Handicap betting is a form of betting where one side is given a theoretical handicap and the other side a theoretical “head start” for betting purposes only. It is often used when sides are deemed to be mismatched in an attempt to equal things out, although it can also be used in other ways. Here we take a look at different handicaps and the difference between a handicap and an Asian handicap.

Handicap Betting Explained

In some sports the handicap bet is the major market and this is particularly true of US sports such as the NFL. Most American punters are not concerned with who will win a game but whether or not a side will “cover the spread”, which means, effectively, beat the handicap. Each side is given a plus or minus points total (which can be in whole or half points) in such a way that the bookies then expect both sides to have an equal chance of winning, usually offering odds of just under evens for both sides.

So, if the Denver Broncos play the Kansas City Chiefs the handicap may look like this.

  • Denver (-5.5 points) – 10/11
  • Kansas (+5.5 points) – 10/11

If Denver win by six points or more they are said to have “covered the spread” and a bet on them wins, whilst any other result leaves Kansas the winner.

This is one way in which a handicap can be used, simply to even things out and make both sides have an equal chance of winning. However, in football (soccer) and other sports handicaps and Asian handicaps are used in other ways, to create alternative bets and markets.

What is the Difference Between a Handicap and an Asian Handicap?

Many people wrongly think that an Asian handicap is one that includes half a goal and a normal handicap is where the goals or points are expressed in whole goals. This is not the case. An Asian handicap, developed in Asia and favoured in the US and other countries, is one where the draw is not offered and there are only two options to choose from.

You may see a game offered with the favourite, let’s say Everton, listed as -1 and the underdog, say Fulham at +1. This same bet can be offered as both an Asian handicap and a normal/European handicap. The Asian handicap will offer odds for Everton and Fulham whilst the normal handicap will also offer the draw. The result of these bets will be the same for all results except a one goal Everton win. On the Asian handicap this is called a “push” and the stake is returned as neither side, Everton nor Fulham, will have won (for the purposes of that bet). However, in the handicap market, both those bets lost and the “draw” option is the winner.

What do Half Goals and ¾ Goals Mean?

In Asian handicap betting you will often see a team quoted with half a goal (for or against) but often also with a quarter, three quarters or even two numbers, for example “Man United -1, -1.5”. The use of two numbers or quarter parts of goals indicates a bet that is actually split into two separate bets.

So, in the case shown, which could also be written as “Man United -1.25”, half your bet goes on Man United -1 and half on -1.5. If you bet £5 at even money and United win by two, both sides of the bet win and you get £10 back. If United draw or lose both bets lose and you get nothing back. However, if they win by a single goal then your £2.50 -1.5 loses but your £2.50 -1 is a “push”, so you would get £2.50 back. Any quarter goal Asian handicap is two bets on the half goal either side, so “Liverpool +0.75” is the same as “Liverpool +0.5, +1”.

A half goal or 1.5, 2.5, and so on, is the most common form of Asian handicap and is used to eliminate the draw (and therefore the need for pushes) entirely. If Barcelona are playing Real Madrid and Barca are -0.5, Real +0.5, then a draw or a win for Real acts as a win, whilst any Barcelona win counts as a win for them. In this way the Asian handicap market +0.5 is the same as the “Double Chance” market “Draw or Real Madrid”.

Other Asian handicaps can be used instead of other markets, with the slightly confusing handicap of -0, the same as “draw no bet”. A bet on either side will win if that side wins, but if it’s a draw, the handicap of zero leaves the game a draw and the bet is, therefore, a “push”.

The -1.5 or -2.5 markets are the same as some markets offered by a bookie of “Team A to win by two or more goals” or in the case of -2.5, three or more. These are great bets for when the odds on the favourite team are too short to interest or simply where you expect an easy victory for either side. Backing a team -1.5 requires that they win by two goals or more and rewards your faith with much higher odds than the basic win market.


Handicaps in all their different guises are a great way to do a number of different things. They can level out the odds, create new bets, offer improved odds or allow two bets in one. Asian handicaps often operate on very low profit margins, as is demanded by the competitive Asian market and so they can be a useful way to improve your return, whilst the betting exchanges often offer lower commission levels for these bets, further increasing your likelihood of profit. Get to grips with handicaps and Asian handicaps and you will open up a new – many think improved – world of betting.