League Finals Qualifying Formats?

I recently took over running a weekly league in Vancouver. Each week is a two loss elimination tournament. We get around 50 players. Total season attendance seems to historically be around 130 different people, so there’s a lot of different players. Skill levels vary widely.

Each week’s results stand on their own, but we have a finals event at the end of the season to award some prizes. To keep the numbers reasonable for finals, we narrow the field to 16 players. There have been a couple different formats we’ve used for deciding who qualifies for finals, and we’ve got mixed feelings on all of them so far. I’m wondering what formats other leagues are using?

Things we’ve done in the past:

  1. Total IFPA points a player earned at our season’s events is their qualifying score.
  • Downside: distribution seemed to end up weighted too far towards winning a week, vs consistent solid performances. We want to reward consistent attendance. TVA made certain players attendance significantly change the value of a week.
  1. Number of points for each week = number of players beaten. half point for players tied. (ie: 50 people, 1st receives 50, 2nd receives 49, 2 way tie for 3rd receives 47.5 each, 4 way tie for 5th each receives 44 each, etc. ) Total of players weekly points is their qualifying score.
  • Downside: missing a single week was a big drop in standings, minimal difference for winning the final match.

The plan for this year is to use format 2 for finals, but dropping a players lowest few finishes, to allow for vacations, illness, etc. But I’d be very interested in other league’s approaches.

I play in the San Francisco Pinball Department, a league of roughly the same size. We are blessed with a location that has more than 30 machines so we can run a different format than double elimination. We have between 60 and 70 people each night and roughly 100 different people.

I wrote a long thing about the league format and the software we use here: http://blog.hgstrp.com/archives/2014/making-a-pinball-league-app/

The short version: Each league night:

  • Players are randomly drawn into groups of four
  • Each group plays 5 games of pinball (was 4 games until this season). Points are distributed for each placement. This season it’s 7pt. for a win, 5pt. for 2nd, 3pt. for 3rd and 1pt. for last place.
  • After all 5 games have been played the points are tallied for the night
  • You can see past and present scores on http://sfpd.hgstrp.com/


  • Points for all league nights are summed, allowing the player to drop the two lowest scores
  • Top 16 players qualify for A division finals
  • Following 16 for B and the following 16 for C
  • Playoff format is inspired by the world cup of soccer. Group play followed by single elimination bracket. Details at: http://sfpins.org/rules/

Other leagues have more complex math, but this suits us well. One very thing SFPD members really like is the A/B/C divisions for playoffs. It allows almost anyone to compete for a trophy, regardless of skills level.

I honestly don’t have any good ideas on how to handle things if you’re playing a double elimination tournament each league night. It seems like a tough format for compare scores for across a season.

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One really popular league format is the FSPA league format. You can read their rules at http://www.fspazone.org/players_guide.html – I’m no expert, but I know that a ton of leagues play using that format.


How about a variant on this: first place for a night = 100, second = 75, third = 60, fourth = 50, etc. You could use the PAPA Circuit standings, which “pay” the top 24, or expand that / use a different format to pay more places.

What I do recommend is a consistent score from one week to another, so that people know what to expect. Format 2 changes things quite a bit when it’s a heavy night: if 60 people show up that’s worth a lot more than if 30 people show up the next time. That’s a good thing in general, but you don’t want the winner of one session to get fewer points than the person who finished 20th in a more popular session.

Our league (New England Pinball League) uses a format similar to the one described by @haugstrup, with 5-3-2-1 for group play, inspired by FSPA and PPL (the Pittsburgh Pinball League).

Good luck!

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We actually do play a similar format[1] for our other season of the year.

Some of our players prefer the fixed number of games, some prefer the double elimination. What players seem to like about the two loss elimination is that it makes for more games in a night when you’re having a good night - 10-13, instead of 4.

I do like your finals approach for that type of setup though, I’ll have to take a look at that again for next season.

[1] - Some minor variations - we re-draw groups after each round, and seed first round by IFPA, later rounds by current standings for the night. Makes for players mostly getting matches against people around their own levels.

That’s a really good point on consistent score week to week.

Seattle Pinball League uses a very simple, yet effective method:
Each event is an all day affair involving many rounds of play (5 games with 7-5-3-1 scoring, then one or two rounds of 4-2-1-0 scoring of 3 games), however the implementation of this doesn’t really matter. What matters is how players get their SPL ranking, which, for each event, is as simple as:
5 points for 1st place
1 point for last place
A linear distribution of points for the rest (going to 3 or 4 decimal points)
An example can be found here: http://spl.wapinball.net/results/index.php
(Just click on any of the dates such as October, November, etc.)

A player’s SPL ranking for the season (which in our case is the year), is simply an average of all of their monthly tournament scores (from 1-5 points), dropping the lowest score. A no show is reported as a 0, so in essence, everyone is allowed to miss one month without it affecting their ranking, but any more than that can drastically hurt it (this can be easily modified to drop the lowest n scores to make missing a tournament less of a big deal, but you don’t want to drop too many scores or people can float by, only playing in a few events)

This system as actually been proven to be pretty awesome at providing us a list of 16 solid people at the end of the year, while still providing a diverse field (the system really rewards consistency). We also have 1 wild card spot open to anyone who had placed top 4 in an individual event, but did not qualify for the top 16 naturally. The wild card contenders fight for this wild card spot the night before the finals, in a best of 6 match on each of the finals machines

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