General Trends in Women's Tournaments at Major Pinball Events

Hi Tiltforums.

I wanted to start this thread to discuss how women’s tournaments have evolved over the past few years, and get player feedback on what seems to be the best way to put together a women’s tournament/women’s division as part of a multi-day pinball tournament event.

On the team I’m involved with for the New York City Pinball Championships (plug for we have had a women’s tournament in the plan since day 1, but we’ve hotly debated how exactly we should put it together.

Qualifying Format
Software-Only - This is where you set up what’s pretty much a filter (using Neverdrains usually) to show a separate women’s-only leaderboard.

Qualifying Bank - A dedicated bank of games reserved for the women’s tournament qualifying. I believe this was what was used at PPO 2017 and INDISC 2018 to what seems like great success. PAPA did this starting with PAPA 18 or 19 on a shared bank with Juniors.

To compare these 2:

  • Can build dedicated (rather than allocated) prize pool with dedicated bank

  • Is more expensive for women playing in an additional tournament with additional entries

  • Extra resources needed when using dedicated bank versus software-only

I would like to know, especially from women who have played in these events, what’s preferable and makes for a better event.


It seems like there’s a consensus that in a herb-style event, running classics finals during qualifying for other tournaments is acceptable, but simultaneous finals are something to be avoided.

INDISC has proved in my mind that women’s tournaments are growing, and the days of 4-person, 3-game finals rounds is over. 8-player and 16-player finals will become more common, and will need more consideration as far as time coordination goes. Our event has a 2 round, 8-player finals, and presents us with a challenge as far as timing goes.

I noticed that INDISC had staggered finals rounds on Sunday, and I want to know how that worked for the event from the perspectives of both players and organizers.

I’m going to use the feedback from this thread to help solidify the format and scheduling for our event, but I hope it opens up a productive discussion on other events and general trends in competitive pinball as well.


So in the version where the women are playing on the main bank. Do they tell the scorekeeper that they want the game to count towards women’s or main? If it counts for both then where will the prize pool come from?

I originally thought the separate bank was weird but ulitmately liked it better (for the $ and shorter wait time). My only criticism is that finals were played on main, which kind of made me have to use entries on main just to be familiarized with the shots. Kinda making excused here but it stressed me out to think that I could be streamed playing 1 of 14 machines 1/3 of which I know nothing about.

Had women’s finals been on women’s bank I would have played classics instead of main, in which I could have had a marginal chance of doing better.


Women’s Finals were played on the Main bank in order to stream them. As you probably saw, the camera rigs weren’t something that could be readily switched to either the Classic or Women’s bank for streaming either of those finals. Classics finals were therefore not streamed, since we couldn’t realistically run those on another bank. Women’s we could and did. It was a trade-off between consistency [of machines played] and visibility [streaming]. We opted for visibility to raise the profile of Women’s events. That including pausing the Main playoffs at that stage so that the Women’s finals ran unopposed and in case any Women were still in the Main playoffs.

It was an experiment to run it this way; we hoped it worked well for the participants.


This seems like it could be an interesting way to go about it. Maintain a single queue for each game, but have the player designate division when enrolling in the queue.

Isn’t the point of having a Women’s division to encourage participation of women by increasing the visibility of those playing and making it a less intimidating way to get involved?

I worry that having a separate Women’s bank at major events is leading to creating a distinct class and de-integrating participants. As A.M.Bush mentioned above, she only played Main because that’s where the finals were going to be played.

The advantages to having a separate Women’s bank include shorter lines and bigger prize pool, which I definitely appreciate, but the disadvantages are that it costs more money and you have less time to qualify, if you want to participate in all events. (Yes, everyone is going to have to choose how to allocate their time when there are overlapping qualifying periods, but why further divide women’s time if the point is to get us to participate more?)

For example, I made it through to the finals of Classics B at INDISC, so that chewed up a lot of my qualifying time. And because I wanted the WPPRs, I had been playing in Main on Friday. Fortunately I had the extra hour of qualifying time from volunteering, which I used to focus on Women’s, but frankly I would have rather been playing the games in the Main bank. (With a small Women’s bank with 3 of 4 games counting, you’re at a serious disadvantage if you don’t know those games versus Main where 7 of 14 counted.)

To me it makes sense to have a separate Women’s bank if you think you’re going to get new players involved, for example shows that will attract a lot of members of the general public. At events that are primarily focused on a tournament, the women participating in the Women’s division are probably players that would be competing in Main anyway even if a separate division didn’t exist. There it makes sense to have the software-only option where entries count for both with a separate playoffs for the women to increase visibility.

Then again, can software-only results be submitted to the IFPA for Women’s WPPRs? (I know my win in the Women’s Classics division at PinFest last year wasn’t submitted, but I don’t know if that’s because it wasn’t eligible due to the format or for some other reason.) Those points and a nice prize pool do act as an incentive for women to come to an event they might not otherwise.

This is a complex issue and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, but I’m glad these kinds of conversations are taking place.


Only the Finals can be counted for WWPPR’s if the qualifying process was based on games that were already being used in an IFPA sanctioned tournament.


Echoing what Josh is saying here. Because a single entry in PinFest last year counted for both the Main and Women’s division, we were unable to separate it out for a submission as a Women’s tournament.

@timballs - Thank you for starting this conversation, as I’m interested to see comments from others as we are in the planning process for PinFest 2018.

To share an anecdote, I observed that INDISC had done separate games dedicated to Women’s qualifying. I spoke with a few women this week at a local Monthly and asked what they thought about a separate tournament specifically for Women at PinFest, and all three (generally casual players) were very excited about the prospect. Anecdotal, but I figured I would share.

Certainly a lot to think about. Any other thoughts and input are appreciated.

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I agree with all of the points made thus far, and 100% agree with @MCS that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. I personally prefer the separate qualifying bank format rather than basing it on Main qualifying position for a couple of reasons:

  • Allows the women’s division to be opt-in rather than including any woman who happened to participate in Main. Some women prefer not to participate in women’s only events. It also avoids scorekeepers or TDs making assumptions about someone’s gender identity and including them in the women’s filter.
  • Cuts down on wait times by separating the Main and Women’s queues. At NWPC I ended up with unused Classics entries because the queues for Main/Women’s were so long and I was close enough to qualifying for both that I focused my efforts there. Having separate queues for women’s games also avoids the qualifying crunch when all the Main game queues are flooded with last ditch attempts to qualify. A separate women’s bank offers a separate crunch rather than doubly flooding Main queues with people attempting to qualify for two different tournaments.
  • Creates an intentional space for women. If I’m waiting in a women’s queue, I want to hang around other rad ladies and get to know them while I wait! Anecdotally, I’ve also heard that for more casual players it’s less nerve wracking to join a separate division’s queue than to throw oneself into the crowded fray of Main queues and A-level players.

Switching banks between qualifying and finals can be frustrating, especially if one bank is better suited to your skill set, but women’s finals are far from the only example of switching banks for finals: PAPA finals machines tend to be different from qualifying, Pinburgh division finals might be on games you didn’t encounter in your match play, etc. I personally appreciate the increased visibility of streaming women’s finals more than I dislike switching banks.


[quote=“coreyhulse, post:9, topic:3552”]
Echoing what Josh is saying here. Because a single entry in PinFest last year counted for both the Main and Women’s division, we were unable to separate it out for a submission as a Women’s tournament.[/quote]

What I understood from @pinwizj’s response was that you could have submitted the Finals results, but then it would have been a tournament of 4 people and the winner would have only gotten just over 0.16 WWPPRs. Is that the case or did I misunderstand?

@zvrabes, those are some great points and thank you for raising them! I think you could still have the women’s division be opt-in by having the player make that choice at registration. Then there would be no assumptions/questions necessary on the part of the scorekeepers because it would all be handled by the software. (I’m basing that on the assumption that a single entry would count for both divisions, if enrolled in Women’s. If they would be separate entries, that complicates things.)

Intentional spaces for women are absolutely important, but are major events in direct conflict with Main qualifying the place to have them? I really enjoyed participating in the women’s-only tournament at the Ohio Show last year. It was held as a side tournament on the Saturday and still gave me enough time to reasonably qualify in the Main tournament. And I met a bunch of wonderful women! The group knockout format meant not a lot of waiting around without playing, but also people to chat with while you did.

I don’t have as much of an issue with running a separate Women’s bank if there is sufficient time to qualify for all events, but I have a problem with having to choose between competing in Women’s and competing in Main. (Because clearly I am a Classics girl and will always compete in that, too! :slight_smile: ) To me that says that I can either be good enough to try to compete in Main or I can play in the Women’s division, even though I know that isn’t the intended message. Not scheduling Finals at the same time is great, but having different qualifying periods would be nice, too. (I know that makes things difficult logistically, though.)

Obviously this is just my perspective, which is heavily biased by my experience and I’m still pretty new to the pinball scene. I appreciate that event organizers are seeking feedback and clearly making an effort to encourage women’s participation!

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Just to get feedback, what would any of you think about splitting the “B” division into Men’s B and Women’s B? The A division would stay as is for everybody, but splitting B would allow using the same bank of machines, allow the opportunity to play concurrent Classics (if any), remove the need for anyone to play in three different banks, and still allow people who weren’t A-level that week to win something. Thoughts?

You have it exactly right.

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Interesting idea. Because B Division results don’t factor into what’s submitted to IFPA anyway, it would just be for the prizes. How would you divide the pool? Or would it just be for plaques/trophies?

I can see some hard feelings arising over awarding someone who has qualified in the fifties the same as someone who has qualified in the thirties (when someone in the forties misses out), but otherwise no major objections spring to mind. The point of separating out the women is to bring visibility to their participation and maybe this would be an acceptable way to do it.

However, dividing on gender always sends up red flags for me. Having a Women’s division is fine because it’s being used to promote a vastly underrepresented demographic. When it turns into men vs women, that becomes a bit problematic. That’s my gut feeling anyway.

Interested to hear other people’s thoughts!

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Atlanta and PPO did a separate bank, herb style and separate finals on Saturday. Having competed in both of these events, I prefer a separate bank. I am too impatient to stand in line behind everyone trying to qualify for main or any other division to want to combine banks. That is the one thing I dislike about PAPA, however, I understand the space constraints there.

Combining banks would be just like taking three classics games, throwing them into main and saying those classic games are both main and classics. How many people would like that?

As for how to handle to make it successful. Have GOOD scorekeepers, a dedicated official for finals and good games. I was disappointed in Atlanta to here that several people donating their games pulled them because they found out their games were going to be in the women’s bank and those owners wouldn’t be able to play them for tournament play (like it matters because adjustments will be made even in the other banks.)

As for cost, does anyone complain paying for entries for classics and main? It’s a part of pinball. I confess, I rarely play main banks (see not about lack of patience). I enjoy competing in the women’s events. And with the advent of the IFPA women’s championship and women’s events counting towards wild card spots, I think it needs to be a dedicated separate bank.


Are you telling me people really volunteered to bring their machines to the tournament only for the advantage of playing their personal game? What a bunch of losers.


Yes. That’s what I’m telling you. Lol

I do understand that having a separate Women’s bank does make it difficult in terms of dividing attention. But the same issue exists for any tournament that runs multiple concurrent events. I intended to play Classics at INDISC, but quickly discovered that I wasn’t playing well enough those days to split my time between trying to qualify for both.

By the way, do we have any data that might help answer the question of which gets more participation from women: separate women’s event, or Top X women from main event?

The situation mentioned above was pretty lame, but I always thought it would be cool for a league finals to allow members to bring a game if they wanted. Not the easiest thing to set up, but interesting nonetheless.

We always have trouble trying to make sure our league finals /aren’t/ at any of the finalist’s houses…

That’s what I’ll be doing this year for the finals of the UK League.
The winner from each of the 6 regions will be able to bring their own machine to be used in the final, if they are unable to bring a machine they can nominate one from the main hall to be included. It’s an additional perk of winning your region.
It also stops the claims that have happened in the past that the organiser picks purely his favourite games.


I think it’s great that there’s an IFPA Women’s Championship and that there are eight wild card spots taken from the WWPPRs to give a shot to those who have an active women-only local scene, but might not have the luxury of travelling to major events. However, the top 16 are taken from the overall rankings, and by having a separate Women’s bank at major events where I need to choose between the Main and Women’s Division I basically have to choose which path I’m going to try to take to the Championships.

It’s different choosing between Classics and Main because they are different styles of play. (And both earn WPPRs.) But the Women’s Divisions are typically structured the same as Main, just on a different bank. Why is it acceptable to have two parallel yet supposedly equivalent tournaments?

By all means highlight top-performing women at major events, have women-only side tournaments, stagger qualifying times, but please don’t make me choose between WWPPRs and WPPRs. Remember, the topic of this thread is General Trends in Women’s Tournaments at Major Pinball Events.

It would be awesome to have a stand-alone women-only major event, but until that happens, I feel that women-only events are best used to promote participation and growth at the local level, not segregate us at higher levels of competition.