose ½ wager). The ¼-goal handicap may be expressed by some bookmakers as “0 and ½”, or (especially for bookmakers whose systems are designed for sports like American football and basketball (where bets have a handicap that is designed to make the odds as close to even as possible)) as “pk (for “pick-em”) and ½”.