Handicap Betting and Asian Handicaps Explained

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What is Handicap Betting

Beyond the basics: handicap and Asian handicaps explained

Learn how handicap betting works with Marathonbet’s latest betting guide.

For anyone new to betting, handicap betting can initially seem like a confusing concept.

There are two-way handicaps, three-way handicaps, Asian handicaps, double handicaps, and more.

However, once you have read our guide and have an understanding of the different terms, it can often be one of the best ways to bet on a sporting event.

Here’s all you need to know about handicap betting…

What is handicap betting?

Put simply, handicap betting is a means of a bookmaker making a sporting event more of an even-looking contest by giving an advantage or disadvantage (a ‘+’ or ‘-‘) to a player or team.

That means this form of betting can be attractive for fixtures that appear to be one-sided, giving the bettor more flexibility, rather than simply being offered the standard 1X2 ‘To Win’ bet.

In handicap betting, a heavy favourite must overcome the handicap placed on them by the bookmaker for the bet to pay out.

There are many different types of handicap betting available, here we take a closer look at what you will find on the Marathonbet website.

Two-way and three-way handicap betting explained

These are the most common types of handicap betting, let’s take a look at how these handicap bets work…

How does handicap betting work?

The easiest way to understand handicap betting is to look at a theoretical working example.

Imagine it’s the FA Cup Third Round weekend in England.

Manchester United have been drawn at home to League 1 side Wigan Athletic.

Given the vast gulf in class between the two sides, in the standard 1X2 market, the teams are priced up as follows:

Manchester United – 1.16
Draw – 8.00
Wigan Athletic – 17.00

In terms of value, it wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense to back Manchester United to win this match-up, given the odds are stacked so heavily in the Premier League club’s favour.

That’s where handicap betting can make things interesting.

What if you backed Manchester United to win, but they had to do it by at least three goals?

That changes the market completely.

In this three-way handicap betting scenario, the odds would now be priced up as follows:

Manchester United (-2 goals) – 2.35
Draw (+2 goals to underdog) – 4.20
Wigan Athletic (+2 goals) – 2.50

A three-way handicap may also be referred to as a European handicap.

So, the betting, which was very one-sided originally, is now relatively equal between the two teams.

That means, for your bet on Manchester United to pay out, the Red Devils would need to win by at least three goals—in the process making the game more interesting for the bettor where the result looks a racing certainty on paper. 

So, whilst Manchester United have to win by a certain number of goals for your bet to win, the rewards are greater should they do so.

As an alternative, there are also two-way handicaps offered. These take out the ‘handicap draw’ option by returning your stake in such cases, but the odds reflect this.

To recreate the above example as a two-way handicap, the odds would change to:

Manchester United (-2 goals) – 1.82
Wigan Athletic (+2 goals) – 2.02

Let’s say the final result was 2-0 to Manchester United. In the three-way handicap, the outcome would be a draw with the handicap and your bet would lose. However, in the two-way handicap, as no price was offered on the handicap draw, you would get your stake returned. This is also referred to as a ‘push’, where a bet neither wins nor loses.

So, there is greater risk for the bettor when it comes to the handicap that includes a price for the draw; however, this is reflected in the respective odds offered on either team.

Asian handicap explained

As an alternative to the traditional European handicap, Asian handicaps offer an exciting way to bet, where you don’t lose if your bet finishes in a draw.

What is Asian handicap betting?

Originating from Asia (hence the name), it’s a form of handicap betting that removes the option of a draw entirely from the market.

In the most common form of Asian handicap betting, a bookmaker will provide a goal line for the number of theoretical goals given to a team at the start. Then prices are offered on both teams, with the positive or negative handicap taken into account.

In these types of markets, numerous options will be offered.

Half-Goal Asian handicap

A ‘half goal’ total for the number of goals a team starts with is offered (i.e. 0.5 goals, 1.5 goals, etc.).

That means your bet will have two possible outcomes—either win or lose.

Let’s say Chelsea are playing Sheffield Utd, with Chelsea at -2.5 and the Blades at +2.5 in the Asian handicap betting. If you bet on the Blues at -2.5, they would need to win by three or more goals for your bet to win. Therefore, a Chelsea victory of 3-0, 4-1, 4-0, etc. would be a winning bet.

Full-Goal Asian handicap

In this scenario, the starting handicap offered is a whole number (i.e. one goal, two goals, etc.).

That means your bet will have three possible outcomes—either win, lose or void (push).

Let’s say Barcelona are playing Celta Vigo, with Barcelona at -2 and Celta Vigo at +2 in the Asian Handicap betting. If you bet on Barcelona at -2, these are the possible outcomes:

  • Barcelona win by three goals or more (3-0, 4-0, 4-1, etc.)—your bet is a winning one.
  • Barcelona win by two goals (2-0, 3-1, 4-2, etc.)—the match is a draw with the handicap (a ‘push’), and your stakes are refunded.
  • Barcelona win by one goal, the match is drawn, or Celta Vigo win (2-1, 1-1, 0-1, etc.)—your bet is a losing one.

Double (split) Asian handicap betting

This is a more complex form of regular Asian handicap betting, where your stake is effectively split across two different handicap selections.

As an example, this may show as a betting option on our website in this format: Juventus (-1.5,-2.0) @ 1.85

If you place £10 on this selection, you are effectively placing two separate bets: £5 on each of Juventus -1.5 goals and Juventus -2 goals.

If Juventus were to win 3-0, both bets would win. However, if Juventus won 2-0, the -1.5 bet would be a winning one and your stake would be voided for the -2 part of the bet.

A full description of this betting option can be found here.

A quick guide to calculating Asian handicap bets

We have already detailed a couple of examples of calculating Asian handicap bets in the previous text, but in the following sections we give a brief overview of all the different Asian lines and how your bets would be settled. Where there is a split handicap, the two individual handicaps are shown in brackets.

Negative Asian handicaps

In these examples, you are betting on the favourite with a negative handicap:

Asian handicap -0.25 (0,-0.5)

Your team wins = bet wins

Match is drawn = half your stake is lost, the other half is returned

Your team loses = bet loses

Asian handicap -0.5

Your team wins = bet wins

Match is drawn = bet loses

Your team loses = bet loses

Asian handicap -0.75 (-0.5,-1.0)

Your team wins by two or more goals = bet wins

Your team wins by one goal = half your stake wins, the other half is returned

Match is drawn = bet loses

Your team loses = bet loses

Asian handicap -1.0

Your team wins by two or more goals = bet wins

Your team wins by one goal = your stake is returned

Match is drawn = bet loses

Your team loses = bet loses

Asian handicap -1.25 (-1.0,-1.5)

Your team wins by two or more goals = bet wins

Your team wins by one goal = half your stake loses, the other half is returned

Match is drawn = bet loses

Your team loses = bet loses

Asian handicap -1.5

Your team wins by two or more goals = bet wins

Your team wins by one goal = bet loses

Match is drawn = bet loses

Your team loses = bet loses

Asian handicap -1.75 (-1.5,-2.0)

Your team wins by three or more goals = bet wins

Your team wins by two goals = half your stake wins, the other half is returned

Your team wins by one goal = bet loses

Match is drawn = bet loses

Your team loses = bet loses

Asian handicap -2.0

Your team wins by three or more goals = bet wins

Your team wins by two goals = your stake is returned

Your team wins by one goal = bet loses

Match is drawn = bet loses

Your team loses = bet loses

Asian handicap -2.25 (-2.0,-2.5)

Your team wins by three or more goals = bet wins

Your team wins by two goals = half your stake loses, the other half is returned

Your team wins by one goal = bet loses

Match is drawn = bet loses

Your team loses = bet loses

Asian handicap -2.5

Your team wins by three or more goals = bet wins

Your team wins by one or two goals = bet loses

Match is drawn = bet loses

Your team loses = bet loses

Positive Asian handicaps

In these examples, you are betting on the underdog with a positive handicap:

Asian handicap +0.25 (0,+0.5)

Your team wins = bet wins

Match is drawn = half your stake wins, the other half is returned

Your team loses = bet loses

Asian handicap +0.5

Your team wins = bet wins

Match is drawn = bet wins

Your team loses = bet loses

Asian handicap +0.75 (+0.5,+1.0)

Your team wins = bet wins

Match is drawn = bet wins

Your team loses by one goal = half your stake loses, the other half is returned

Your team loses  by two or more goals = bet loses

Asian handicap +1.0

Your team wins = bet wins

Match is drawn = bet wins

Your team loses by one goal = your stake is returned

Your team loses  by two or more goals = bet loses

Asian handicap +1.25 (+1,+1.5)

Your team wins = bet wins

Match is drawn = bet wins

Your team loses by one goal = half your stake wins, the other half is returned

Your team loses  by two or more goals = bet loses

Asian handicap +1.5

Your team wins = bet wins

Match is drawn = bet wins

Your team loses by one goal = bet wins

Your team loses  by two or more goals = bet loses

Asian handicap +1.75 (+1.5,+2)

Your team wins = bet wins

Match is drawn = bet wins

Your team loses by one goal = bet wins

Your team loses  by two goals = half your stake loses, the other half is returned

Your team loses  by three or more goals = bet loses

Asian handicap +2.0

Your team wins = bet wins

Match is drawn = bet wins

Your team loses by one goal = bet wins

Your team loses  by two goals = your stake is returned

Your team loses  by three or more goals = bet loses

Asian handicap +2.25 (+2,+2.5)

Your team wins = bet wins

Match is drawn = bet wins

Your team loses by one goal = bet wins

Your team loses  by two goals = half your stake wins, the other half is returned

Your team loses  by three or more goals = bet loses

Asian handicap +2.5

Your team wins = bet wins

Match is drawn = bet wins

Your team loses by one or two goals = bet wins

Your team loses  by three or more goals = bet loses

What is handicap 0?

Among the different two-way handicap lines offered on a game, you’ll find one listed as ‘handicap (0)’.

This is the same as a ‘draw no bet’ price, which simply means you bet on either of the teams to win, and if the match ends in a draw, your stake will be returned in full.

Why are different handicap lines offered on the same match?

Whilst the main handicap line will generally be set at a level which will make the odds relatively equal, you will find a multitude of different lines offered on the same match.

This gives the bettor the opportunity to increase or decrease their risk by betting at different prices, depending on how they think the match will pan out.

For example, in the match below, the closest handicap from the betting point of view is Manchester United -1.5 goals (i.e. they would need to win by two goals or more).

Different handicap lines offered within the same match
Different handicap lines offered within the same match

However, if you think Manchester United will win by a larger margin, you can increase your risk and take a bigger price.

Place a bet on the favourites to win with a handicap of -3.5, you will be rewarded with odds of 4.40 for a successful bet, but they will need to win by four clear goals or more.

Similarly, if you think Sheffield United will put up a good fight in the match, but aren’t sure the +1.5 handicap is enough, you can increase the handicap, but the odds will reduce as the head start given gets bigger.

Accumulator betting

If you enjoy placing accumulator bets, you can place a bet with several different handicap selections or mix other markets with your handicap picks.

Can you bet on handicaps in accumulators?

Similar to betting on the main match result market, you can add handicap picks to your accumulator bets.

You can place an accumulator on any types of handicap, or pick from a mix of two-way and three-way markets, as shown on the bet slip below.

A bet slip showing selections with different handicaps
A bet slip showing selections with different handicaps

How do you calculate an accumulator on handicap bets?

Returns from successful handicap accumulator bets are calculated in a similar manner to a regular accumulator. This is done by multiplying the odds together, as described here.
If an accumulator bet contains a two-way handicap which ends up with the scores level after taking the handicap into account (a ‘push’), that selection will be void and the accumulator will stand on the other selections.

For example, if we assume in the following bet that the first three selections win, whilst Liverpool also win but by a scoreline of 2-1, resulting in a 2-2 tie with theon handicap, the returns are calculated in this way:

€5 x 1.38 x 1.80 x 1.28 x 1.00 (void) = €15.90

An accumulator containing match handicaps
An accumulator containing match handicaps

Double (split) Asian handicap bets in accumulators

If an accumulator contains double Asian handicap selections, then the quantity of accumulators is doubled with every such selection.

For example, a €10 treble on selections at odds of 1.25, 1.50 and  a double Asian handicap (-1.5,-2.0) at 2.00 is split into two trebles:

€5 х 1.25 х 1.50 х 2.00 (-1.5)

€5 х 1.25 х 1.50 х 2.00 (-2.0)

If the 1.25 and 1.50 selections won and:

  • in the third match the selected team won by three or more goals, then both parts win, and the bet is calculated as:

€5 х 1.25 х 1.50 х 2.00 (-1.5) = €18.75

€5 х 1.25 х 1.50 х 2.00 (-2.0) = €18.75

The bet will have a total return of €37.50, giving a total profit of €27.50.

  • in the third match the selected team won by exactly two goals, then one part wins and the other part is a push, and the bet is calculated as:

€5 х 1.25 х 1.50 х 2.00 (-1.5) = €18.75

€5 х 1.25 х 1.50 х 1.00 (-2.0) = €9.38

The bet will have a total return of €28.13, giving a total profit of €18.13.

  • in the third match the selected team won by one goal, or lost or drew, both parts of the bet lose and there is no return.

What are quarter handicaps in Asian betting?

This is a different way of displaying a double (split) handicap. On the Marathonbet site, you’ll find the handicaps written with both lines of the double handicap visible, for example, (-0.5,-1.0). You may also see this same handicap written as a single figure, (-0.75), but it is just another way of denoting the same thing. Bets are settled in the same manner, irrespective of which way the market is displayed.   

Are there other football markets with handicap betting?

Apart from the main match result, there are also several other options for handicap betting on other markets.

Halves markets

You will also find handicap betting that applies to just the events happening in a specific half of a match. These are also available in the form of two-way, three-way, Asian and double Asian handicaps.

Corner markets

Handicap betting will be offered on the difference between the total corners achieved by each team in a match. This will also be in the form of two-way and three-way markets, which will be available for the whole match or on either half.

Card markets

On selected matches, handicap betting prices will be available on the difference in total yellow cards shown to either team.

What other sports offer handicap betting?

Aside from football, handicap betting is also popular on sports where final outcomes can be traditionally high scoring, such as basketball, American football and rugby; all sports where points differentials between sides can vary wildly from match to match.

In fact, opting for handicap betting on these sports can be a shrewd option if you happen to regularly study the form or have a working knowledge of the tactics certain teams tend to deploy in-game. While some sides might go for broke while in the ascendancy, other coaches might encourage their team to take a more pragmatic approach to close out the win. Studying form and tactical approaches helps when it comes to placing a handicap bet.

Handicap betting in basketball

The handicap difference in a basketball match may also referred to as the points spread.

If we look at the NBA match below, the main handicap line is: Philadelphia 76ers (+2.5) @ 1.97 vs New York Knicks (-2.5) @ 1.85. This means if you bet on the Knicks, and they win the match by three points or more, your bet will pay out.

Handicap lines (points spread) on an NBA match
Handicap lines (points spread) on an NBA match

As you can see from the lines offered, there are two-way markets with half or whole point lines, as well as a few three-way handicap options.

Handicap betting in tennis

Whilst at first glance it may not seem like a sport on which handicap betting would be an option, there are actually several different types of handicap betting available on tennis.

When betting on the whole match, there are prices available on the match outcome with a handicap based on the score in sets. There are also handicaps based on the number of games won by each player, with all the games from each set added together.

In an individual set, you can place a handicap bet based on the set score. For example, if you think Djokovic will easily win the first set in his match, you could bet on Djokovic -3.5 games in that set. Your bet will be a winner if Djokovic wins the set by a scoreline of 6-0, 6-1 or 6-2.

On some of the bigger matches, there are also additional handicap betting options available:

  • Most Break Points;
  • Most Service Breaks;
  • Most Aces;
  • Most Double Faults.

Handicap betting on other sports

On most sports there will be some sort of handicap betting available, which will depend on the scoring system for that particular sport.

For example, the main handicap betting market on ice hockey and handball will be based on goals. On American football, rugby and Aussie rules, it will be based on points.

Volleyball matches will offer handicap betting on sets and points, as will table tennis. Meanwhile, in badminton, it’s games and points.

Then for snooker it’s frames, darts will be legs, the list goes on.

Hopefully after reading this guide, you’ll have a better idea of what handicap betting is and how it can enhance your betting experience. Understanding handicap betting will open up new possibilities when placing a bet on a match or game, and you can test your judgement by not only predicting who will win, but by also predicting by how much they will win.

You can also find more information on placing bets in the What is an accumulator bet? guide, as well as detailed information on betting on some of the most popular sports in our series of guides.

Check all the latest odds on all your favourite sporting events in the Marathonbet Sportsbook.