Polo handicaps a system created by H. L. Herbert, first president of The Polo Association (USA) in 1888 so that teams could be more evenly matched when assessing players of varied abilities. The players are rated on a scale from minus 2 to 10. Minus 2 indicates a beginning or novice player, while the player rated at 10 goals denotes the highest handicap possible. So difficult is it to attain a 10-goal handicap that there are fewer than a dozen in the world today, and 90% of all players handicapped are rated at 2 goals or less. It is not, nor has ever been, an estimate of the number of goals a player might score in a game, but rather his worth to his team. It is an overall rating of a player's horsemanship, team play, knowledge of the game, strategy and horses, and at one time polo was the only sport in the world that considered sportsmanship when rating a player.
In matches played by handicapped players (as opposed to open competition where handicaps are not considered), the handicaps of all four players are added up. If the total handicap of a team is more than the team against which they are playing, the difference is added to the scoreboard. For example, if 'The Mounties' polo team has a total handicap of 6 goals and 'Tayto' polo team has a handicap of 4 goals, 'Tayto' would start with a 2 goal advantage.