1893 text

“A game at cards not unlike Loo, but with this difference, the winner of one trick has to put in a double stake, the winner of two tricks a triple stake, and so on. Thus, if six persons are playing, and the general stake is 1_s., suppose A gains the three tricks, he gains 6_s., and has to ‘hand i’ the cap,’ or pool, 4_s. for the next deal. Suppose A gains two tricks and B one, then A gains 4_s. and B 2_s., and A has to stake 3_s. and B 2_s._ for the next deal.” —Hindley’s Tavern Anecdotes. — M. B.


This text comes from a footnote on a diary entry in the 1893 edition edited by Henry B. Wheatley.

20 Sep 2003, 8:44 p.m. - Jenny Doughty

http://www.davidparlett.co.uk/histocs/loo.html This excellent link explains the rules of loo, an historic card game of which 'Handycapp' is a variety.

21 Sep 2003, 8:46 a.m. - GrahamT

Hence, if you win one hand, you are "handicapped" by having to put in a bigger stake for the next. The SOED has a different explanation of the game and origin of the phrase, but at about the same date.

8 Jun 2013, 4:29 p.m. - Todd Bernhardt

More about the origins of the word, with a mention of Sam, here: http://www.worldwidewords.org/nl/wfdt.htm#N4

8 Jun 2013, 7:31 p.m. - Bill

This seems to agree with Todd's version: ... I demanded what difference he would take between my Hat and his, his Cloak and mine; there being small matter of advantage in the exchange we agreed to go to handicap. ---The English Rogue. 1665.

References

Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.

1660