This has to be one of the most difficult areas of betting to grasp when you're just starting out as a punter, and even people with years of experience can struggle to grasp it at times. The main reason for that is because the definition of an asian handicap kind of chances between pre-match and in-play. Hopefully this little guide will help to explain how it all works for you, and there's a steady little reference chart at the bottom that should help you out as well.
What are Asian Handicaps?
Well, much the same as normal handicaps, they allow you to give a team a head start or give the team they are playing a head start. What this essentially means is rather than backing a team simply to win, when the odds might not be favourable, you can back them to win, or not lose, by X amount of goals, X being the handicap.
What's the difference between an Asian Handicap and a normal Handicap?
A normal handicap, often reffered to as EH or European Handicap is a straight whole number. If you back a team -1 Handicap, they need to win by 2, if you back a team -3 Handicap they need to win by 4, if you back a team +1 Handicap they need to not lose the game, if you back a team +3 Handicap they need to not lose by 3+ goals. The easiest way to determine whether your bet has won or lost is simply to add or subtract the handicap from the number of goals your team scored, and if they still win, you win. Easy!
Example, you back +3 and your team loses 4-2 so 2+3 = 5, final score 4-5 - you win
Example, you back -2 and your team wins 3-1 so 3-3 = 1, final score 1-1, you lose
Example, you back +1 and your team draws 2-2 so 2+1 = 3, final score 3-2, you win
Now the difference between a European Handicap and an Asian Handicap is that an Asian Handicap blurs those lines in between. So instead of a -1, -2, -3, you've got -1, -1.25, -1.5, -1.75 etc. This gives much more flexibility in terms of where you want your bet to be on the scale, but it also introduces the prospect of "push lines". Whereas with a European Handicap there is never a "push" bet (money back) if after applying the Asian Handicap using the same formula as above, the scores are level, you get your money back. We'll discuss more below...
Pre-Match Asian Handicaps
Now it doesn't matter where you place your bets, these are always the same. The only think that potentially changes from bookie to bookie is how they are displayed, but they all mean the same thing. Most UK bookmakers will display two lines such as -0.5, 1.0 or -1.5, -2.0 whereas most European bookmakers will display -0.75 or -1.75. It's important to know that regardless of how they are written though, those two examples mean exactly the same thing. To translate one to the other, if you ever see an asian handicap written as two numbers, just take the mid point between them, for example, half way between -0.5 and -1.0 is -0.75.
Now I'd suggest you get your head around pre-match Asian Handicaps before moving in-play, as they're much easier to understand this way, and once it clicks then it's plain sailing from there I promise you.
Firstly, let's categorise Asian Handicaps into three categories:
Half ball lines like -0.5, -1.5, -2.5, +0.5, +1.5, +2.5
Whole ball lineslike -2.0, -1.0, 0.0, +1.0, +2.0
Quarter ball lines like -0.5, -1.0 or +1.0, +1.5
Half ball lines are the most straight forward, as you can simply do what I said above. Take the final score, add or subtract the handicap line that you backed and if the number of goals your team scored is more than the other team, you win
Example, you back -1.5 and your team wins 2-0 so 2-1.5 = final score 0.5 - 0, so you win (I know a team can't win 0.5-0 on an actual score, but it's just the easiest way of doing this)
Example, you back +2.5 and your team wins 1-0 so 1+2.5 = final score 3.5-0, so you win
Example, you back -1.5 and your team wins 1-0, so 1-1.5 = final score -0.5-0, so you lose
Whole ball lines are again pretty simple, but they also introduce the refund element. So because they are a whole number, there is a chance that after doing the same sum, the scores end all square. If this is the case (because they are a 2-way line not a 3-way line), then you will get your money back
Example, you back a team -1.0 and they win 3-2 so 3-1=2, final score 2-2, so you get your money back
Example, you back a team +2.0 and they lose 1-0, so 0+2=2, final score 1-2, so you win
Example, you back a team -3.0 and they win 3-1, so 3-3=0, finalscore 0-1 so you lose
Quarter ball lines is where everybody gets confused because they involved backing two lines, but the thing is, they are all just a combination of the two above. This basically splits your stake onto two different lines. So a bet on -0.5, -1.0 becomes two bets, one on the -0.5 and one on the -1.0. If you bet £10 then just imagine that £5 goes onto each line, and then use the half ball or whole ball stuff above to figure it out. Simple! What this also means is that your bet could have two results, i.e a half win / half void or a half void / half loss. Both are applied at the same odds that you backed it at though.
Example, you place a £10 bet on a team -1.0, -1.5 Asian Handicap at 2.000 and they win 2-1. So £5 goes onto the -1.0 part which as you've learned above, would be a refund. £5 then goes onto the -1.5 part, which as you've learned above, would be a loss. So your total return would be £5 from your £10 bet (Half void, half loss)
Example, you place a £10 bet on a team +0.5, +1.0 Asian Handicap at 2.00 and they draw 0-0. So £5 goes onto the +0.5 part which as you've learned above, would be a win, £5 then goes onto the +1.0 part, which as you've learned above, would also win. So your total return would be £20 from a £10 bet (£10 x 2.000).
In-Play Asian Handicaps
Now this is where it gets a little bit more difficult. Really, the fundamentals stay the same, but most UK bookmakers who offer Asian Handicaps do something where they will reset the scores to 0-0 while some European books don't. If they don't then you don't need to worry about this part because your in-play betting is the same as your pre-match betting, but if like Bet365 they do, then you need to pay attention here.
When backing an Asian Handicap in-play you're betting not on the result of the game as a whole, but on the remainder of the game. So the handicaps work in exactly the same way as above, but you've got to imagine that the score is currently 0-0. So if a team is 4-0 up and you're backing a -0.5 asian line in-play, that means your team, in the remainder of the game are going to have to cover that -0.5 asian line, i.e. win by 1 more goal. If your team is losing 2-1 and you back a +1.5 asian line in-play then you're backing your team not to lose the remainder of the game by 2 or more goals.
Really it works in exactly the same way, but the resetting of scores or betting on the remainder of the game part is the bit that normally confuses people.
Number one rule - if you don't know what you're backing, don't back it. This applies with anything that you're putting your hard earned money on. Don't just back bets because someone is telling you to when you don't even know what is required for that bet to win. Learn, bet in theory or bet with pennies until you get used to it. Honestly, when you just use these asian lines instead of normal lines, you will not only get a better price in most cases, but you'll also learn how they work, and they can be a massively powerful asset for any punter out there.
And if you ever need a quick little reference sheet so you know what's happening, I've included one below that should help you calculate if and when your bet is a winner or a loser. Remember though, if you're using this in-play with the likes of Bet365, you're betting on the remainder of the game, not the final score!