“I won my match two weeks ago and my handicap went up, but when I lost last week it didn’t go down. How can that happen?'

“I lost last week and my handicap is higher this week – what’s going on?'

These questions are some of the most common that the American Poolplayers Association and Local League Operators hear from the APA members from around the country. Although the process of calculating your handicap is explained in your APA Team Manual, we have addressed some of the effects of routine weekly handicap calculation below.

Your handicap is based on your performance in each match you play. Your score is calculated from the previous information recorded on your weekly scoresheet. When that score is averaged in with your previous scores, some surprising effects can occur. Here are some possibilities:

¨       You could shoot a very good score but not increase your skill level.

¨       Losing a match, which usually results in a poor score, probably won’t lower your skill level because handicaps are calculated by counting your best scores first.

¨       In a very close match where each player plays very well, it is possible for you to lose the match but still receive a good score for the week. This score, if it is among your best, could possibly raise your handicap even though you lost.

Now that you understand what can affect your handicap, you might be wondering if this is the best method to use. Remember, The Equalizer® scoring and handicap system was developed over a period of years by a committee of professionals with extensive league and tournament experience. Consider the following:

¨       Using several good scores when calculating your handicap lends stability. The alternative would result in your handicap constantly changing, which would cause problems with the “23-Rule”. An unstable handicap is technically inaccurate, when you consider that your handicap is a reflection of your true ability.

¨       Using your best scores eliminates the matches where playing conditions were bad, you weren’t feeling well or you just had a bad night. Only the matches where you play your best should determine your handicap. Other sports’ handicap systems leave out scores for the same purpose, and all effective handicap systems attempt to stabilize handicap ratings at or near a player’s true ability.

The Equalizer® scoring and handicap system works perfectly when players concentrate on the game and let the system take care of itself. In fact, BOTH players in a given match must break the rules before the system will fail. One player must deliberately miss shots resulting in more turns (innings), and his opponent must fail to mark the deliberate misses on the scoresheet as defensive shots. If you mark deliberate misses as “defensive shots”, they don’t count. For more information about defensive shots, consult your Team Manual or ask your APA Team Captain, Division Representative or League Operator for more details.

As you can see, The Equalizer® scoring and handicap system really does work! It effectively equalizes the difference in player abilities, which creates a more exciting and competitive match. However, it is dependent on a player’s willingness to follow the system. There has never been an 8-Ball or 9-Ball team handicap system as accurate as ours. All that’s required is a positive team spirit in order to achieve its full potential. The rest is up to you!





In any handicapped sport some degree of sandbagging is inevitable. Sandbagging is the unethical practice of keeping one’s skill level lower than it should be by missing balls or even by losing on purpose. This results in more innings (turns). The Equalizer® scoring and handicap system, is probably the most protected handicap system in the sports world.

The Equalizer® scoring and handicap system employs three types of safeguards against sandbagging:SYSTEM SAFEGUARDS
System safeguards are built into the system and don’t require the implementation of any rules or judgements in order for them to be effective. System safeguards include:

·         Your handicap is based on a mathematical formula – This formula takes into account several factors when determining your skill level. A sophisticated computer software program has been developed to assist the League Operator and ensure skill levels are calculated accurately.

·         Deliberate misses (defensive shots) don’t count – If all deliberate misses were marked, there would be no successful sandbagging. It is usually quite obvious when a player is sandbagging. Occasionally, a coach can be heard telling his player to miss a few times to run the innings up. Report this type of activity to the League Office immediately. League Operators have been asked to raise every member of a team that engages in this practice at least one skill level.


There are several rules in the APA Team Manual that help prevent sandbagging. These rule safeguards contrast with the system safeguards because they must be quoted to work. If you see a player or team in violation of any of these rules, you must notify the League Operator. The rule will be enforced which will maximize its effectiveness as a system safeguard.


No matter how ingenious and complex anti-cheating systems are, there are always equally ingenious people who conspire to cheat the system. In the final analysis, a properly run “jury system” will get the job done. The APA has asked all League Operators to form a Handicap Advisory Committee (HAC). The HAC may be comprised of some members of the Board of Governors and should consist of the best players in your area. They are occasionally asked to review rosters and to move players both up or down whose skill levels do not reflect their true ability. It has repeatedly been proven that a good HAC will virtually eliminate sandbagging forever. Refer to the bulletin “How Your Handicap Advisory Works” for more details.

Remember, in order for sandbagging to take place, BOTH players must fail to follow the rules. The shooter must deliberately cheat and his/her opponent must fail to mark the deliberate misses on the scoresheet. In actuality, every player on both teams must be negligent to some degree. It is hard to design a system more secure than one that requires the deliberate sabotaging by one team and the negligence of the other team in order for sandbagging to occur.


The security and accuracy of the handicap system is in your hands. This doesn’t mean that it requires your constant attention. The system will work perfectly if none of the players pay any attention to how it works and just concentrate on playing the game. The APA is ever vigilant to new anti-sandbagging possibilities and will never evade responsibility for improving the system. But, in the final analysis, no system will work if the participants are constantly applying themselves to undermining it. If every player would simply play his or her game to the best of their ability and let the handicap system take care of itself, handicap problems would not exist.