Help for first-time tournament player?

So I’m thinking about trying out a local tournament here in Seattle (probably either John John’s or Add-A-Ball), but I don’t really know what to expect from a tournament, or even how to play in one. What’s the usual system? What should I do or not do?

Welcome to the world of competitive pinball! I would shoot a quick message to the tournament director ahead of time or let them know it’s your first tournament when you arrive. Then they can give you an intro to the format and what to expect for their specific tournament. This is always helpful.

The most important rule is: Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Ask the person signing you in for the tournament what to expect and do. Ask your opponents any and all questions. People are friendly and will help you out.

The advice I always give to first time players because I see it so often: Don’t talk to someone who is playing and give them as much space as possible (i.e. stand behind them not next to them). That’s just about the only thing that will not make friends :slight_smile:


Check out this info put together by PAPA:

These events are really well-structured for first timers. You’ll be given an opponent, and a machine. Meet them, flip a coin for the order, and play the game. Report the result to the tournament organizer.

After three losses, you’re out.

The other advice is well taken, too: don’t disturb your opponent while it’s their turn, and expect the same :slight_smile:

My advice would be: if you don’t know the game, or how it plays, then watch your opponent for clues. If you do know the game and how it plays, then don’t psych yourself out by watching them. Just step up to the machine and play your normal game. Maybe adjust on ball 3 depending on the situation, but the vast majority of the time, you’re going to win for one of two reasons:

  1. You played a solid game, just like you would have if you were playing by yourself.
  2. Your opponent had a bad game.

It’s really uncommon that a win will come from some devious strategy or the game of your life.

Also, talk to people and make friends. Even ask them how to play a game you’re about to play. Your opponent might not be willing to give hints, but other players almost certainly will be.

I would watch the opponent play regardless of if you know the game or not. If you don’t know the game you can watch what they do to give you an idea. Watch how the ball comes out of certain feeds, how tight the tilt is, will a ball bounce off of a flipper to the other or die, how far did they pull for an important skill shot, are they able to post pass. When its your turn try to apply what you’ learned from watching them but, focus on the things you normally do when you practice by yourself.

Something that I wish I could unlearn is to avoid thinking about what my standing is in the tournament or what games I need to win etc and instead focus on the game Im playing. When you start thinking about outcomes and wins that you need to advance, you put yourself at a disadvantage imo.

Good tips from above. John Johns and Add A Ball are both 3 strike knockout (lose 3 games and you are out) tournaments with a typical $5 entry fee that pays out to the top finishers. I would suggest downloading Brackelope to your phone as it can help you keep track of what game and who you are playing if you don’t hear the tournament director announce the round.

If you get an extra ball in these tournaments you are not allowed to play it. Instead you are allowed to “skillfully plunge” and can’t touch the flipper buttons after plunging the ball.

Playing in your first tournament can be a little intimidating but once you do it I think you’ll find it really fun. Plus you get to meet all the Seattle pinball people who are pretty awesome. I’ve met a ton of great people via pinball since starting to play tournaments. I hope you come out to one soon and I’ll see you there!

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Thanks for all the tips, everyone! And yeah, hopefully sometime in the next couple weeks I’ll give it a go. I’ve been listening to Skillshot the past few days and everyone on it seems so cool that I was like, hey, I need to get more into this scene than just playing in the general proximity of other people.

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There is also a url you can visit if you don’t have the app.

One other thing I’ll add is that a lot of people keep telling me that they need to get better before playing in leagues/tournaments. My new response is: who is improving faster, the people playing in them, or the people who aren’t? :slightly_smiling:

Go do it!