How many tournament players would travel for a large prizepool?

Let’s say that a new tournament emerged in the US in a location where most people would have to fly halfway across the country to attend. Let’s also suppose that a large amount of cash was added to the prizepool. Instead of throwing out a random number, let’s just assume that the prizepool was made to be 3-5x higher than it would otherwise be through entry fees.

The question: how many players (who would otherwise have not attended) would attend solely based on this extra money in the prizepool?

(This is just a thought experiment. I’ve been involved in this debate enough times now that I’m wondering if I’m on the wrong side of it, so I thought I’d see what others think.)

1 Like

My situation: assuming a return to “normal”…
There are now enough large/major tourneys that require cross-country travel (the 3-4 majors in US/N. America each year, Circuit Final), combined with 3 big tourneys in Texas that require only a 3-hour drive, that my # of weekends available for competitive pinball is already full. I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up scaling back the number listed above due to family/kid event conflicts with two now in high school and one in middle school.

Conclusion: the amount of money you throw at it won’t change my decision.
As Lefkoff would put it, YMMV.

1 Like

the amount of money you throw at it won’t change my decision.

I guarantee if there was a tournament where top 40 were guaranteed $3000 and first place was $100k you’d find a way to be there :wink:


In general though, I think increasing prize pool will certainly greatly improve the odds of people coming that have a chance to win it. If I can get my flight and hotel costs back with a top 4 finish I’m much more likely to go, but compare me to someone who probably won’t get a top 4, the amount of money probably doesn’t matter at all. Unless you pay deep enough, or have enough divisions that people think there is a chance to win some. Even then it probably would be a secondary factor to things like work schedule / previous scheduled engagements.


I’m curious as to how larger prize pools would impact popularity. If Chris Moneymaker had won $15,000 instead of millions I highly doubt poker would’ve had the same boom it did in the 2000s

True. I interpreted “large amount of cash” in the current context of competitive pinball.
Staying consistent with my priorities, it would mean traveling to one less of the tourneys I mentioned.

It would depend on both the event format and the payout structure. Too top heavy and I’d pass. Too Stern-heavy and I’d pass. Herb vs. ticket vs. limited vs. match play would also matter, but less. The real question is assuming such an event were held and most of the top N. Am. players attended, how many of the top spots are somewhat spoken for and what do I get for various finishes between 9th and 40th?

For me personally, I’d also consider the exact dates and location. Is there something else of interest nearby at that time of year that I (and my wife) could do to make it a vacation trip? Fall foliage? Summer in the Rockies? If the weather’s bad, or it’s in much of the Midwest, the odds go down.

I agree 100% with this. Another way to think about my question is: “how many players who are able to travel have a realistic chance of winning a tournament with top competition?”

The changes to the SPC Final were certainly met with a fair share of opinions that people weren’t going to be interested in traveling all the way to Chicago for potentially ONE GAME, and how far down the list would we have to go to field the 20 finalists.

Surprisingly, not surprisingly, the only player in the top 25 invited players that declined was @Snailman, only due to scheduling issues. Outside of that we had a 100% positive response rate.
Here was that prize pool:

1st place –> $5000 + New Stern Pro pinball machine + Stern Pro Circuit Belt
2nd place –> $2000
3rd place –> $1500
4th place –> $1300
5th place –> $1200
6th place –> $1100
7th place –> $1000
8th place –> $900
9th place –> $800
10th place –> $700
11th through 20th place –> $600 each

1 Like

Money does bring big players I assume. I won’t say no to money, but I like the whole title, trophy belt and glory. That’s worth more to me.

I should clarify. Pre Covid I was looking to organize a “High Stakes” tournament here in Cleveland. I was wondering the same question, what amount of money would people travel for? I’m fortunate to be in the Midwest so PA, IL and OH would be easier for me to pull. But I don’t think anyone outside those states would travel to play for a day or two.

I used to have strong opinions on this stuff but that part of my brain has rotted out from inactivity.


I’d be down (post Covid) if the bank had all eras represented, no HERB, under $200 and a decent amount of people cashed. (Maybe top 25%?). Having a cash prize on top of entry fees would be even better.

All eras are represented and the “fairest” of games. No herb. Best card. I can post details as well and I also have a google excel with payouts that I made. I can share all of this info later too.

Best card like papa used to be?

The tournament has to be quality. I’m not traveling for a dumpy tournament or one with a coin-toss format.

Sure if there is crazy money I’ll go, but the draw increases exponentially with event quality over cash payouts.

If the event is a donkey, I’d go with ray in that you have to have payouts that pay a good number of players that perform well multiple thousands.

As a note, I’ve flown to other countries for tournaments where the top prize was chocolate, the draw was the event was top caliber and the competition was world class.


having travelled to many tournaments; half way around the world; the thing that I observe is that a well organised tournament with a quality choice/spread of games seems to attract a capacity and high quality crowd irrespective of the payout, there also seems to be a “nostalgia/good craic” level at many events also. I think you have to consider everything in tournament organisation to make it attractive and enjoyable.

1 Like

Yes :slight_smile:

I hoped this was the answer and I’m glad it is. Realistically I think this is the majority but I have not earned the “world class” title myself yet so I cannot speak on it. Format and competition over cash money.

So I would be hesitant with that format since I’ve never played it and you’re qualifying alone just like HERB (which is not ideal for me). But I’d still be interested. Like others have said, the money is nice, but the other stuff is more important.

I’d go pretty much anywhere in the US if the prize pool was there. That being said, I’d also travel fully expecting entry to such events to be $200-$500.

I think heads-up type tournaments for 12-24 people would make for some great events and match ups. I enjoyed watching the National Heads-Up Poker Championship when it was broadcast and always thought that event format could be replicated pretty well for high stakes pinball.

1 Like