European & Asian Handicap Betting Explained

What Is Handicap Betting?

Handicap betting is a market offered by most bookmakers and is available on various sports. The whole reason for handicap betting is to give an advantage in points or goals to the weaker team, in any given match. It would be a bit boring if you were to bet on say Man City vs your local pub team, as there's going to be one winner clearly. However throw a handicap in there and it's anyone's game.

A handicap could be something like "Man City -5.0", meaning you are betting on Man City to win, but taking away 5 Goals from their final score. It's extremely simple once you've grasped the concept, and this guide will go through and explain exactly how it works.

It's important to note that Handicap betting happens in pretty much any sport that has points scored, or goals scored. The principle is exactly the same for all though; you are taking X score, or X points away from one team, and then betting on the winner after that. For this guide though, we will use Football as an example, as it's the easiest way to explain!

European Handicaps

European handicaps are the easiest of the two to explain, as it's simply a case of taking away (or adding) goals to a final team's score.

Look at the screenshot below. This shows a typical European handicap market from Bet365.

In this match between Arsenal and Nottingham Forest, Arsenal are the clear favourites to win. Their pre-match odds to win are 1.4, which might seem a little low to the average bettor who wants to win lots of money. For this reason, they might choose to bet on Arsenal -1, which has odds of 2.1, a much juicier bet.

But what does Arsenal -1 actually mean? It means that you are betting on Arsenal to win but they start the game with -1 goals, and then the bet will be settled with the final score, taking into account the -1 goal start. (We all know you can't start with -1 goals in reality, but this is what a handicap bet does. The goals will be deducted from the final score). It's really that simple!

Lets take a look at some possibilities of final scores, and see if the handicap bet of Arsenal -1 would have won or not.

Arsenal 0 - 0 Nottingham
Loses: The game ended  a 0-0 draw, however we bet on Arsenal -1. So we have to take one away from their score leaving us with Arsenal -1 - 0 Nottingham. Arsenal did not win, so we lose.

Arsenal 1 - 0 Nottingham
Loses: The game ended 1-0 to Arsenal, however we bet on Arsenal -1. So we have to take one away from their score leaving us with Arsenal 0 - 0 Nottingham. Arsenal did not win, so we lose.

Arsenal 2 - 0 Nottingham
Win: The game ended 2-0 to Arsenal, however we bet on Arsenal -1. So we have to take one away from their score leaving us with Arsenal 1 - 0 Nottingham. Arsenal win using the updated score, so our bet wins!

Arsenal 2 - 1 Nottingham
Lose: The game ended 2-1 to Arsenal, however we bet on Arsenal -1. So we have to take one away from their score leaving us with Arsenal 1 - 1 Nottingham. This is a draw, so our bet loses!

See! It's not that hard, is it?!

You can also do exactly the same with the Draw, or with Nottingham. Let's look at the same scores for Nottingham +1 for example.

Arsenal 0 - 0 Nottingham
Wins: The game ended a 0-0 draw, however we bet on Nottingham +1. So we have to add one to their score leaving us with Arsenal 0 - 1 Nottingham. Nottingham have now won, so our bet wins.

Arsenal 1 - 0 Nottingham
Loses: The game ended 1-0 to Arsenal, however we bet on Nottingham +1. So we have to add one to their score leaving us with Arsenal 1 - 1 Nottingham. This means it was a draw and so our bet loses.

Arsenal 0 - 1 Nottingham
Wins: The game ended 1-0 to Nottingham, however we bet on Nottingham +1. So we have to add one to their score leaving us with Arsenal 0 - 2 Nottingham. Nottingham have still won, so our bet wins.

Asian Handicaps

An Asian handicap is the more popular of the two types of handicap bet and is used massively in football. Asian handicaps work in pretty much the same way as European handicaps whereby you reduce a teams goals or add goals.

There are a few differences with Asian handicaps however, and they are pretty important to know.

Firstly, you cannot bet on a draw. With an Asian handicap, you can only bet on Team 1 to win or Team 2 to win (with a handicap of course). There is no option for betting on a draw whatsoever.

Secondly, when betting on an Asian handicap, if the result after you take into account your handicap ends up being a draw, bets are refunded. This is different to European handicaps because they are never refunded; you either win or you lose. But with Asian handicaps, you will be refunded if your handicap causes a draw.

The easiest way to get your head around Asian handicaps is by looking at an example.

So as you can see above this is a match between Chelsea and Brighton. Ignore the word "alternative", it's just that Bet365 have picked out the top market as popular, and the rest are displayed under a separate market. Adding more confusion for no reason, I know!

There are three types of Asian handicap bet. I'm not aware of any official names given to them, but I have circled them so you can see. Lets go through them.

Red Circle
This is the easiest one to explain. It works just like European handicaps whereby you add or subtract the amount of goals displayed. Now, the odd thing you may notice is that the goals are displayed as 1.5, 2.5, 0.5 etc. Why is that?

It's so they can remove the draw completely from the equation. You can't physically have 0.5 of a goal and so this bet can only win or lose. Lets say you bet on Chelsea -1.5. The score ends 2-0 to Chelsea, so you remove 1.5 goals making it 0.5 - 0 to Chelsea. This is a Chelsea win, and your bet would win. If however it was 1-0 to Chelsea, after removing the 1.5 goals you end up with -0.5 Chelsea, so the bet would lose.

But why not just keep it simple and make it -1, or -2 like the European handicaps? Well, you can do that also. That is what the green circle is!

Green Circle
The green circle works exactly the same, however if the final score with the handicap is a draw, then your bet will be refunded! Lets say you bet on Chelsea -1.0. The final score was 2-0 to Chelsea, so you'd take away 1 goal and you're left with 1-0 Chelsea. Happy days, your bet is a winner! But what if Chelsea won 1-0? You would take away 1 goal, meaning it's 0-0. So your bet hasn't won... however as it's an Asian Handicap bet, and not a European handicap bet, your bet is refunded. The final handicapped score was a draw, which in Asian terms means you get a refund! The bet is void, nulled, pushed, whatever you want to call it!

So why wouldn't you just bet on the Asian handicap all of the time then? Surely it's better if you can't lose when there's a draw? Well, if you looked at this game in particular and checked both handicaps, you will notice Chelsea -1 (euro) is 2.2 odds, yet Chelsea -1.0 (asian) is 1.65 odds, and so the draw is taken into account.

Blue Circle

The blue circle may look a little more "scary" lets say. If you can comprehend all of the info so far though, you'll have no problems whatsoever understanding the blue one.

The blue one is a combination of the red and green circles. When you place a £10 bet for example, £5 will go on one of the numbers, and £5 on the other, sort of like an each-way bet. Using the first blue circle from above as an example, Chelsea -2.0, -2.5, you are betting on both Chelsea -2.0 AND Chelsea -2.5.

If you bet £10 on this bet, then £5 is being bet on Chelsea -2.0, and £5 on Chelsea -2.5. It's really that easy! And the bets just follow the same rules as above. The -2.5 bet can only win or lose. The -2.0 bet on the other hand can win, lose, or be refunded if it's a draw. For this reason, it is possible on these kind of bets to receive half of your money back.

If the game ended Chelsea winning 2-0, then your -2.5 bet would lose so you're down £5. Your -2.0 bet would however draw, meaning your bet is pushed and you receive a £5 refund. So overall you would have lost £5.

If the game ended 3-0 however, both your -2.5 and -2.0 bets would win!

See! Easy! You may find yourself re-reading that a few times as it does certainly take a little while getting your head around. You just need to remember:
- Anything with .5 can only win or lose
- Anything with .0 can draw

Quarter Bets

You may notice that on some websites the blue circles aren't actually there, and instead you'll see odds such as +0.25-1.25, +0.75 etc... This is just another way of displaying the same type of bet that you'll see in the blue circle. It's just the number in the middle of the bet you're placing, for example:

+0.25 is in the middle of and 0.5, so
+0.25 0, +0.5

-1.25 is in the middle of -1 and -1.5, so
-1.25-1.0, -1.5

So by betting £10 on +0.75 for example, you are betting £10 on +0.5, +1.0, which means you are actually betting £5 on +0.5, and £5 on +1.0!

Asian Handicap vs European Handicap

Unless you're Matched Betting seriously then you may not need to know what these handicap bets are, but it is good to know nonetheless. People who bet for fun tend to prefer Asian handicaps for that added security if your handicap draws. Obviously the payout is less, but it eradicated the draw completely from the situation and just lets you bet on which team you think will win.

Euro handicaps, in my eyes, are much easier to understand though. It's a case of remove the goals and then did they win? Simple, easy, no hassle.

So a few key things you need to take away from this page are:

  • Handicaps are literally just adding and taking away goals
  • European bets can only be won or lost
  • Asian bets such as 1.5, 2.5, 3.5 etc act just like European bets, and can also only be won or lost
  • Asian bets such as 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 etc act the same, however if the result after taking into account the handicap is a draw, bets are refunded
  • Combined Asian bets such as -1.5, -1.0 are just like an each way bet in the sense that half of your stake goes on -1.5, and half on -1. Both the asian rules apply so the -1.5 can only win or lose, but the -1.0 can draw and be refunded

Handicap betting isn't that scary at all, and you can always refer back to this guide if you ever need to. This guide was written using football as an example, however handicapping can be done on almost every sport. Basically any sport that has points, games, goals, sets etc can have a handicap market to allow people to bet, even when there is a clear favourite.

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