Asian handicap betting is so called because this form of bet is very popular in Asian markets, having reputedly originated in Indonesia. It offers a more interesting and nuanced alternative to the straight-forward win, lose or draw (1X2) bet.
Asian handicaps make a sporting contest more even, in theory, by giving both teams a relatively equal chance of winning. This is done by giving one or other team in a match a positive or negative goal handicap.
Manchester United, for example, may be strong favourites to beat Accrington Stanley in a domestic cup competition. But if you believe United will beat Accrington by a three-goal margin, you could bet on Manchester United to win with a handicap of –2.5 or Accrington at +3.5 or more.
If both teams are level after the handicap is applied (e.g. if you bet on ‘Manchester United -3’ and they win 3-0, 4-1 or 5-2 etc) then your bet is refunded. This is why betting on ‘half goals’ provides an attractive option for the punter, because it takes the draw, and thus a void bet, out of the equation.
With no prospect of pesky draws scuppering your single bet or weekend accumulator, betting margins are lower, offering higher chances of making a profit over a longer period.
Asian handicap betting also provides more value in matches where there one team is perceived as a strong favourite to win. Odds on the stronger team obviously tend to be unattractively short, so an Asian handicap bet spices up what would otherwise look to be a dead cert.