Best Finals Format for Group Match Play - What Say You?


I would like to hear feedback from everyone on what Finals format do you prefer or enjoy the most. I only have a couple of years tournament experience under my belt and the formats I have either played in or directed are listed below. The reason I’m asking is because I might consider changing up an existing Finals format depending on everyone’s feedback.

I have either played in or directed the following formats:

  • PAPA Style - Classic 4-player groups, playing across 3 games, using 4,2,1,0 scoring

  • Modified PAPA Style - Same as above but with one extra layer. Banks are created prior to finals that consist of 4 games. At the start of the round the top seed has to make 1 of 3 decisions. Pick a bank, pick position, or pick game after another player picks the bank.

  • Head to Head - Best of 7 format (used by the SCS)

  • Ladder bracket - Just like the ladder was run last year for the SPC finals

I always do 7,5,3,1 with 3 game rounds. I currently make the three games span three different eras of games, but toying with trying banks.

So the top seed in the group chooses the bank. The 3 games in the bank will be from those three different eras.


Just wanted to clarify exactly how my current finals are conducted.

  • Top 8 go to “A” Finals.
  • 4-game banks were created before the tournament started
  • Seed #1, in Group A, gets to choose one of the 3 options. 1. Pick a bank 2. Pick position. 3. Pick a machine once the bank has been picked by one of the other players
  • PAPA scoring of 4,2,1,0
  • Group will play 3 of the 4 machines, with the 4th machine in the bank being the tie-breaker game should one be needed
  • Once Game 1 is completed, the top seed gets to drive the bus and pick either machine or position

By throwing in the extra layer of picking a bank, it really changes a players thinking and strategy, especially since 3 of the 4 games will be used in each bank. Also of note, once a bank is selected, it can no longer be selected by any other group.

Bonus point for winner (4-2-1-0) will lower the probability of ties in a three game round. The mental math is also slightly easier.

Interesting. Good to know! Might switch things up then.

I personally enjoy head to head the most

As a player and TD, I prefer the 4 player games finals format over head to head, the reason being that it’s worth more points and you can snuck in being 2nd until you get in the groove and start winning.

Overall as a player, I believe you have to be good at all styles of finals.

What you can do is alternate the finals format, if you run every fortnight, once a month you do 4 players finals, and the other you do head to head. Gather feedback for 3 months, see what it does to the WPPR and go from there. Some players will like the variation, announced in advance. A change is as good as a holiday!

Eitherway you will always get players complaining about the changes (if they don’t run well on the night) :wink:

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I lean more towards hearing what the players prefer and let the WPPRs fall where they may.


Just to throw another option into the mix…

FSPA finals format (3 or 4 players) has an opening group-play game, followed by head-to-heads between all combinations of players, then a closing group-play game. In the event of a tie at the end of the night, first tiebreaker is the result of the head-to-head game between the tied players. Only in the event of a 3+ way tie with circular results is a secondary tiebreaker required, which is the result of the final game.

Of course we use FSPA scoring for each game, but you could use any scoring you like.


3 strike K.O. can also be a decent finals format if you don’t want too much preference given to qualifying standings.

My vote is “anything except 3-game PAPA-style groups.”

Nothing worse than fighting to get to the finals, then taking a zero in the first game. It’s SO hard to come back from that with only two games to go.


Are you mostly playing in FSPA Final formats?

Right now I do not have a finals for my tournaments, because I feel like, intuitively, that the playoffs and/or finals should follow roughly the same format as the rest of the tournament. It’s so weird to me that a person plays their way through a strike tournament to reach the “finals”, and then has to switch to a match-play format to win the tournament.

If it’s a strike tournament, then the finals should be strike based. Maybe give the higher seeds fewer strikes than lower seeds. If it’s a high score ranking qualifying, then I feel like the finals should resemble that as well. Maybe having everyone having to play a four or five game bank and having it come down to high score ranking. And if you have one scoring system for the qualifying portion of the tournament, please use the same system for the finals. Why do you change the scoring? Why does that make sense? So the best final to me is the one that looks like the rest of the tournament.

Sorry, this is just a general pet peeve of mine.


Outside of league, I’ve never seen an FSPA-style finals format to a tournament. Mostly I see 3 or 4-game PAPA style groups. Rarely, I see strike formats just continue on with no real finals to speak of, and I know of one tournament that does “flipper frenzy” with no finals either.

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I agree, but to put this in the perspective of the TD, a lot of time the best looking finals format isn’t the one that earns the most WPPRs, and we all know how the almighty WPPR shapes tournaments.

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That’s what I do right now. It’s works pretty good honestly. We don’t need a finals to tack on more WPPRs, and the incentives and rewards for good play are clear. The only reason I see to tack on a finals to my event would to give more folks experience with a finals situations, but I haven’t figured out the way I want to do that yet.

Every time I chase WPPRs I’m sad. It never works out. Now I just try to play the events I pretty sure I’ll have fun at. This is why you’ll almost never see me at any HERB style qualifying tournaments.


Joe, can you explain this format with a little more detail?

How is the opening group format played and what is the purpose?

For the head to head, best of 3 format?

So all of my “main tournaments” are group match play for qualifying and the finals continue as group play PAPA format. I don’t ever run a strikes tournament and have no desire to. I was just hoping there were a bunch more formats for Finals that I was unaware of and hopefully could find something a little more exciting. I do like the circuit ladder finals format, mainly because I used to bowl competively on a high level and all of the finals are Ladder style.

Thoughts on running group match play for qualifying and the the top 8 advanced to a best of 7 format like the SCS?

I can help here. Each game is just a single game, but players earn points FSPA-style. Whoever has the most points at the end of all matches is the winner.

For a 3-player finals group, the matches go like this (first number gets choice), maximum of 16 points possible:


For 4-player groups (maximum of 20 points possible):

1-4, 2-3
1-3, 2-4
1-2, 3-4

The first matches might look a little odd, but there’s a reason for that. Since the higher seed gets the choice, we didn’t want the top seed to drive the bus for BOTH all-way matches, so they get the last match instead. 2nd seed drives the bus for the first all-way, then every other match is top seed.


@unsmith nailed it. Of course if you don’t like FSPA point assignments, you could use the same general structure with whatever point scheme you like (e.g. 3-2-1-0 or 4-2-1-0 or 7-5-3-1, etc). But we think this format provides a nice blend of all-play and heads-up games, with the heads-up games providing natural match tiebreakers (most of the time). This format also has a nice touch in 4-player groups that the 3rd seed gets a little bit of choice by being able to pick their head-to-head against the #4 seed.

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