How to deal with events that are too successful


Small plug: If you setup a Round Robin tournament in Match Play Events and enable WCS-style groups you can generate all the matches in one go. I know it’s a terrible name, but I couldn’t come up with anything better. This is the same format as the initial round of FIFA World Cup.


Not sure what the percentage in each camp would be - but I’m one of those people that gushes about pinburgh. I’m not as serious of a competitor as the ‘top tier’ (or whatever), so a big part of the appeal for me at pinburgh is the socialization all day long with the ever-changing groups of people (who are also into pinball, bonus) in the other 75% of the time. There are other things that appeal too (sheer scale of it, playing a ton of things I never see/play, etc) of course.

Hmm… this isn’t getting to the point the thread is about with dealing with your thing being too popular so I’ll stop.


It sounds like it may make sense to turn Pinburgh into PAPA WC one year or just have them rotate. PAPA WC never had to turn people away like Pinburgh does IIRC. I understand Pinburgh added the Intergalactic but that isn’t a PAPA WC event.


I can only speak for Pontastic but when we started the show 5 years ago our goal was to create solid well run tournament that also allowed the players to enjoy the show. That’s part of our reasons for the limited hours. If we didn’t limit the hours you guys would never go and enjoy everything the show has.

A couple points on how things go and why at Pintastic.

Format. We choose papa qualifying for two reasons. One at a show matchplay locks people into the tournament area the entire time you are doing qualifying. People aren’t free to enjoy the show at their leisure and play at their own pace. The Silverball Rumble isn’t the only reason most players are here. Second is I prefer papa ticket over best game pump and dump. I like seeing players do their best consistently.

About people asking for more tournaments or more places to play for more casual players. We have that. Our friends at the Southern New Hampshire Pinball Club have a room by the seminar hall and run many formats and events for limited hour windows and for various levels of skill and seriousness. There is some Pingolf. Some “ninja warrior” gauntlet objective time trial stuff. Plenty of room to compete and have fun outside the silverball rumble. That’s going on all weekend and even until the middle of the night (2-3 am)

Inflated number with free entries with show admission and stuff. We have never done that and won’t ever do that. Every ~160 or so players we had chose to come and play in the tournament on their own will and spent their own money to do so ($15). If they come to us and put down their own money I consider them a serious competitor.

Some waits were 45 minutes at their peaks. Several were averaging closer to 20 or less. Quicker/less desirable games but that’s why I include them in the tournament bank. If everyone wants to wait for breakshot, x files and black knight because they feel they are safe players you’re going to wait :slight_smile:

I do appreciate the conversations here and always welcome people to reach out to me. I had several great conversations with players at the show. The only real concerns i heard mostly is people wish they got one or two more entries in. I’m happy with the negatives being people wanted to play your event MORE.

Next year will definitely be different with the venue move. It will still be great and we will find ways to improve in the new venue.


You say that like it’s a bad thing? For me anyway, I’d rather hang out in the tournament area at most shows. The camradarie and good sportsmanship keeps me coming back. Absolutely nothing wrong with spending most of the day in the tournament area if space and A/C allow it.


There’s plenty of late night fun tournament action happening elsewhere in the show too. You’ll see a lot of the same people in those areas. This show has a great camaraderie all across it. We try to keep the tournament feeling part of the show. Not something that happens next to a show.


I think here is where it gets a little unfocused.

“Short hours so people see the show” makes sense when it’s a smaller tournament and you are expecting lots of newbies to play.

When the event is a “stern pro circuit,” that’s gonna attract lots of pros who are just there for circuit points. We had lots of first timers this year - werdrick, bevins, O’Neil, and Bowen come to mind. Not speaking for them but not sure they would make the trip if it weren’t a circuit. Plenty of others as well I’d suspect also.

We’ve seen this recently as established tournaments have bailed or lost circuit status. Tournaments like Allentown and pinstastic replace them, and they were much smaller events before. I always enjoyed going to them, the circuit status or lack thereof didn’t bother me at all. But now that they ARE circuits they are attracting more players, and attracting more serious players, and these people aren’t coming for the show, they are coming for the tournament.

The circuit itself doesn’t seem to have much if any standards that the tournaments are supposed to adhere to, so it’s up to the shows to adapt. It’s clear that the circuit designation changes the game and shifts the focus away from families and casuals and more to the hardcore tournament player, and maybe that’s something that shows should consider when they seek circuit status.


I’ve heard the “we have shorter tourney hours, or limited entries, so people can enjoy the show” rationale before.

Unless the tournament is a group match format where the player must be in attendance, players can choose how much time they dedicate to qualifying versus attending the show, eating, sleeping, sight seeing, etc.


I think the balance Jim talked about is perfect. Too many hours and it could hurt the other tournaments that are also happening. Besides, most high level players made it to the Finals so it seems to be working as a Circuit event that wants to attract top players.

Finally, NEPL is the largest league in the country and the Sanctum is one of the largest clubs in the US. No doubt a part of that has come from Expo attendees being exposed to Tournament pinball. At some point this event may have to expand or cap the size but this is not Jim’s first rodeo (he also runs a league/location and the 24hr Sanctum) and I trust that he knows when the time is right for change.


Bowen lives in Salem, MA, about an hour away. He was at the show last year even though he couldn’t compete in the rumble.

I was happy to see people travel for the event. But the tourney format was well published in advance. Also 12 hours is a lot for those games. Jim is running the tournament format he knows he will be successful at. Very little game downtime. If a game goes down in ticket format it’s extra painful.

Also any way you slice it 12 hours is a lot of pinball.


I guess what I’m asking is WHY smaller events seem to reflexively want to become circuit events? Is it simply because the opportunity presents itself?

Or do they want to become bigger, and in turn, attract a different, more competitive and focused audience that changes the dynamics of your lil’ ole pinball tournament?

The circuit designation creates different dynamics and expectations that come along with the $5 extra paid by each player. And for some events, those changes might not be in line with the original goals of the organizers, and might necessitate consideration of changes that the organizers might not necessarily think is in the best interests of their event.


I don’t know how to test this exactly, but i don’t think the scenario you’ve laid out makes sense. I don’t think more machines makes it harder to qualify.

If there’s a tournament with one machine, top 16 scores qualify. Is it harder to qualify in a tournament with two machines where they both count?


No, it is not. But if only one of those two machines count, then it is definitely harder to qualify.

Here is a thread that dives deep into that subject.


Let’s try looking at it another way.

Assume 100 players. 10 games, best 5 count. Top 16 advance to finals.

Assume players 1-50 play ONLY on games labeled 1-5 and players 51-100 play ONLY on games labeled 6-10.

It is reasonable to assume the composite score distributions would be relatively the same for both groups of 50 players. In fact they could theoretically be identical, with a case where there are 2 players with a 500, (one on the 1-5 bank, the other on the 6-10 bank) and similarly 2 players with 450 etc.

So to be in the top 16, a player needs to be in the top 8 in one of these 2 groups.

Basically there are 2 subtourneys running in parallel and then merging.


If our tournament gets to that point, I’ll have to make some sort of poll to see what the majority of past participants want.


For Pintastic New England, it is essential that the vendors believe that nearly all tournament entrants also have other interests at the show. I like to think that the entrants might also want to see some of our seminars. We have a comprehensive show. I sometimes hear remarks like “tournament players don’t buy anything from the vendors” and I get some push-back when I try to recruit a top player to be a presenter or panelist in our seminar program. Keeping players on a short leash while they await their next turn reinforces these stereotypes. What can be done to bring “the two worlds of pinball” closer together?
…David Marston


I like having different tournaments each day and none that span multiple days. If you have a 4 day show, you could even do tournaments on only three of the days that will give a full day that you can experience the rest of the show even if you did only tournaments the other three days.

This will give the option to the players to play in some tournaments and also see other parts of the show without actively being involved in a tournament.


Tournament players like Bowen and Eric Stone seem to do seminars every year. Tim and Bowden have done industry seminars. I would be interested in doing a seminar - “How to work the booth during a pinball streaming” program, featuring live calls of a match being played, bring in audience members to try their hand etc.

Tournament players have TONS of free time on their hands, especially ones who tend to qualify on these ticket formats without much trouble. All you have to do is reach out.

And these players have plenty of time while in line, or already qualified, to case the vendor hall, check out free play, etc. Most of the people I hang out with did this, they didn’t just sit in the tournament area for all 12 hours of qualifying. I spent hours in the free play hall, and I visited every single vendor booth, and bought another cool magnet from Charles Acosta’s cool pinball photos booth. What else are you gonna do while in a 45 minute line for Black Knight?

But there’s a certain point where I don’t get trying to “force” tournament players to “enjoy the show.” You can’t make people enjoy something. I don’t really have much interest in seminars, so I don’t go to them. Whether or not I’m tethered to a tournament is completely irrelevant in this decision.

You don’t “force” other showgoers to limit their time in the free play or vendor area so they go check out the tournament - what’s up with that? It would be great if everybody who came to the Pintastic show was forced to watch some of the tournament, set up a big screen, broadcast the finals commentary etc. Would really make the tournament area more exciting, and help show people how awesome competitive pinball can be. I’m joking about literally forcing them to do this, but it would be nice if shows put a few bucks into making the tournament area interesting, enticing, and entertaining, rather than just a weird corner of the show with pinball machines you aren’t allowed to play. It should be another attraction, not just an “off limits weirdo area.”

Until the other 400 people at the show are forced to “enjoy” tournament pinball, I don’t see why the 100 people who are specifically for the tournament should be forced to “enjoy” the rest of the show. The tournament players pay their admission just like everybody else and should be able to enjoy the show as they see fit.


You were the only participant in this discussion to use the word “force” (re: requiring tourney players to go see the rest of the show, and show attendees required to view the tourney)… so I don’t think your focus on a requirement is relevant, nor the intent of anyone organizing shows or tourneys.

Better to focus on other great topic/suggestions you raised: how do we make (and how have we made) tourneys more entertaining and attractive for more non-tourney show attendees to want to check out the tourney outside of cursing under their breath that they can’t play the sweet Flip Flop in the tourney bank.

And how do we design (and have designed) tournament schedules to allow players the degrees of freedom to enjoy other aspects of the show besides solely the tourney.


“force” is of course hyperbole, but I’m not sure how else to interpret “we keep qualifying hours shorts so people can enjoy the entire show!”

I agree with you of course. The show is kickass, so there’s plenty of incentive for tournament players to do other things if they want. And yes, I think it would be great if the shows do a little here and there to make the tournament area more attractive to showgoing civilians, and that’s more worthwhile than complaining about short qualifying hours.