A Convert to Unlimited Qualifying - ish

This last weekend I ran the first major unlimited qualifying tournament in the UK at Play Expo. The comp was held at the Event City Manchester, there were over 100 other pinball machines set up on free play, out side of the competition, as well as retro arcade machines, games consoles, board games and cosplay. Over 20,000 people came through the door over the 2 days. You can check out the details here: https://www.playexpomanchester.com/
Details of the comp can be found here: http://www.ukpinball.com/2017-show/ and a lot of the qualifying, and all of the finals, was live streamed by Pinball_Live on Twitch, with some superb commentary from Craig Pullen and Tim Porter, along with guest commentators throughout.

The format was basically a PAPA style qualifying ticket. Each ticket was made up of 3 games from a bank of 10. As many tickets as you want to purchase for £4 each.

There was significant trepidation as to whether it would work, whether people would accept the format or if they’d prefer the old style single entry format traditionally used in the UK, and most of Europe.

We used @kdeangelo 's software and we were all massively impressed with both it’s layout, ease of use for the scorers, as well as how easy it was to understand for the competitors.

We had a total of 81 competitors, made up of 41 who are IFPA ranked, 19 who have played less than 5 competitions and 21 completely new entrants. Maybe not the numbers you’d see for an established competition - but still encouraging for a first attempt. Especially the “newbies” joining in.

The hope is that next year, due to it awarding more WPPR points than any other (non-league) competition, more prize money than any other competition in the UK and hopefully can be added to the European Tour we will be able to attract some of the bigger players who compete and travel around Europe.


stream looks cool, thanks for giving me something to watch at work today :slight_smile: What was the neverdrain link for the tourney to see the stats? :slight_smile:


Would have been great to see more entrants, but as Wayne said, certainly gives us something to build on

Huge thanks to Karl from me too. I had been playing around with Match Play, but that still seems to have a way to go yet before it will be as good as Karl’s software for PAPA style events

We also had sponsorship for prize money and trophies, so 100% of the ticket fees went to charity.

pretty cool, MatchPlay has a great number of options though for PAPA style with paid entries DTM is definitely the best solution at this point.

Did you run the finals playoff on another software? It doesn’t seem to show on the link above?

As TD Wayne chose the finals format, but I couldn’t find any software that ran that format - four * 4 player groups, with last place dropping out. Then four * 3 player groups etc. Match Play’s “group single elimination” is close, but tries to keep players in groups of 4.

Thankfully Wayne had written an Excel spreadsheet for exactly his format. I’ll add the finals brackets and results to our website soon, but if you just want to see final places then that’s on ifpa here : https://www.ifpapinball.com/tournaments/view.php?t=20372

Looking at the participation, this looks VERY different from the unlimited entry events I’ve watched and participated in in the past. The most entries anyone put in over two days looks like 12 (an outlier), for a whopping sixty bucks. Many of the participants just put in one ticket and left it at that.

In my experience there’s usually a significant percentage of players that will willingly stand in line for two full days and drop at least a few hundred bucks to get a better seed or even trying to target and knock down other player’s scores if they would prefer not to play against them in the finals.

Do you think this was due to the 3/10 ticket format? The relatively low cost per game? How many hours did qualifying run over the two days? Any discussions of player motivations and strategies that you overheard?

This was the first attempt at a rebuy style tournament ever in the UK, so we weren’t sure how well it would go down at all. It was also at a large gaming event where probably 70% of the 20,000+ visitors are not familiar with pinball at all. We did some promotion via Facebook and various internet forums, but other than that it was just a case of explaining to people one-on-one at the show.

If you listen to the commentary too, it’s clear that some of the guest commentators are not familiar with this format, so we’re still on the learning curve in getting people to think about strategising at the level you’re thinking. I think we only had two people void their ticket from the 200+ tickets played… So all this, plus the UK pinball scene is just a fraction of the size of the US scene worked against us to a degree.

Qualifying ran for a little over 10 hours.

We’ve had some discussion since where people have suggested things such as having bounties on the top player, rewards for top scores on each table and so on. These are all great suggestions (and we’d welcome more) for running this format again in the future.


The biggest concern I had in devising the format was to ensure that you could qualify and play the finals on a single day, thus not making it a forced 2 day comp. Hence a 2hr qualifying session on the Sunday morning. (There was actually 14hrs qualifying split over 3 sessions)
The next issue came with the fact that as this was at a show were we had no control over finishing times it HAD to be finished within 4hrs. After that the power is turned off in the venue. Can you imagine what a disaster that would have been?

We also had to have the finals machines different from the qualifying machines, so that no single machine was taken away from the “free to play to public” ethos for the whole 2 days. Couple that with the fact that there were no byes for finishing higher. Then add on the limited number of ‘experienced’ pinball players and it becomes clear that once you’ve put in a decent qualifying ticket there’s no real incentive to put any more tickets in. I was confident that my first entry would have qualified me, and only played additional entries because I wanted to play pinball but couldn’t leave the tournament area in case of a problem.

In fact those that believed they were safely qualified then went and played the finals games, which were set up in another area free to the public.