Benefits of a League over Tournaments?

We’re going to have a “barcade” opening in Charlotte,NC soon that should have 10 pins. Ive ran tournaments before and am wondering if we should look into a league. I just don’t know of any benefits that a league has over having a bi-weekly or monthly tournament? Any insight into this would be appreciated!


  • Player signups = attendance commitment over a period of time (should be better for revenue, though a new bar might be packed enough not to care)
  • Less performance pressure than a 1-day event
  • Tends to cater to a wider range of playing ability, so you’ll get more attendance

Leagues can be a bit less intimidating than a tournament, especially if you sell it as a beer league as opposed to a highly competitive event. If the prize is a bar tab at the end of a month for a couple hours a week you’ll draw a very different crowd than if it’s cash after 8 hours of continuous play.

League play here in NYC was my gateway drug into competitive tournaments.


Reasons that tournaments are better than leagues:

  • Good for people who are too busy to come more regularly.
  • Good for people who live too far away to come more regularly.
  • Nothing else I can think of…

Agree with everything said above already - leagues are better in almost every way. Source: I operate 11 pins at a barcade and run monthly tournaments and leagues there. :smile:

Edit: While it’s good to have options for those people who would only do occasional tournaments, that’s not where most of your money is going to come from.

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Both are great and will draw some of the same crowd as well as different crowds. It’s worth running both, and as it’s been mentioned, league is more relaxed and is a better atmosphere to just meet some local pinheads. Having a league that meets more frequently than the monthly/bi-monthly tournaments will also help out the location (more coin drop, more beer and food sales, etc).

Agree with all above and if you schedule League in a slow bar night it can allow you to have some guaranteed business on an otherwise slow night. Plus I’ve noticed lots of people who get into leagues begin sucking all of their alcohol drinking friends into it.

Suggest something like a free night of drinking for people who play a whole league (capped at X dollar tab)

When reading these replies one could assume league = alcohol. We run an 11 week league 3 times a year in a mall location that has about 30 pins. Everybody usually has a great time and guess what? There is no alcohol served.

Back to the original question. Leagues are more laid back than tournaments but there is still some serious competition going on! Our league attendance is usually more than what we can expect to have on a typical single Saturday tourney.

Except that ZenTron is talking about a barcade. I expect they’ll make more of of alcohol than he will off of pins.

I’m not saying alcohol is necessary for a league, Modern Pinball in NYC has none, just that it is how most barcades make their money.

In addition to all the great comments already made… “Usually” leagues play weekly, while “usually” tournaments are no more frequent than monthly. So leagues = more pinball more often, which is good for everyone, both experienced players and newcomers.

If you are going to do a league, make sure you go all the way with it and don’t half-ass it. If the organizers are…disorganized, and they don’t update scores or communicate well then the participants will lose interest. I would almost say it’s bad pinball marketing if the goal is to get more people interested. Could do more harm than good.

People like @ClevelandPinball who are both operators and skillful competitors tend to be the best league organizers. They’re motivated to grow their small business, but more so are motivated to get a good group of competitors around them to compete with on a regular basis to keep their chops up.

Speaking of which, you could meet halfway and do some smaller weekly tournaments like the Cleveland Pinball League does. Brian might be able to speak to positives and negatives of that option better than myself though.

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Thanks for the kind words @PinballNarcissist.

Without a doubt, league play in our area has produced way more new players than any of our periodic events. Since you are playing every week, you are seeing the same people frequently. Eventually this turns into a bunch of new friendly relationships between people who would have otherwise not ever even met.

Even though I mostly started the league because I love competing, it has become overwhelmingly apparent that it is all about the people. I personally started out with zero interest in the social aspect of the hobby, but am now hopelessly endeared to the Cleveland pinball community. Thanks to a league format based on PPL and tons of good advice from people here like @joe, everyone in league is able to show up every week and have fun competing at their own level of skill.

At this point the community is strong enough that it is feeding off itself. The women in our league have held 2 “ladies night” tournaments without any prompting by myself which received extremely good feedback, partly because of elements created by them that I never would have included in my own events.

The league definitely produces more people for the periodic events but I would not say it works both ways. It’s a huge challenge to make every one-off tournament attractive for all levels. Even though it’s more of a time commitment, it seems easier and more appealing for most people to have something to commit to every week for a couple months. “On mondays I play league”. We also run on multiple days. Players may only play once a week, but they can play on any of the days they want week-to-week, which makes it easier for people with busy/chaotic schedules.

Not everybody wants to play competitive pinball every week perpetually, but some like myself absolutely do. For those people, I run a free knockout tournament once a week while we are between seasons of league. At the end of the year, the top 12 players in the cumulative results of those weeklies are invited to play in a championship (similar to SCS). The last 3 weeklies have averaged over 18 players.

Running league as an operator definitely helps. I’m able to be there to grab stuck balls and fix minor issues on the spot. I can choose games that I know to be good for competition, and maintain a rotation of interesting games. As a competitor I am super-sensitive about gameplay and set ups. This means everyone gets to play on games where I have obsessed over flipper alignments/software settings/slope/tilt/cleanliness/etc. This also means I can make changes week-to-week to ensure that certain games (Stern ST) aren’t playing long and causing people to wait around.

The popularity of league is probably the only reason I can “afford” to operate games at my small level. Even if I didn’t operate the games, I’d still be running events because I love doing it just like I was when all I owned was a broken Taxi with cabinet touch-ups that must have been done by a blindfolded kindergartener on PCP. But it’s definitely true that I work even harder to make sure my events are well-organized, inclusive, and fun regardless of skill.

In the end, the real reason any of this works is because of the strength of the community. Lots of people willing to help each other out in so many ways because we really love doing it.

TLDR; League has definitely been more effective at increasing event attendance in general, because it offers more compelling elements than most periodicals or one-offs. Running events/leagues as an operator is definitely a mutually beneficial situation.