For Your Consideration: A Proposed SCS/PCS Format


I’m pretty happy with how qualifying and the format works right now. The only thing I would possibly change would be to make the first round a best of 5 and then the rest of the rounds best of 7. That first round takes FOREVER to grind through, and it’s the round with the lowest probability of upsets. Most of our first rounds were over in 5 games. I think one round went the distance. The only worry I would have with that would be the ability to “steal” two wins on EMs for the lower seed. But hey, if you can’t win on each era, maybe you’re not that much better, right?


Does that mean Keith Elwin should ALWAYS be the highest seed? :slight_smile:

I think it’s normal in our sport for the qualifying process to determine the seeding for the finals of an event. Keith qualified in 11th at INDISC, and earned the 11th seed. Sucks for the 2 seed that they get KME in the Quarterfinals, but that’s the way it worked out for this tournament.

SCS has a similar qualifying system, and the State Championship represents the “finals” of that process.

The seeds earned are the seed earned, and never represent who the most skilled players are in the world. They always represent who earned the most points via the qualifying process set forth by the TD.


4 out of 8 of our first round matches went to 7.


To be clear, you’re suggesting that we should use a year worth of tournament play to determine who belongs in the top 16, but then we should reseed to give the player with the highest raw skill level the easiest path to victory?

I’d like to hear more about what makes this more fair and how it would improve competitive pinball.


That’s basically it Yes, the qualifying/seeding don’t correlate when players can play different quantities of games during qualifying.

As for Keith always being seeded no.1- if he qualifies on the day then yes. Surely it’s also fairer to the person who qualifies on the day in 2nd that they wouldn’t meet the best player until the final?
If Keith qualifies in 16th over the season, due to only entering and winning a single comp - what’s the benefit of the person who has qualified in 1st throughout the season? Where’s their reward for qualifying 1st?

As an aside.
I’ve been on both ends of this. The UKCS is ranked over the whole season and as such I’m playing 2nd last in the ladder meaning I only have to not finish last in a single game to make the final. A benefit from the qualifying over the season.
I played in a pingolf tournament at the weekend where the top 8 qualified for the semi-final. I didn’t realise that scores were held over, meaning that the 5th placed player (me) had virtually no chance of progressing to the final, and 6th to 8th place had zero chance. My fault for not reading the rules properly, as once I realised I was guaranteed top 8 I stopped trying as hard.


With best of 7 series, seeding doesn’t matter much. Qualifying is all that matters. It’s very rare that the lesser-skilled player is going to beat the superior player in a true best of 7 series. Yes, upsets can happen, but they’re not common when you play that many head to head games to decide a series. I wouldn’t sweat the seeding, because better play will win out across a series.


@pinwizj How about a double elimination bracket? The advantage is that at least you get to play 2 matches. The loser side would be best 2/3, and they have to play on already open games as not to delay the tournament.


Lots of replies! Thank you everyone for some interesting conversation on the subject.

In this theoretical set-up, the seeding comes back into play when you enter the Quarters/Semis. Higher seed gives you better choices should you make it out of the Best Game Round. I think the existing motivation is also still there that you don’t want to rest on your laurels should someone in 17th to 20th try to snipe that spot away so that they make it in.

Curious as to what it is about Best Game Qualifying that you don’t like.

I would argue that March Madness is fantastic as a spectator, but frustrating as a competitor when the match-ups that you will/might encounter are sub-optimal to determining the how to sort and rank the performance of all competitors within the field within the context of the competition.

I think Bob summarized my feelings best when he said:

Right now, it’s “You want to be State Champ? Then win four straight.” But the ranking of everyone else (especially as we make moves to inject more money into this specific competition) is sub-optimal at best.

Certainly agree with the sentiment that winning States should a tough endeavor.

What I have proposed is seeking to cut down on the “luck” factor of what side of the bracket you end up on.
I would arguably say this format makes it more difficult to win States, as forces you to play against the “field” indirectly in the first round, directly against three others in the Quarters, directly against three in the semis, and finally a head-to-head best-of-seven, and the “best” two competitors of the day emerge as the Finalists, and not “Someone from Side A” vs. “Someone from Side B”.

I am a fan of this alternative, as it gives reward and incentive for higher seeds to choose their path.

Would having live scoring inputs change your view on this? Give the feeling of a “race” and people chasing the Top 8 spots?

I’m certainly not suggesting it goes to a straight vote, but shift it to a competition to effectively rank ALL players within the contest and get the best two (of the day) facing each other in the Finals. Advantages should of course exist for Top Seeds like they do now, or else what incentive will people have to keep fighting for a higher position?

Perhaps this is a difference between a state with a location of a singular scene where you expect all (or most people to participate), but in a state with a lot of potential shifting where they have to go down the list (PA, NJ, NY, MD as examples near me), it becomes instantly difficult to do those kind of projections mid-to-late year because I won’t have a good view of who is participating until “declaration day” or close to it.

And this is where I believe that there is a difference going into this year. Money is being handed out to all (most?) positions, and especially in states with a higher prize pool, there is going to be a big jump between getting 16th and getting 3rd. Work all year to get the 4 Seed only to have to play four games and get knocked out by the 13 Seed Circuit winner who wanted to go for big bucks? Too bad, into the losers bracket you go with no recourse to a higher prize bracket.

Certainly not in disagreement with how the outcome should affect your outlook on the year ahead, but again, I think the argument comes down to money and being denied the opportunity to play for bigger stakes because of a first-round exit.

I do love the narrative of what States forces you to plan for now, and will admit that I took similar measures in this SCS because the format incentives planning ahead. Who am I playing? What do I know about them? Where have I faced them before? What games do I know that they own so I can avoid them? In my case, because we had a number of people spanning multiple different State communities, I had a lot of “missing” information behind the analysis and what I am looking to ascertain ahead of the event. Yes, a change in format would change the planning and strategy that you would prep ahead of time.

I could counter with “After a year of tournaments, I was the 4 seed but the out-of-state winner of Major Circuit X was 13 seed and I played four games and left empty handed”.

I could also counter with “I took 1st place on two of the eight games and barely made it into Finals but then crushed a game a Whitewater against the 1 and 2 seeds and now I’m onto the Semis”. I think similar narratives and stories will still come out of the event, just not as much focused on the “mano-e-mano” situation.

Agree, hence why I wrote this proposal to begin with.

I would agree with Ryan that that Qualifying Round should NOT effect Finals Seeding. I would say that the qualifying round sorts out the best eight players of that day and then your incoming seeding is applied as you move into the Final Round (in whatever format that takes). That way, there is still incentive the rest of the year to fight for position.

I wasn’t worried about Points Maxing when thinking of this format, but it did play out that way so I figured I would bring the point up.

Certainly agree that playing out position should be a continued tradition for the event.

I like the idea of double elimination, but can understand the sentiment that others might raise of “you should have to win all of your matches to win States”.

Because of the monetary factor, what about giving consideration to letting people play up though the Consolation side of the bracket to have the opportunity to get up to 3rd? In wrestling tournaments they have the concept of “Wrestlebacks” in there is a “winner” of a single consolation bracket who places 3rd. It’s still “can’t lose at all” to win States, but if you get bounced because of a poor match-up in the first round you can fight you way all the way up to 3rd (and bigger prizes). This is different to how I understand states do it now in where you end up locked into a smaller side bracket based on people who were eliminated in the same round.


Again, thanks to everyone for some interesting conversations on the topic.


Boring. You’re not playing against anyone. Doesn’t feel like a competition.


I disagree. With only playing one game on each of the 8 games, that’s an extremely weak sample size to determine who’s best on that day. Whether the championship match ocurrs in round 1 or 4, the best player that day always wins in the current format.

I’d honestly rather play Elwin in the first round of SCS every year than have any part of it have a best game qualifying.

This is something that, yeah is stinks, but that’s the way it goes with a March madness type tournament. But I think you should lobby for a rule change in making the SCS instead of a tournament format change. A minimum of events within that state perhaps? :sunglasses:


I’ll save Josh from posting that someone could just run five (or more) one-game tournaments to meet this requirement.


Thanks for the great reply @coreyhulse. It seems like there are two camps on this issue:

  1. The most successful SCS finals format is the one most likely to produce an ordered list that comes as close as it can to ranking the players based on their skill/ability
  2. The SCS is the playoffs. Once you get in, anything can happen and there is no need to try and ensure that the second best player finishes in second.

Without trying to be too harsh, my opinion is that if you want to know who the best players are, you don’t need to have a competition to decide that, just ask around and look at past results. (I know that’s not what you’re proposing).

The SCS is the finals of a tournament that has been taking place all year long. The seeding has been set. To me it’s no different than an unlimited Herb qualifying which moves to a 16 player finals. The seeds have been set based on how successfully you competed during qualification. You don’t get consideration for how many tickets you bought. You don’t get a chance to be reseeded in case there happen to be any unfair matchups.

No one hands anyone a medal or cash for being at the top of a list that ranks people by skill. Medals, cash, and titles are earned by winning competitions

Escher isn’t the best player in the world, but he gets to call himself the reigning PAPA World Champion until someone else wins that competition. Bowen can go around telling people that he’s the reigning PAPA Runner Up, but I bet he’s pretty content to tell people he’s one of the best pinball players in the world, without needing to assign a specific number to it. And it’s true.

If you’re the second best player in your state, how will it feel different to steamroll through three rounds and lose to the best player in the finals vs running into the best player in round one? If you’re the 7th best player…then a 16 person bracket filled with 6 players better than you is an absolute minefield, and we shouldn’t cater the format to try and ensure you come as close as possible to 7th place.

(I’ll admit that maybe Colorado does not have some of the problems that other states have because we have a centralized player base. Yes, it won’t be great to travel four hours to get a bad matchup in round one. But even if you do, you still have hours of play fighting through the other best players in the state to try and come out 9th. Some matchups in our losers bracket were playing it to 7 games, even though only 3 was required. You’ve been working all year to get into this tournament, why not stay and play your hardest against the very best players?)

I thought that most people just cherry picked whatever stat made them look best at the time? I got to tell my non-pinball friends that I was ranked second in Colorado for most of last year…but if they asked too many follow up questions, I’d correctly admit that there were many players better than me, I just happened to play in more tournaments than they did.

This debate feels similar to those surrounding the overall IFPA World Rankings, where the two sides are:

  1. The World Rankings should accurately reflect and rank players by skill level
  2. The rankings reflect who is playing the best right now. If you’re not cashing at the biggest tournaments, then you’re falling in the rankings.

I’m not sure it’s possible for these two camps to agree. :slight_smile:


This again seems rooted in the idea that an event is somehow supposed to align with a mindset that the outcome or setup is supposed to be ‘who is REALLY the best player’

The SCS is about playing MORE pinball - seeding is driven by COMPETING, not ranking of skills. The SCS championship is about a playoffs… not a stacking of player skills.

Seeding matters - if not, why bother with the whole qualifying aspect before the event??

IMO - this is energy to try to morph it into something it doesn’t need to be.

Competition is not about ‘who is the best’ - it’s about who won when challenged.


I find the higher seeded player has a significant advantage due to the extra choice of machine. This may be in part due to the somewhat overall lower skill of the field multiplied by the large number of machines at our location, making it impossible to be prepared to upset someone on one of their “wheelhouse” machines.


I appreciate the summation of various points, @ryanwanger. I agree with a lot of the context that you shared regarding titles and stats and the experience of fighting your way to a better position even if you’ve been knocked out of the main qualifiers.

In 2017, it will feel about the same.
In 2018, you’re going to feel a difference in your wallet.

In PA, a First Round exit will earn you about $60. A Final Round exit will earn you about $900.
In CO, a First Round exit will earn you about $50. A Final Round exit will earn you about $425.

That’s using these numbers as ballparks to estimate the prize pool -

If I am summarizing the “ask”, it’s to give people who experience a first-round exit recourse to be able to fight their way up a higher finishing position, especially when there is more money on the line. “Unlucky match-up in the First Round? Too bad, you’re not going to win, but here’s a possible path in the Consolation bracket to fight your way up to 3rd.” It still respects the cutthroat “every match-up counts” mentality of winning States, but provides incentive for the remaining 15 (or 23) players to keep on fighting for the chance at Bronze (and a heavier cash payout).


Is there a format like double elimination that prevents you from playing the same player again? If you lose a tough match in the first round, but then run into that player again in the losers bracket, they should finish higher than you without having to beat you a second time.


Do ANY tournaments actually have this?

Circuit Final if you get paired up with ZAC, KME and BEK in the first round and get ousted, you’re 40th place with 40th place money.

In nearly every tournament that I play in, you get assigned the finishing position and the financial prizes related to the position at which you exited the tournament.

ZAC and KME got paired up in the quarterfinals at INDISC. Is it really fair Keith gets 13th place prize money because of his unfortunate pairing that round?

I’m racking my brain trying to come up with an event where you’re eliminated but still have access to higher finishing position payouts through some sort of giant consolation bracket made up of all the future eliminated players . . . and I can’t.


Nothing in current pinball competitions, but every major fighting game competition (like EVO in Vegas) has a Grand Finals. Obviously apples and oranges BUT, if someone wanted to convert to a double elimination bracket… it could happen…
That being said, I can’t even imagine how long a best of seven, head to head, with a large field would take…
KMEvsBEK in round one? See y’all next week sometime?

It happens all the time in fighting games, player one wails on you in the first round, you fight back to losers finals where you meet player one again, you wail on him this time, you move on to Grand finals he finishes in Third…In these tournaments you have to earn your Finish Him!

Could we move to this type of an event? Sure. Is it a good idea? Maybe. Would it take four days to complete? Probably…


My proposal…

When you lose the match… you lost.

Not, rethink how I got to that match… and think about how I can re-win the match if given a second chance.

It takes all the reward out of something when you don’t get credit for actually achieving something. Giving the losing party more chances to ‘try again’ is just like having unlimited lives in a video game. It makes it less fun and less of an accomplishment.

It’s also unfair to the competitor who beat you… to have to beat you AGAIN. Imagine how few upset stories there would be if every upset… had to be duplicated.

I’m fine with loser bracket formats… but they shouldn’t have equal shot at the top finisher who didn’t lose.


It’s not actually equal, the loser has to win twice to take the cake… which, may, or may not, be a lie…