B / Novice Division Thresholds, Sizes and Prizes


Gorgarsupperlip - The great thing about snailman is he doesn’t take feedback personally so we are free to speak openly :slight_smile:

I plus one this. I think you and I are very much alike. We are pushed out of playing in “B” as we are considered “to good” but really aren’t good enough to win these tournaments. Yes, sometimes we can get on a hot streak or get lucky, like me at TPF this year but if you put us up against Phil, Robert, Colin, Garret, etc we will lose 75%+ of the time. Shoot, in the last 3 weeks I’ve probably played 20 games against Robert on my own games as well as games he’s owned. Think I’ve won twice…

Here is where my vomit comes from in the above. We (as a pinball community) are doing some GREAT things with bringing in new players into our world. But I think we are doing a very poor job in retaining those skilled competitive players that will need find the nut (blind squirrel analogy) in order to make a top 4 or win anything other than a local league event. So we basically fall into what I’m calling the pocket padders group. Not allowed to play in anything but “A” but realistically speaking are just giving our money to other people so they can feel like they can win something. It’s this feeling that I’m starting to get from pinball that has me 2 inches from the ledge of jumping off the cliff out of playing in leagues and tournaments and just sticking to playing at home with friends and family. The sad part is I once thought I was in the minority in feeling this way but I’m meeting more and more people that are backing out of competitive pinball because we all feel the same way.

Proof in point, those that know me know I used to LIVE for tournaments. I’d go to every one I could possibly go to. Now I don’t go to most and even was going to cancel my trip to TPF if I wound up 500 or less in IFPA.

Here is where I get my reputation of being an out spoken A$$ but at this point it is what it is. I’m not a fan of everyone getting a participation trophy for competitive events just to make them feel good. I want to see only the top players at that event be rewarded just like I see in every other sport. If I want to win something then I need to practice and play better but the most recent gut shot of getting kicked out of Bat City Open (for being “A” restricted) just to see 2 people that I consider every bit as good as me or better move on and get to play in the B finals really opened my mind and got me thinking about our sport.

here is my frustration. I don’t consider myself elite but am looped into that bracket. I stand no chance at winning a tournament that Keith, You and Josh show up to. I can get lucky and pass one of you or maybe even 2 but at some point that luck runs out. I know you consider me in that “elite” category, of which I think that’s just you being yourself (a genuine nice guy) but the facts are in the numbers. Look at my rankings against top 100 players or even top 200 players and my win % is beyond pathetic. I’m in the top 500 as I get a lot of points from playing in a league of 40 people of which only about 6 of them are their for anything but the drinking, socializing and apparently narcotics (recently learned this one…). But if you, John, Garret, Jason, Robert, Ray, Thomas, Mark, etc show up I realistically stand at best a 10% chance at winning and maybe at 20% chance at getting 2nd. That’s just a handful of people in Austin (I’m leaving some out too). If I can’t consistently be competitive against a dozen local players and am stuck in “A” it kind of loses that, “maybe I stand a chance” feeling that is NEEDED to keep the non-top players playing in tournaments.


I see a lot of interesting discussion about whether that void should have happened, whether this was sandbagging, theorycrafting on how this affects tournaments, etc. However, the big picture is being missed here I feel. Competitive pinball really needs to come to terms with the fact that some people only care about winning money, and will take advantage of situations like this when they come up.

Absolutely a sketchy void and a bad payout structure. I have to conclude though that the player did nothing wrong if they asked and got their action condoned by the tournament. That’s on the TD, IMO.


What does a bottle of Barrel Aged Old Rasp get me?


Your argument is inconsistent, too: earlier, you’re saying there shouldn’t be anything for non-elite players (B div, etc) – practice and play better. But then you drop in this NEED for a “maybe I stand a chance” feeling for non-top players. So which is it?


It’s actually consistent. But in my typical fashion, I’m not making it clear.

The main frustration for me (and I think people like gorgarsupperlip) is that we are stuck in A where we stand realistically little to no chance of winning but are now to good to play in other divisions (which are full of equally skilled players with less events under their belt). it gets extra frustrating and de-motivational to then see those players take home cash and or prizes to boot.

I just think that we are starting to lose sight of a chunk of players in our community. We are catering to the newbies and women with the separate playoffs/finals (and prizes) and catering to the Elite players with ever growing payouts and circuit tournaments but not really putting any effort into keeping the interest of those players stuck in the middle. Only so long will they stay interested especially when all they are basically their for is padding the payouts of people that finish below them or in a group they will rarely be able to participate in.

I don’t have the magic answer and am just throwing out my feelings in an effort to help grow thought their. Guess the only piece of advice is to rethink what we consider Elite or even have A and B finals for everyone and only limit C and D for the newbies. It’s still not ideal to me but helps reduce some of that frustration. Again, to look at Bat city only because I know you are familiar with it. Reduce the times that someone like me has to pack their bags and head home just to see at min two players (Jason and John) continue on when they are every bit as skilled as the player sent packing (that qualified higher).

Trying to think outside of myself (hard to try something like that) but you knowing me. You know how excited I’ve been for years to play in tournaments. You know that I really don’t care that much about getting first but am really just shooting for the fun of the playoffs. If someone like me is growing very disinterested in the competitive aspect of our sport that to me signals we may not exactly be moving in the right direction.


I don’t get it. The “bottom of A” crowd currently gets nothing.

If B, C, D prizes go away, the “bottom of A” crowd still gets nothing.

Are prizepools meant for encouraging novices the thing that prevent you from playing/enjoying competitive pinball?

Edit: I typed this before seeing the most recent post.


I do understand that frustration.

If we can find ways to continually bring in new players, then we have more options in terms of what types of events get run ($$, WPPRs, size, divisions, restrictions).

The beauty is that anyone feeling squeezed by a changing/growing community can easily start their own events and make them into whatever they want.


I kinda see the argument here. Encouraging novices with lower-division prizes is good, because it gives them something to shoot for. But once they stop being novices and are stuck in the low-A pool, that incentive goes away.

Eventually the excitement of being in your first tournament, or first major, or first time in a higher division or whatever wears off, and you start looking for new goals. When you’re stuck in that rut, it’s hard to find one sometimes.

To add a personal perspective to this, I get enough competition locally that I don’t feel the need to travel for it (other than Pinburgh, which will always be awesome despite always being a loss, money-wise) so without that feeling that “there’s a chance” I have basically no reason to travel for tournaments outside of regional driving distance. All I’m doing is trading my precious few vacation days for something that will yield nothing that I can’t get locally for free.

So I understand what @85vett is talking about here.


The dividing line will always be somewhere. I also don’t want to show up and give my money to elite players but compared to me half of the field is elite! So we have door prizes instead of the top few getting all the cash and prizes too.

You might consider involvement in competitive pinball in ways other than competing. I don’t know how you felt about your tech work at TPF but it was extremely valuable. I get a lot of gratification out of running events. Part of me running them was to have someone doing that that wasn’t likely to be in the finals, then the last two events at BB I won. One of them you had an off day, the other Byers had an off day.


Sorry, can’t figure out how to quote and I’m bored sitting in my car at Walmart waiting on my wife to finish shopping so replying on my phone.

Cut is always somewhere - I agree. If you have a cut then their will always be that point. I just think the current fad at 500 is quite a bit off. I think it should be 50 or maybe 100 if we need one. It should be high enough to where all those people limited have a real chance at winning. Then B could be everyone else down to 2000 or so and then the rest could be for newbies. 100 to 2000 still fills like someone that is competitive, stands a chance at qualifying in A bit not a shoe in for winning “B”. But that is still a shot in the dark. The rest fall more into the “here just for fun” category so it fits with the C and D thoughts.

Going to tournaments and not playing - I’ve thought about it but not sure if my competitive personality would be happy spending that much money to go to an event and not play.


I think like many things, you eventually hit a plateau and don’t get any better. But in your case I’d bust my ass and see if I could start busting those top players. I mean how did they get so good without playing a lot and working to get better?

Half of me wants to just say, “play better”, but the other half of me knows exactly what you mean. I pretty much quit other hobbies I’ve had due to the “wall” that I hit (skateboarding and golf). Even though I know what you’re saying about pinball is a bit different, but that feeling is the same. I honestly think pinball is big enough that restrictions aren’t as important as they used to be.

That being said, come play at Pincinnati in November. (No restrictions whatsoever).


gonna de-rail for a bit here, sorry in advance.

This opinion might get less traction than the one were currently talking about but here goes: It’s time to start paying techs and organizers for their time. If event organizers cant find a way to compensate these people for their tireless efforts it should be taken from the prize pool. Right now the payout of our league is as follows:
1st: 20$
same payouts for B,C,and D divisions.

I would totally understand and endorse the league officials taking 25$ a piece from the lower divisions as compensation for their time. @YeOldPinPlayer and @Law have done a million times more for the league than me and mark, so why not?

And as for techs, their role is critical. They should be able to play, be a tech, and be inspired to work on and bring games to future tournaments, rather than just required to add the burden of making repairs to their tournament/event experience.

Just my two cents.


No - that is a consequence. I suggest younre-read the first post in that thread

"because a choice may better me in the long run vs now,etc. But again, the spirit seemed to be about protecting the integrity of the competition in the sense that all players should be doing their best to WIN.

But if you have two players colluding to share a prize regardless of outcome - doesn’t that undermine that spirit? By taking away the big prize incentive to win, doesn’t that hurt the competitive integrity of the event?"

Its the same thing here… the player isnt competing to win… they are chasing the easier dollars.

Something many argued people wont do but rather want the glory… or pride. Reality is… money is incentive… weather people will admit it or not.

Mess with the money… and you have consequences.


There’s a partial solution, but it’s not for the faint-hearted: charge more for entry to top players. PATL does a bit of that, but a low to mid A player could run an event where your entry fee is even more extreme if you’re an elite player. Your other option is to forego WPPR eligibility and just run something where the top X players can’t enter. I suspect both would alienate many players, but if there’s a demand for this kind of thing, it would probably satisfy your criteria.


Are there examples of this being done, and how did it play out?


I honestly feel that this is where we’re headed. I feel that before this becomes the norm, the IFPA should step in and require that all participants pay the same fee.


PATL is the only one I know of that has tiered fees without pre-split divisions like PAPA. PATL does fine so far.


It’s the “Never Hit the Big Time Not-So-Open” where you can only enter if you’ve never made the final four at a major or won a Circuit event.

Or the “Next Step Down” event for those who’ve never even made a Circuit final four.


Crabtowne does this for their semi annual. Entryfee is based on your ifpa rank. But its really aimed at making it low risk for new players. Top players (<1000) pay $21… and goes as low as $1 for new unranked players

Two low ranked players made it into the finals


Assuming that at some point, unequal fees makes an event “not truly open in a meaningful way,” there are two ways to deal with it. The simple one is outlaw it entirely. The complex one is to put parameters on how different the fees can be. This could be “can’t differ by more than $X” or “can’t differ by a ratio of more than Y” and perhaps simultaneously, “can’t single out less than Z% of the people attending” (i.e. if you scale it, you can’t just hit the top 10%, it must be more broadly based, e.g. the top third).

The other issue, which I poke at a bit in my pseudo-events, is what kind of cut-off? Rankings? Past success at specific events or levels of events? Event success doesn’t change when the IFPA updates the rankings (top 250 when you signed up or top 250 when the signup cutoff is or top 250 when the event begins or …), but it’s also harder to come up with which events to use as the basis.