Encouraging participation when the same top players tend to win

In Seattle with so many A list players, people actively avoiding events because they don’t feel they’re good enough to qualify is a fairly common thing to hear. I personally wouldn’t use IFPA rank as a tiebreaker, especially for a major event, but I might mention it next time someone laments they’re not getting the mid-range players in the numbers they might like.

That’s when it’s time for “B only” non-IFPA sanctioned events. And if the players who shy away from open events don’t want to attend a “B” one due to the lack of WPPRs or whatever, sorry, you can’t have it both ways. Playing for fun? Then B should be fine. Playing for WPPRs? Then the price of admission is having the A’s present.


Most of these events are in bars and bars exist to sell beer. And pinball exists because people will pay to play it. Bar owners and game operators rightly want the biggest possible turnout. Seattle also has something like 10 or 12 events a week, so there is some pressure to differentiate your event from the pack. If pinball reached a second 2003 level nadir and foosball was selling drinks, a lot of places would drop pinball altogether purely to stay in business. If you’re an A List player you should qualify anyways, and if Timmy from Wenatchee who is usually pretty terrible is playing balls out the best games of his life, relative to his skill level, he’s a better player than you today. Golf, darts, bowling, etc all have handicapping built into many events and bad players win ties is an exceptionally mild form of it. It’s unlikely this will be implemented, but getting the less skilled people who play in our nearly 400 player league but generally avoid tournaments to show up is a discussion that happens at least from time to time.


For a while in Pittsburgh, there was an experiment with IFPA ranking over (2000 or something, I don’t remember) entered free and were allowed to win prizes.


How did that go? I would assume it would be fairly rare someone outside of the top 2000 would finish in the money in a well attended event. And after, they might be in the top 2000.

People not entering events because they don’t think they’re good enough to qualify is possibly the saddest thing I’ve heard.

What are these people wanting to get out entering a competition?

    • Is it WPPR points, which they don’t feel their good enough to get against top players?
    • Is it prize money, which they don’t feel their good enough to get against top players?
    • Is it to win, which they don’t feel their good enough to get against top players?
    • Is it to compete against others and enjoy the social aspect of playing against other people?

If it’s only about 1-3, they need to take a look at themselves IMHO.


If they want to earn WPPR points they have to place high enough to earn more than their lowest of the twenty current results. For a small event that could easily mean win or get nothing.

People play (or don’t play) for many different reasons.

Not everything is about winning, prize money or points.

It’s more fun to compete…yes, if one feels they have a chance when playing.

Nobody competes with the intention of losing or being at the bottom of the pack. If a lesser skilled player feels they have little to no chance, they might elect not to play. It’s not a competition if the result is essentially a foregone conclusion.

It might be fun occasionally to be in the same room with superstar players or watch great games being played, but there are other ways to have social interactions in life while not getting clobbered at pinball simultaneously.

That is exactly why divisions and handicaps exist in many games and sports, so more people can enjoy the competition aspect.


The most common thing I hear from them is they’re embarrassed by their own play. And no one is saying anything derogatory after winning or mocking losing players, Seattle actually has a pretty mature scene in that regard. I can think of exactly once in the 8 or so years I have been playing where I heard someone trash talk an opponent after a win and they didn’t do it in front of the opponent and I still told them off about it. In general Seattle doesn’t care that much about WPPRs. Our largest weekly tournament dropped them for a year after the fees were introduced and there wasn’t a noticable decline in attendance. The bars now pay the IFPA fees in I believe all cases. And if people aren’t entering because they won’t win money, they’re almost certainly correct. There are some events that draw less skilled players than others, but regardless you’re likely competing with people who have played for several years, and sometimes at that specific location four nights a week. I don’t think money is a major motivating factor in the vast majority of cases.

I’m not actually proposing any solutions here and I don’t think letting lower ranked players win ties is going to actually convince a lot of players to play who wouldn’t otherwise. It might help in some edge cases at best. There are a ton of benefits to having a mature and developed scene like we have, even if it’s intimidating to newbies, but it would be nice to get some of the people who hang out a few nights a week and play quite a bit of pinball active in the competition scene. And of course some people just aren’t competitive by nature, or have other reasons they don’t want to join in, and that’s fine. The only thing that works for me a little bit is telling them how much competition play improved my game. It’s very easy after a match to ask your opponent why they did certain things and 99 times out of 100 they’ll tell you.


Just because you can’t understand there own reasoning doesn’t mean it’s the saddest thing you’ve heard. Ironically, enough in your list you mist the 100% most common reason I hear why people are starting to think about not playing in larger events. It’s restrictions. That’s the reason why I’m done traveling for events myself. I am A restricted. Have I ever won a tournament, nope. Will I ever win a tournament, probably not but I’m still A restricted. The part that bugs me is that I go to these events now, don’t qualify and can’t play in B while people that I consider better than me (that just don’t travel) get to play in B. They win money in B, and I don’t have the chance. But for me, qualifying isn’t fun, it’s the bracket play that I enjoy. Being A restricted and not being good enough to realistically win anything is what puts sour grapes in a lot of peoples mouths.

I understand the argument on why, it’s because it’s felt that someone in the top 500 is to good to play in anything other than A as the other players wont stand a chance at winning if they were allowed in B. But, IMHO, that segregates a large number of people that now stand really no chance in A and now no chance in B. I’ve made the decision that I wont travel anymore unless I’m not restricted anymore. Whether the community feels that’s a good thing (that people like me stop coming to events) or a bad thing, I don’t know.


It’d be interesting to look at larger US events (say 45+ WPPRs) and see what portion of these are players ranked in the top 50 / 100 / 250 / 500:

Final Four
Top Eight

At pincinnati matchplay this year (76 players and should be around 40-45 points to the winner):

Top 4 had two top 500 people, one top 50 and one was top 1500. The winner was top 500.

The rest of the top 8 ranged from the top 200 to top 2100

Fair enough, but I think he’s referring to the “typical” events, like FPF and OBX, which each had more Top 100 players in attendance “blocking” the way for the 250-500 types. Hmm, the analysis should probably give a count of how many ranked players at each level were present.

The comparative analysis gets interesting. Speaking for myself, I had a perfect storm of things happen. All of my anniversary dates for FPF hit, some results went to zero, and I had a couple recent very poor performances locally. As such my ranking and rating dropped pretty dramatically.

Gives me something to work toward to rejoin the 500 club :slight_smile:

At OBX we have 40 people qualify for the A and B divisions final Sunday rounds . Top 24 for A and next 16 for B. We do not pay out in B division with no restrictions for qualifying it is the top 40. B division has top 8 trophies and prizes . Everybody knows the money and a pinball machine for top competitor is in top 24 with no sandbagging . I did a quick analysis of top 24 and their wppr # and stern circuit # note stern circuit # will change this week with results submitted
#1 Aleksander K wppr #16 and circuit 8
#2 Cryss Stephens wppr#28 and circuit #19
#3 Justin Campbell wppr#628 and -
#4 Lewis Bevans wppr#68 and circuit #12
#5 Drew Cedolia wppr#71 and circuit #30
#6 Eric Destasio wppr#157 and circuit #49
#7 David Riel wppr#24 and circuit #25
#8 Levi Nayman wppr#81 and circuit #45
#9 Kevin Kuntz wppr#294 and circuit -
#10 Paul Caras wppr#436 and circuit #236
#11 Robert Destasio wppr#176 and circuit #102
#12 Nick Destefano wppr#221 and circuit #73
#13 Trent Augenstein wppr#13 and circuit #17
#14 Matthew Richardson wppr#584 and circuit -
#15 Brian Oneill wppr#56 and circuit #13
#16 Andrew Pancoast wppr#302 and circuit #157
#17 Ovid Dillard wppr#597 and circuit #165
#18 Basci Dinc wppr #428 and circuit #203
#19 Tim Mccool wppr#275 and circuit -
#20 Pete Hendricks wppr#304 and circuit -
#21 Bryan Caudill wppr#1303 and circuit -
#22 Joe Lemire wppr#33 and circuit #15
#23 Bill Mason wppr#213 and circuit #27
#24 Dave Lancaster wppr#458 and circuit -

I had sometime tonight to put this together at what happened at OBX flippers this past weekend. We took close to 40% of participants into final Sunday rounds. Everyone had a great time , it was a long weekend but fun. We missed you Bob at OBX .


I feel like this is a more typical distribution for an event with a lot of excellent players. It’s not often a 1500-ish player would make top 4. Props to Justin Campbell.


I understood the reasons people weren’t attending was due to the fact they couldn’t guarentee a decent points haul because of better players being present. That’s what I found depressing.

Being restricted isnt really something that we have in the UK at all, there just isnt a large enough player base, or enough major comps to make have competitions with divisions.

I often try and encourage people to enter comps and the UK League who I meet in bars and arcades - without doubt their main reasons for not entering is they think that they’re not good enough. They possibly get that impression from seeing 1 or 2 players who are significantly better than them. I try and explain that noone is going to laugh at them, and the likelihood is that they’re nowhere near as bad as they think they are.
I’ve also never seen or heard anybody mocking someone after they have beaten them, unless it’s someone they know well and it’s friendly banter.


That does seem more typical where you have a couple players with good runs above there average but in the end if you have several top 100s they take the gold.

I also like your payout strategy. That’s another part that is frustrating as being A restricted but a LONG shot to win something is seeing the B division 1st and 2nd place winners getting a better payout than A division 5th place. They finish 25th and 26th but bring home more than the people in 5th through 24th. I understand the desires to make it fun for B but it just never felt right to me.


Also, I think there should be a whole separate thread regarding dominate player fatigue. You can convince folks that it’s cool to be an international ranked pinball player or that it’s a great sport because anyone can play a top player in the world and win, and that’s true and super cool.

But when you have the same small handful of players dominating the top of every event, I found that
more of those casuals we are trying to get in to grow the sport attend fewer and fewer events. It’s less fun when every event feels inevitable. I don’t know what the answer is, but I keep seeing it where we’ll get folks hooked for few tournaments and then once they realize they are going to get squashed by the same people over and over again, they stop showing. Maybe things would be better with an “amateur” and “professional” rankings, and more events designed or specifically capped to certain players based on rankings both for highly ranked, and less highly ranked players.

It’s still common around here (central MD) for some large tournaments (approaching 100 people) to use a tiered entry fee. At some point it tapers to “free except your dollar for the IFPA” and as far as I know, all are eligible to win.

I can’t recall any instances where a freeroll was in serious contention to win a prize, but I don’t think that deters anyone.