Handicapping Explained

Fair Sports

Something is lost in watching a sporting event where the outcome is all but certain. After all, who wants to see a contestant get trounced, without even the slightest chance of winning? It makes for uninteresting viewing, and also makes it very difficult for the betting world to have what would be considered as enticing betting odds. If betting on the underdog is akin to flushing ones money down the toilet, why even bother? It was for this reason, among others, that the sporting world began using what is known as a handicap system.

The simple basis of the system is giving the favoured winner a slight disadvantage, allowing the underdog a more realistic chance of winning. This is seen as a fair way to balance out the game, therefore making what was a certain thing more ambiguous. Not all sports employ this method, but the ones that do often come under fire from the public, due to the methods by which a handicap is decided. One of the most infamous is horseracing.

Horserace Handicapping

If one horse in a race is all but certain to win, where would the challenge lie in placing bets? Bet makers in horse betting could simply put their money on the certain winner, and go home with loaded pockets on a regular basis. Of course, the payouts are never very large on a favoured horse, but sometimes officials still find it necessary to use a handicap system. In the world of horseracing this involves putting lead weights in the horse’s saddle, slowing it down considerably and reducing the chances of it winning. In this fashion the horse is said to undergo a handicapping. Should the performance of the horse then be too slack, weights are removed, or added if the horse still performs too well, until a level of fairness is reached with the other horses. It is important to keep in mind, however, that a horse which has undergone handicapping must still have a good chance of winning. Making it impossible for a horse to win would be as unfair as if the horse was certain to win every race. Obviously, it is a system that must be balanced out as much as possible.

Resulting Controversy

A system such as imposing a handicap is always going to come under scrutiny, and there have been many occurrences of scorn being poured on those that decide on how much to handicap a particular horse. But then, the system involves a great deal of difficult predictions on the part of he handicapper.

How much weight should be put on a particular horse, and how much it will slow that horse down? These are difficult questions to answer, with results that are not always easy to predict, being that horses are often highly irregular animals. There have also been many sandals over the years with racetracks being accused of unfairly handicapping horses on purpose, as a way to make it impossible for bet makers to predict a winner. Whether it is true or not, handicapping is one of the most notoriously controversial systems in the betting world.