A well-known theoretical result in the contest literature is that greater heterogeneity decreases performance of contestants because of the “discouragement effect.” Leveling the playing field by favoring weaker contestants through bid-caps and favorable tie-breaking rules can reduce the discouragement effect and increase the designer’s revenue. We test these predictions in an experiment. Our data show that indeed, strengthening weaker contestants through tie-breaks and bid-caps significantly diminishes the iscouragement effect. Bid-caps can also improve revenue. Most deviations from Nash equilibrium can be explained by the level-k model of reasoning.