Finals formats and "driving the bus"


The “school yard pick” finals? :-o

Don’t think many could handle that anxiety about where they were picked :smiley:


I agree if this was the format when I started playing and I was always picked first it may have turned me off from pinball


Also I used to this this was way too beneficial to the top seeds, but don’t really mind any more for the most part b/c it doesn’t really apply to me much. And I hate picking for the most part.

However, for lesser skilled players it might sound unfair and maybe for a B-Division or if you have different goals for the tourneys/leagues you run it might make sense to try different formats. I feel like the higher skilled players it’s different than for a lower skilled or beginners focused league/tournament where there’s more luck and randomness to the results and thus being on top might not be as much skill based (if that makes sense?)


I’ll chime in, but please note that I have very little tournament experience compared to many of you on this forum. I just started being a TD one year ago and I have run about 8 events in that time. In life I have always followed the mantra of being unique or off-centered. So, I applied the same thought process to pinball. For those of you that don’t really know me, if you see me at shows or big tournaments I’m the guy with the crazy pants.

For my tournaments I use a modified PAPA style format, to which I think is great although I am biased. So for real world feedback ask the people who have played in my events.

The format is like this. All of my events take the top 8 to “A Division” and then 9th through 16th to “B Division”. Before finals start I present the finalists with a list of pre-determined banks and this is how everything flow:

  • At the start of the round, each group will get to choose a bank to play. We will go in order for the groups, meaning that the group that has the #1 seed will get to pick their bank first
  • Each bank consists of 4 games. Only 3 of the 4 games will be played, with the 4th game being used as a tie-breaker in the event of a tie.
  • Once a bank has been selected, that bank can no longer be picked by another group (note - some games are used in more than one bank)
  • Starting with group #1 in the “A” division, the #1 seed can either choose the bank OR choose the position for unknown game #1 which would still need to be determined. For example, if the #1 seed picks position 4 for the 1st game we move on to the next highest seed and they get to either pick the bank, or another open position. However if the #1 seed picks bank #6, that bank can no longer be picked by any other group. From there the next highest would now have the option to pick one of the 4 games in that bank or choose position
  • At the conclusion of each game you move on to another game within your bank. Starting with the highest seed in the group, they get to pick either game OR order.
  • In the event of a tie-breaker, the 4th game is used and the higher seeded player will have order choice.

I haven’t received any negative feedback from any of the tournaments that I have ran regarding this modified format. Some of my tournaments have even included several players ranked inside the top 25 and several more inside the top 100. It adds a little different strategy to the mix for sure. But at the end of the day as others have mentioned, generally the better or higher ranked players still come out on top regardless if they picked games, banks, or position. I can attest to that first hand as I was the #1 seed at one of my events and I advanced past the first round. In the final round I had Steve Bowden in my group. The first game I picked was Comet as there were several DMD games there that I had no clue about rules. Steve dominated Comet and I came in either second or third. The next game I picked was Conquest (my personal game), and Steve had only played it one other time in qualifying. I posted a score of around 650,000 which is extremely good and Steve posted a score of 800,000. He secured 1st with that win and it did not help me at all other than allowing me to place 2nd overall.


I think the cream of the crop will rise to the top no matter the format as long as it’s not crazy volatile like that one that was overseas recently (best of 3 single elimination or something).

I just see it as too much of an advantage for the top 2-4 when there are 20 others in the finals usually.

I’ve never made an A final at any circuit event except classics, so the players that are always up there may feel differently. If this is how the big tournaments will always be, then that’s cool. It has its place just like some of the other formats mentioned here do. It’s all gravy assuming the format isn’t too volatile.


I think there has to be some sort of incentive for the top couple of qualifiers, else once you are reasonably “in” you can completely stop trying. That can affect the competitiveness of other groups in a group format, or reduce intake in a Herb format.


So then give byes or get rid of herb formats and up buy ins. Haha

There have been multiple examples in this thread that still give great incentives to being a top qualifier, just not to the extreme of the bus driver rules.

But like I said, it has its place.


Frankly unless the person can repeat picks… this feels like sour grapes.

If no one gets to pick the games… you still are not picking. If you were doing some type of rotation… someone else is making the pick probably 3/4 times.

To use the phrase in the thread… someone else is driving the bus… even if it’s not the top seed.

Most of the time you don’t get to pick what you play… so the fact the pick is driven by your competitor verse a random bank assignment or whatever… I don’t think is a major factor in the grand scheme.


I’ve been running our league for 9 years(3 seasons/year). Our season consists of 8 nights of 4 games/night. The top qualifiers have earned an advantage. BUT, they do not get to drive the bus. We play 5 games with Pinburgh scoring. The top seed gets to go 4th on all games. PLUS they get to pick the 1st and 5th games. The other players each get to pick one of the games. It’s a fair balance I think. Over the years I’ve heard very few complaints about the format.

For 2-3 day tourney’s, I think driving the bus is probably the best way to go.


Sure, but saying that “bus driver” rules is extreme is just an opinion. I’m of the opinion it’s just fine.

If I’m 2nd in the group, my reward is going last (probably) which is still nice.
If I’m 3rd or 4th, well, I’m not getting anything in any finals format and I’m happy to just be in the finals and I’ll do the best I can.


Of course. That’s all any of this ever is. Haha. Like I said, these formats have their place, but I’m glad they aren’t the only way to do things.


It’s extreme in the formal sense that you can’t make the rules any more biased in that direction—extremes aren’t always bad.


It’s not an opinion that it’s extreme - It can’t be any more extreme than a single player picking all of the machines to be played.

It’s an opinion whether it is acceptable or not.

FWIW, All of the 4 player finals for the tournaments I run consist of 3x4 player games.
3rd seed picks first game, with players playing in reverse order of qualifying
2nd seed picks second games, with players playing in reverse of position in first game
Top seed picks last game, with players playing in reverse of position in second game.

That format has had the most positive feedback from players involved, offering benefits for the higher you finish, without being too severe or beneficial.


Sure it can. Bus driver could get to pick the machine AND go last on each one. That’s more extreme.

I see a couple of problems with this.

First, forcing players to play in a certain order removes any strategic decision to intentionally go first. That could be important on games like Jokerz or anything with physical balls locks that can be stolen, or something like Twilight Zone if the powerball is in the trough. I’ve got no issue with giving choice in reverse order of whatever, but I don’t think it should be forced position.

Second, there’s almost no advantage to being top qualifier in this format. The only benefit I see is being able to go last on one game that I didn’t pick. I might get a game pick in the last game when I’m already mathematically eliminated. Maybe I get to go last on another game, but that means I took a zero and I’m already in serious trouble.

Honestly, in a 3-game format where coming in last is almost a death blow right out of the gate, I’d prefer enter finals in 3rd position in this format, so I get that first pick and a good chance to win on a game I choose.


The PPL format is a great compromise between top seed supremacy and last-place-chooses; the top 3 players get a pick (in tactical order, the 3rd game pick can be utilized much more effectively than a 1st game pick) and the 4th player gets nothing, which still gives a “play better” motivation.

Another format i like is @ChubbyGoomba 's monthly format/similar to Pinburgh format: top seed calls the 3 game bank, but can’t call it more than once. Leads to some interesting gamesmanship with holding picks and even deferring to the 2nd seed to hold on.


You can pick the same bank twice, just not in back to back rounds. A copy of Pinburgh as far as I know, unless something has changed.


Sounds like socialism to me :slight_smile: I don’t think there needs to be any ‘spread the wealth’ thinking when it comes to a competition format where there is strong strategic value to both what you play and in what sequence… and against whom as well.

Unless people want to just reseed after a round or qualifying… or treat a round simply as elimination… I think you have to reward the higher seeds.

I think there is more open thoughts about reseeding or not after a round… but the longer your qualifying phase is, the more you should reward success in it (IMO)



What is the point of qualifying for days on end if you just get thrown into a jumble?

One of the main goals of a qualifying process is not just to reduce the field of players, but also to set the stage such that the outcome of the event is that the best players win, and players finish in an order appropriate to their skill level.

With the nature of the game, the more play time affecting the outcome the more accurate the final standings. Qualifying having a material outcome on the final result is critical imo.

lt’s like half this thread would give away the pole-position in a race to some rando lap-time qualifier.


May I suggest a slightly-modified version?



Yep, that’s just blurry memory then. Still, definitely leaves some room for strategy in picks!