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Asian Handicaps - 5 Inning Lines
by Pinnacle Sportsbook

Part I: Asian Handicaps - An Andidote to One Sided Football

As the new Premiership takes shape, football bettors might benefit from reassessing their approach to gambling on the English top flight. In recent seasons Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Man Utd (more commonly known as 'the big four') have widened the gap between themselves and the rest of the league as their financial strength has allowed them to consolidate their power, particularly at home.

Chelsea, in their last home game against Everton, equalled Liverpool's record of 63 consecutive unbeaten home games. While in the 2003/04 season, Arsenal achieved the Holy Grail of going an entire season unbeaten.

In the past two campaigns Chelsea, Man Utd, Liverpool and Arsenal have between them lost just eight home games, mostly to each other. What that often means for fans of a traditional 1,X,2 Saturday accumulator, is the hugely unappetising prospect of backing a multiple of the four big-guns at home to lesser opposition for combined odds of something around even-money. A similar scenario applies to Celtic in Scotland, who have a stranglehold on the SPL, and across the continent where last season for example, Inter Milan broke the European record for consecutive home wins (17).

The natural antidote for the increasingly prevalence of one-sided football contests is Asian Handicapping. Asian Handicaps level the playing field via a hypothetical goal bias, giving bettors the opportunity of backing Chelsea at better than even money at home to newly promoted Derby for example.

Asian Handicaps Explained
The Internet's largest online bookmaker, Pinnacle Sports, is a market leader in Asian Handicap betting with 1.96/1.96 style pricing. An Asian Handicap is a method of betting on soccer that eliminates the possibility of losing if a game ends in a draw after 90 minutes. Teams are 'handicapped' to offset any perceived difference in abilities, using a spread based on goal superiority which eliminates the tie. There are three basic types of Asian Handicaps:

Level Handicap
Where there is no perceived difference in abilities between Team A and Team B, no handicap bias is assigned, and both start off (0) also known as pk, pick'em or scratch. To win a bet on either team, all the bettor must do is identify the team which scores more goals than their opponent; all bets are refunded on the tie.

Single Handicap
Where there is a perceived difference in abilities between Team A and Team B, the superior team will be given an appropriate goal handicap to level the playing field for betting purposes i.e. -0.5 goal, -1 goal, -1.5 goals etc.

For example, if you bet on Team A with a handicap of -1 goal, they must win by more than one goal to cover their handicap and for you to win your bet. If they only win by a goal, the result with the handicap applied is a draw for betting purposes, so your bet is refunded. If Team B draw or win, you will lose your bet on Team A.

Double or Split Handicap
Where the difference in two teams' abilities is slight, split ball Asian Handicaps may be used splitting the stake into two separate bets. For example Team A might be offered (pk & -0.5). If you bet on Team A and they lose, you will lose both bets as they did not cover either handicap. If the match ends in a draw, half of your stake at (pk) will be refunded, and the other half at (-0.5) will lose. If Team A wins, both handicaps will be covered so both bets win.

If you're stuck in the past slavishly following three-way fixed odds betting, the chances are you're not getting a decent return on your outlay, and your gambling might benefit from the fresh perspective that Asian Handicapping provides.

Part II: 1st Five Inning Lines

The great advantage of betting on the first five innings in baseball, otherwise known as the first half, is that your fate is in the hands of the two starting pitchers. You can safely ignore both benches and both bullpens which puts any handicapper in a much stronger position as it is mostly random which bench players are used and which pitchers come in from the pen to face particular hitters. This helps in two ways:

Magnify Your Edge
First, if you have the advantage in the first five innings you can have a larger advantage than you would have in the entire game, because the situation in which you have that edge is magnified. If the line is in error, chances are that those later innings are minimizing that error, assuming the error does not originate from the bullpen.

The second half also introduces random elements out of your control that can cost you the win. Close games and blowouts have different dynamics late in the game. Wind conditions can change, there are substitutions and double switches. Early in the game, you can look at a known lineup against a known opponent and not worry about the rest of the game causing interference with the result of your bet.

This is also true in other sports. If you know that a team is likely to dominate the early going, especially the opening five in basketball or the early game plan in football, you can often get a far larger advantage by betting on the first half or first quarter of the game before things get randomized and teams adjust.

Target Secondary Betting Markets for Maximum Advantage
The second advantage is the benefit that always comes when you target a secondary betting market rather than a principal game line. As with alternate runlines and team totals, you get to focus on the first half line and study it. In fact, you are probably giving far more thought to the line you're thinking about betting than the sports book does when putting the line up. The sportsbook will be applying a formula and hoping it is close enough, but they can't afford to deal an abnormal line until someone bets.

This lets you find opportunities where the first half line does not follow the moneyline or total for the game the way it normally should. Unlike runlines, there can be little question such differences exist. The big unknown is which ones are important and how much each of them is worth.

Starting Pitching vs. Bullpens
The biggest factor is the starting pitcher versus the bullpens. If you have a strong bullpen, that helps you only in the second half, whereas a strong starter is mostly good for the first half. When you see a particularly strong pitcher starting with a poor bullpen or vice versa, that's a great time to look at betting the first half. Knowing how to properly compensate for this could allow a disciplined bettor to benefit in both directions. He could bet into seemingly fair lines when he has the advantage, and could safely take value when the lines have moved too far.

Of course, to do any of this you need a guide for what first half lines are supposed to be when betting baseball. Having five innings instead of nine reduces the edge of the better team. In exchange for that, they get the benefits of their usually stronger starter and the small mathematical edge that comes from ties. The net result is that favorites for the game tend to be slightly smaller favorites for the first five innings. This effect remains small until about -150 (1.67) and gets sizable by -200 (1.50). It does not seem to matter whether the home or road team is the favorite.

Totals for the first half are trickier because in baseball, numbers are created anything but equal. The fact that 7 and 7½ are almost as different as 7½ and 8½ makes it hard to give an accurate rule of thumb to translate a game total into a first half total.

The later innings of the game tend to be lower scoring on average than the first five, and there are only four of them (plus extra innings), so more than half the runs will likely come from the first five innings. The result of this is that the first half total will be slightly more than half of the total for the game, once all numbers are adjusted to smooth out all irregularities.

Get Good Numbers Quickly
As with all conversions, the best way to get good numbers quickly is to write down the betting lines Pinnacle Sports or any other book offer on a variety of baseball games. You can then use these historical lines as a guide to future games. You can even use this technique to learn about the market's perception of a particular team. For example, by analysing the first half lines traded at Pinnacle Sports over two days, you can quickly gain an amazingly accurate ranking of the respective bullpens in MLB.

As usual, the usefulness of a line comes down to how well you understand it and what a good number would be; whether it lets you bet on what you like and against what you dislike, what the limit is and how thin it is being dealt (where thin means lower juice/commission).

Always Play at Best Price
As with many other betting lines, Pinnacle Sports will often have the best odds on both sides of the equation. With lines worth up to 50% better value than other sportsbooks, Pinnacle Sports deals both first half sides and totals at -105 (bet $105 to win $100) instead of the usual -110 (bet $110 to win $100) available at other sportsbooks.

Most bettors have learnt that betting the main game line is the way to obtain the best odds. While this is true at a traditional 'full juice' sportsbook, at a low commission bookmaker like Pinnacle Sports, whatever you are looking to bet, the chances are that you can find a good number. In addition to overnight lines, players at Pinnacle Sports now have a moneyline, a total, two runlines, two team totals and a first half moneyline and total to choose from, all at low juice.

In fact, you can do even better by line shopping at other sports books when Pinnacle Sports puts up a unique number and our other lines reflect that. Maximizing your use of all the resources available to find the best odds will pay dividends every bet you make. As long as you're playing for no more than a few dimes and choose the line you bet carefully, it is one of the easiest ways that any player can increase their potential winnings substantially, by simply playing at the best available price.