In sports and games, a method of offsetting the varying abilities or characteristics of competitors in order to equalize their chances of winning. Handicapping takes many, often complicated, forms. In horse racing, a track official known as the handicapper may assign weights to horses according to their speed in previous performances; the presumed fastest horse must carry the most weight. In golf, two unequal players may have a close match by allowing the poorer player a handicap, a certain number of uncounted strokes based on earlier performances. In sailboat racing, dissimilar boats compete under handicapping formulas that add time to the faster boats' actual elapsed time for a race; thus, the winner of a race may not be the first to finish but rather the boat that performs best in relation to its design. Seealso bookmaking; gambling.
Learn more about handicap with a free trial on Britannica.com.