B / Novice Division Thresholds, Sizes and Prizes

This has come up elsewhere, but I thought it could use its own thread. What’s the best [or your] way to decide where to make the cutoffs for lower divisions? When should you have both a “B” division and a “Novice” or “Casual” division? How many people should you take for the playoffs in lower divisions? How big should the prizes for lower divisions be? Cash for all or just some? Trophies for all or just some? The trend seems to be use B when you have 75-150 people and to add Novice when you get over 150. Most who use B have 16 or 24 for A / Open and 8 or 16 for B [75-ish uses the lower ends, over 100 uses the higher ends]. Novice is usually 4 or 8. What has worked for you? What hasn’t worked?

Some ways to decide:

  1. Absolute skill level, i.e. never go below X [rank 500] for the A restriction

  2. Percent of field, e.g. want the cutoff for A/B maybe where the top 1/3 of the attendees rank

  3. Target number, e.g. want about the top Y [say 40] players present to be A-restricted

  4. What worked last year or at someone else’s event … but if your event grows, at what point do you change?

Re prizes, we’ve given out relatively good-sized ones for INDISC with positive response. Trophies for some, too, but not as many as in A. Trophies-only or merchandise-only seems common for Novice, with maybe modest cash for the top place or three.

Since more events are using extra divisions these days, I thought we could trade notes on it here.



Case study, 2016 VFO. With 150+ players expected in each division, we had a Novice division with an IFPA cutoff at 4000. That number was selected by assuming we want the lower half of the player pool to go for the Novice finals, and upper half for the Main finals.

Looking at 2015 results, which also exceeded 150 players, the median player was close to 4000 (something like 3800 or so). So we rounded to 4000, which provided the Novice pool for players who likely fell in the category of no chance at all for the top prize.

We had 24 qualifiers in A, 16 in Novice. Thus 40 positions paid, out of 150+ players, with 16 of those prizes helping to promote the many newcomers to pinball. That also means 25% of the field went home with satisfaction that they won ‘something’. I think that’s on par with many other major tourneys with regards to how many players win something.

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I think having the cutoff pre-announced is essential for something with open qualifying: if it’s %of field/top N present that can result in people near the line not being sure what they’re qualifying for, etc., which sucks. Someone might also get kicked out of qualifying for B because someone got pushed into B by a late arrival, etc. Yuk.

Now picking the number—who knows.

I think the most important question to answer first is what are you trying to accomplish. I think far too often, TDs are mixing goals and not accomplishing any of them well.

If you run a multi-day event with finals on a dedicated day, I appreciate a B division for the purpose of giving out of town bubble players something to do. In the case, I think the restriction should be be pretty high, really only trying to restrict the people you don’t expect to be fighting for a qualifying position. Basically restrict the people fighting for the buy, not the bubble.

If your goal is the give something for people who are not able to fight for the bubble something worth competing for, then I think this is a different threshold. In some ways, I think making people choose to play B/Novice actually works better for this.

If your goal is to draw new people and give them a task of competition, I think a tournament count restriction might be better than rank.


I use this general idea for the monthly match play event I run. We call it the “Novice Playoffs” and the bottom 25% ranked players at the event are eligible. This cutoff generally lands somewhere in the 2500-4000 ranking range. This keeps us from having to pick an arbitrary cut point and ensures that the lower ranked players will always have a shot at winning a trophy and some cash. Even though it’s not a lot of money ($15-$25), I think it helps those players to feel like they’re not just donating to the top players. For many of the winners and runners-up they’re getting their first pinball trophy and their first prize money, which has a really positive impact.


Can you describe this in more detail? The novice playoffs includes the bottom ranked 25% of the field who had been eliminated by the time the rest of the field had been narrowed down to finalists?

For TPF, I picked IFPA ranking prior to the registration opening for the tourney:
Ranking 500 or better is restricted to A finals. A finals = 16 players.
Ranking 3000 or better is restricted to A & B finals. B finals = 8 players.

As of right now, in the field there are approx 30 players that are A restricted, and an additional 75 players that are A & B restricted. Leaving 55 players to vie for Novice finals (if they don’t make it into A or B).

B, Novice, and Women’s division champions will get the same custom-molded trophy that A division 1st place gets (with different trophy plate description). B final 4 get cash prizes, with B getting 15% of net pool, and A getting 85% of net pool. 2nd-4th in each division get custom plaques.
Women’s and novice champions also get $100 cash prize.


When players register, we look up their current IFPA ranking. Those who are in the bottom 25% ranked players in attendance are eligible for novice playoffs. The tournament averages between 24-36 players, so we’re usually looking at 6 to 9 players on the novice list for the day. I announce this list before we get started, so everyone is aware.

Of those players, the top 4 who don’t qualify for main playoffs get to participate in a 3 game PAPA style finals where the top 2 take home a trophy and a small cash prize.

Occasionally some “novice eligible” players make the main playoffs (which is awesome!), so in that case we just look down the list to find the top 4 who didn’t make the main cut.


A bit late to the thread, but I feel like B and Novice divisions really serve different purposes. As @gammagoat mentioned, B division is great for giving out of towners who didn’t qualify for A something to do.

In the case of tournaments colocated with shows that bring in members of the general public (LAX, CAX, NWPAS), I argue an additional novice division (particularly one with a highly visible leaderboard) would go a long way to increase engagement. I know LAX offers a couple free entries to everyone who walks in the door, but what percentage of these entries lead to low ranked or unranked players purchasing additional entries? Similar to the way WPPR is driving the growth of on-location tournaments in some regions, I think a novice restricted leaderboard and token prize could be a powerful tool to increase tournament engagement among new players.

As far as the actual limits in terms of numbers, I think that should vary quite a bit based on where the tournament is held – Louisville, Seattle, Chicago, and Pittsburgh are going to have wildly varying player-bases with regard to skill.


I was very pleased how the B and Novice thresholds worked out for TPF.
For Novice, the 4 in that division finals finished between 34th and 41st. 3 of them were still Unrated players in IFPA’s eyes (less than 5 events), and the for the Novice Champ… TPF was his first IFPA event ever. Quite a way to begin!

For B Division, the 8 finalists finished between 17-27th in open qualifying. The eventual winner, StashKid aka Eric Destasio, will likely never be eligible again for TPF B division again (he’s above 500 after including his TPF WPPR’s), and will quickly not be eligible for many B divisions out there – he’s a top notch player who simply hasn’t played in many events yet.

I’m hopeful that B division and Novice division provided adequate incentive and opportunity for less-seasoned competitive players to play in a tough field of 160 players, and keeps players coming back again and again for future TPF tourneys.


I like the cutoff ranges - definitely a great idea to split it off into 3 divisions with the last being super choosy to bring new people in.

There’s always going to be that, it seems. Either “haven’t played a lot of tournaments” or “looking for their big come-up.” I mostly say this because that’s the boat I was in before catapulting out. Congrats to Eric and I look forward to seeing him in the PAPA 21 A queue along with my forced self. :slight_smile:

Do you think a restriction of Top 1,000 would remove some of the up-and-coming players?

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I don’t know. But that wasn’t my goal. And just in case my words were interpreted to mean something negative: I meant them to pay a compliment to Eric for where I think his skill level will take him, and by no means to suggest some type of sand-bagging. Quite the contrary: he tied for 16th and unfortunately lost the one-game tie-break.

If an up-and-coming player (I’ll define that here as a player that is relatively new to IFPA competitive pinball, but consistently plays much better than their ranking because of lack of events to accurately determine her/his ranking) plays well, but not well enough to qualify for the A Div finals, I certainly wouldn’t want to exclude her/him from eligibility in lower divisions.


Everyone here is so Earth focused. World Pinball Rankings. Eric is the only person to ever win a championship that welcomed people from beyond earth. His world ranking will eventually even out with his intergalactic ranking.


Felt it better to necro this thread than create a new one for my question.

For the 3rd season of our league, we’re introducing a B-Division final since we’ve grown so much. Both A & B final consist of 12 players, with top-4 players in each division receiving a 1st-round bye.

My question is this: should our B-Division final affect a player’s final standing or not? If the 17th-ranked player during the regular season gets bumped in the 1st round, should they finish in 17th place, or 24th?

Is B eligibility restricted?

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Yes, great question. A player needs to attend 5 of 6 meets to be eligible.

For my league, we are running a B division, but only for people ranked 1000+ (which was the wrong threshold, I meant to restrict more people). So similar to tournaments like INDISC, B finals does not impact standings to IFPA (since jumping finishing position of ineligible players doesn’t work).

If it is truely just a final for 13 through 24, I would use the the outcome in final standings (in our local tournaments it is common to have a 1-4 finals and a 5-8 final.

I’m leaning toward ‘counting’ the final as well, just wanted to talk it out a bit. I appreciate your response! Ultimately, it’s much ado about nothing; it’s 13th place in a pinball league in Eugene.

We run 4 division in our league. Basicly thev8 weeks justvdetermine which division you are in and seeding for finals. Final submitted results are based off finals.

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It’s my understanding that unless your B division is restricted (such as top 1000 not eligible for B) then the B division finals count and your IFPA submission should reflect that.