A handicapped league is a group of teams each with several players that compete on a regular basis (usually weekly). Each team will have players with different skill levels.
Each player is assigned a certain skill level. When individuals with different levels compete, the adjustments are made to their scoring requirements. A new player will start at an initial skill level. As matches are played, the skill level is adjusted as appropriate.
These handicap systems are not perfect and there will always be some conversations about whether someone should be a higher or lower number. Usually those comments arise when an opposing team member complains – most commonly when they lose.
There is always talk about individuals who sandbag their skills – appearing to be lesser skilled than they really are. Then, when there is some actual money to be won, they open their bag of tricks and reveal their true speed. To watch out for this, a number of observers/referees watch everyone. There have been teams who were disqualified from wins because they were caught trying to be a smaller number than they really are.
There are advantages for an individual to participate in these team competitions. A lesser player can get a lot of support from the better shooters on the team. Over time, this assistance helps keep up interest.
For a better player, there are a couple disadvantages. There is usually a cap on the handicap numbers for the entire team that shoots that night. A higher skilled shooter may often find that he is unable to play. That limitation can be somewhat difficult to handle for someone who likes to compete.
Being on a league team and playing regularly among different teams and players also maintains a standard of sportsmanship and etiquette. For new players, league play provides an example of expected behavior. Of course, there are always a few assholes who make it their lifelong purpose to spread irritation. At least their existence teaches the young and impressionable players why good sportsmanship is necessary.
The social benefits are useful for many players. They get an evening out with similar minded individuals, enjoying a pleasant activity that is relatively inexpensive. There is more emphasis on having fun then on winning at all costs – although some experience personal pain for a loss they weren’t expecting.
Overall, there are far more benefits to playing in a handicapped league. It provides weekly inexpensive entertainment. You get to play with like-minded people. The competitive, yet friendly, environment is a nice break from the normal daily life experiences. And, you get weekly opportunities to try and beat up on your friends!! Everything else aside – getting to play pool on a regular basis is its own pleasure.
Good luck & Shoot straight.