Improved Ranking System ???

Updated :slight_smile:


Did you only fix the second tab?

LOL yeah . . . I’ll fix the first tab.

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That’s easy: the player that will beat the other player more often is better. Extend this to all players and you have a complete ranking system. Figuring that out from the data available, on the other hand, is hard.

(Caveat: Pinball is not a 1D skill-set, so A isn’t better than B necessarily on all games. Nonetheless.)

Hmmm. Is it really that simple? For one, a trip to Pinburgh from Australia, making a reasonable allowance for expenses and accommodation, easily costs USD 2000–2500. And then the player may end up having a bad weekend (which can happen to even the world’s best, especially with jet lag), and walk away with ten points or so.

I can’t check what the equivalent number would be for Peter because I can’t access the IFPA rankings at the moment. (I just get a page back that says “no”. Looks like the certificate has expired.)

Regardless, I expect a big difference between the US and Australia. How many tournaments are run each year in the US where the winner gets, say, more than 30 points? I suspect there are quite a few, and they are cheap to access from the US, compared to accessing them from Down Under. Conversely, around here, there is one tournament worth more than 30 points (which happened just recently; prior to that, there were none, as far as I know, and very few tournaments are worth more than 20 points).

The current rating system is essentially the same as “pump ‘n’ dump”. Just keep trying, ignore all the misses, and only count the hits. This puts people who are in the US and can get to tournaments cheaply at a huge advantage over all the other countries.

That’s a good and pertinent question. From having watched lots of top players, I’m quite sure that Peter would indeed end up in the top 50 if he could play regularly in the US. But he can’t, so I guess any answer would be academic.

I suspect that, for some people, that’s actually quite a strong motivator.

I agree that international travel is over the line. As is, the ranking system requires international travel for a top player to make it into the top 100 or so. Doesn’t that suggest that some adjustment to the ranking system could at least be considered?

If Keith Elwin were in Peter’s position and couldn’t play in the US, I suspect his ranking would be better than Peter’s, but not by that much. Peter is harvesting most of the points that are available here as is, so Keith would do only marginally better in terms of world ranking.

Thanks for that! Your figures show movement that is similar to Wayne’s, even though it’s not quite the same.

The fundamental question to answer here is whether the IFPA rankings are meant to be a list that reflects skill, in the sense that “on average, a player higher on the list will beat a player lower on the list.” If so, I think the current rankings don’t do a very good job because of the very strong geographical bias, and because doing poorly in a tournament carries no penalty.

Doing something to address the imbalance would be a good thing, IMO.


Josh has already addressed this question above - WPPRs measure achievement, not skill. WPPR is doing exactly what it is designed for, and it is doing it very well.

I bet, somewhere out there in the world, is a player better than Keith Elwin. This player may live in India where there is no pinball, and as such never gets to play. However, if she were given access to the games she would have a skill level that blew Elwin out of the water. So what does this mean to us? I bet there is a basketball player in Argentina who can shoot threes better than Steph Curry too. Hell, I bet there are a dozen kids around the country who could, but they don’t have the resources to attend the schools that they need to get the attention of the NBA.

You can’t measure someone’s skill until they step up and prove it against the best. It is unfortunate that this means that some players don’t have the resources to make that happen, but its life. If you don’t play against the best, how can any ranking you are assigned be meaningful?


To me, this argument suffers from the fallacy of the excluded middle.

Players such as Peter aren’t someone in India who never gets to play. They are skilled players who cannot access high-value tournaments unless they happen to be very wealthy.

Considering the geographical and cost limitations, I do not think that the IFPA rankings measure achievement very well. To some extent, they do. To some quite large extent, they measure geographical location, enthusiasm, and wealth. These things aren’t quite the same as achievement, IMO.


Top 4 at Pinburgh prize would have covered that trip to Pittsburgh. Is there a video of him playing somewhere? Now I am curious.


Achievement is the act of beating the best. They measure that as well as they possibly can. If you are not beating the best, you are not achieving at a level that deserves to be ranked as highly as those who are. This is true whether you play 0 tournaments or 1000. The reasons for someone not beating the best are as diverse as they are irrelevant. You play the best at the toughest events, and if you win you will be rewarded.

Lets not forget too that “skill” means more than just a person against the machine. It means decision-making and performance in the highest pressure situations, with the “world” watching. If you think that those factors aren’t different between when you’re playing your local crew and when you’re playing the best, I can tell you from sad experience, you are dead wrong, and we haven’t had the chance to see those skills at play in this case have we? So how can we rank Peter in the realm of people who have definitively displayed those skills? How is that fair to the people who have actually gone there and won or lost?

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I’m not aware of any streams with Peter playing. And I wouldn’t expect him to finish in the top four, but in the top 50 or so.

The point here is that the IFPA rankings are as much dominated by wealth and location as they are by achievement. It would be nice to address that. I suspect it will impossible to ever come up with something that is totally objective and “fair”. But I also suspect that it is possible to do a bit better than the current rankings. Wayne’s and Josh’s numbers seem like a good start.


I agree with much of what you say. I’ve also watched Peter play in some of the larger tournament finals in Australia, where he wasn’t just playing the local crew. Trust me, he knows how to perform under pressure.

I hear you on the difficulty of ranking someone against someone else, even though they have never played against each other. It will always be guesswork, in the sense that a world-wide ranking list, pretty much by definition, needs a crystal ball: “This list estimates that, if X were to play Y, X would win.”

This is the case even for players in the US. There must be hundreds of players in top 1000 who have either never played each other, or have played each other only once in a blue moon…

[quote=“heyrocker, post:29, topic:3064”]
The reasons for someone not beating the best are as diverse as they are irrelevant. You play the best at the toughest events, and if you win you will be rewarded.[/quote]

This is something that I disagree with. I think it is too simplistic because it ignores the reality of distance and cost. The current system really isn’t a “World Pinball Player Ranking”. Realistically, it is a “US (and maybe Canada) Pinball Player Ranking”, in which players from other countries are tolerated without getting a real stab at the top.

Yes, I am aware of people such as Jordan and Danielle. They obviously have the means to compete at this level. And they are 6–7 hours flight time from the US east coast, as opposed to 20+ hours flight time for an Australian player. A player in Australia who wants to make it to the top has to be richer than a European player, and much richer than a US player.

I can only repeat myself: the current system is very strongly biased towards people in the US, both because of the number and value of events that are available, and because of the much lower cost of reaching those events.

Now, in some ways, there are no surprises here: on average, the rich do better than the poor, so what else is new? But let’s not kid ourselves that the current rankings are based only on achievement. They are not, IMO.


Jorian might argue with you. That said, how is this not true of any worldwide ranking or competition of any sort? Poorer countries (by whatever definition of “poor” is relevant to the discussion at hand) will not be able to compete in any meaningful way against “richer” ones. Are you making this same argument about the Olympics too?

It just depends on your definition of achievement I suppose doesn’t it? Because for me, it means you have actually achieved something, not “I would achieve this is given the chance but I haven’t been given the chance so lets just assume it.”

Maybe true World Rankings cannot exist. One thing about pinball, we have to compete on the same machines (Except that time that JON put up that world record on TWD). In the sense that any of this actually matters - whether IFPA correctly identifies Peter’s ranking in the world - why not develop a ranking system for Australia? I am sure that would grow the sport in Australia and more accurately measure the skill of the local players. I am being genuine. I understand the difficulties in travelling, I am not rich either. I have travelled as far as 100 miles twice in my pinball career.

On a slightly different note, finishing in the top 50 at Pinburgh and being in the top 50 IFPA are two different things. We can safely say that being in the top 50 IFPA puts you in a group that might win PInburgh. @Snailman :smiley:

The skill displayed by members of the top 50 is incredible (look at the final scores from that Demo Man game from last weekends BPSO). For all 4 players to have games like that against each other is astounding. Also, look at the Paragon game from PInburgh 2016 finals. Top 50 is top notch. I am not saying Peter does or doesn’t belong there, I am just saying that those that are there are not there only due to $.

If you expect top 50, then I think he is ranked about right. He would have been seeded about 50th at pinburgh.

IMO at the ELITE ELITE level it is exactly that simple. I didn’t pull Zach’s “best” three years. I pulled his most recent 3 years. In those years were disappointed finishes if you ask him. Him being 22nd in the world from just this event is the kind of mic drop statistic that requires no further burden of proof that he’s “really f*cking good at pinball”.

You’ll notice that those players that are truly elite tend to be the players that do not care at all about their ranking. Whether it’s banner count or the weight of your trophy stash, these players don’t NEED the WPPR system to tell them they are “really f*cking good at pinball”.

I still fail to understand what all of this would even mean to Peter if he never intends to ever leave his local area. Why would a world ranking be of any interest to him in the first place? Why not focus on winning the ACS every year and show the world through his ACHIEVEMENTS that he’s “really f*ckiny good a pinball”?

Peter doesn’t need any ranking system to validate how good he is … Although having a winning head-to-head record against the current Aussie #1 in tournament play would be a good start :wink: (he doesn’t last time I checked)


Yes, absolutely. Australia doesn’t amount to anything in soccer (neither does the USA), for example, because the sport isn’t popular. That means it gets less funding, which means there are fewer resources to identify and foster new talent, and fewer opportunities to get sponsorship.

Success is most often where the money is. A wealthy person can buy their way into the rankings, especially seeing that poor performances are ignored. Not that money alone is enough; it isn’t. But, without money, there is little chance of someone reaching anywhere near the top.

And there is the time factor. I’ve travelled to the US many times for work, so I have a very good idea of what’s involved. If I decide to compete, say, at Pinburgh, I’m looking at about 28 hours travel time (door to door). That means, to start competing on Thursday, I need to leave Monday morning, which gets me to the destination Monday evening local time. Now I need two days to recover (minimum) because of all the lost sleep and ongoing jet lag.

Now I compete from Thursday until Saturday evening. By then, I can’t make the flight back to Oz from the west coast on the Saturday, so I have to fly back Sunday night from the west coast. That gets me back to Oz on Tuesday morning, again with lots of lost sleep and jet lag. By the time I’m over that, it’s Thursday at least, possibly Friday. That’s 10–12 days of down time to attend a three–day event.

Now compare that to someone who lives in the US an is at most 6 hours flight time away. That same person also suffers some (minor) jet lag and travel stress. But they can play the same tournament with five days of down-time instead of ten or twelve.

Now tell me again that there is no financial and geographical bias in the rankings :slight_smile:

You will note that I never once said that there was no bias in the rankings. I simply said that the rankings shouldn’t take it into account.

It’s been talked about, on and off. The relative rankings would mostly look the same for Australians as they do now, barring any adjustment for points that are gained by the few Australian players who can attend the occasional overseas tournament.

I suspect the effort of maintaining a ranking system speaks against a separate Australian-only version, as does the desire of some players to measure themselves against everyone else in the world (however accurate or inaccurate that measurement may be).

I have no idea, you’d have to ask Peter.

That is an even worse measure of achievement, because the invitation list for the ACS is based on total number of points accumulated during a calendar year. It over-emphasises enthusiasm to a huge degree. (See my own ranking for the ACS. I’m nowhere near the third- or fourth-best player in Australia; but because each and every point gathered counts towards the total, and because I’m enthusiastic, I’m as high on the list as I am.)

So, a win at the ACS wouldn’t prove that Peter is a “really f*ckiny good a pinball”, only that he came first in a tournament where quite a few players are competent, but not excellent, and where many of the top 30 players did not attend. (We had to go down to around #60 in the Australian rankings to fill the 32 spots last time. Guess why? A lot of players don’t have the money or time to spend. There’s geographical and financial bias in Australia, too.)

Fair enough, I stand corrected!

Totally agree. They are top-notch players.

How many of them would still be there if they lived in Australia though?

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