Leagues vs. Knockouts

Which do you prefer, and why?

For years in the DC area pretty much the only game in town was leagues, where you commit to 10-week seasons at a certain location. There might be a couple of tournaments a year, maybe not.

In the last year or two, coinciding with a large uptick in locations, there has been a huge growth of knockout tournaments, typically weekly, sometimes monthly or more occasional. You can play in a knockout tournament 5 days a week if you’re willing to drive a bit. The advantages of these are that there’s no commitment beyond any given night you can attend, and you get instant results/gratification. At the same time, you tend to see the same core of people at most weeklies, so you don’t lose the social aspect.

I love both, and I’m glad there are options.

Strangely, I find it easier to get new players to join a league than to come to tournaments. They say they’re “not good enough” to play in tournaments.


Same here in Houston. We have people that have come to league every week, but will never attend a tournament. Leagues just feel more casual and social.

Funny enough, we had several league players that took about two years to become rated in IFPA, even though they attended probably 50 league nights.


Same in Cincy/NKY. Leagues and tournaments are both popular and yes they are popular with a different set umof players. The leagues are much more casual and are at collectors homes when only a few tournaments a year are not at public locations.


I dare say, half the Cincy league comes for the food first and pinball second…


I find knockouts to be the least interesting of all the pinball tournament formats but they’re easy to run and easily scalable so they get used a lot, even by me. I much prefer league night personally. We do a pretty short season (6 weeks drop 2) so that allows folks to come and go and miss a lot more nights which seems like it’s been appreciated. And hopefully we get our players rated in less than 2 years.

We have a good mix of both in the DMV now. Quite a few leagues, and many of them do post-league 2-strike knockouts, or 4-strike knockouts when league is off. Outside of that, there are a decent amount of Saturday and/or Sunday tournaments at both public and private locations.

For me, I prefer the league format for “scheduled” play, and when I feel like spending more time, I’m grateful that there’s probably a tournament coming up soon. League appeals to me precisely because it’s a scheduled commitment, it’s something I can work into my schedule and I’m happy to have league night come around. It’s also generally the same amount of time I need to commit which makes that easier.

Team vs team bar league pinball is my absolute favorite. Individual player leagues don’t appeal to me as much. For tournaments I prefer match play to knockout.

Both formats are great, but I prefer leagues. Leagues have the opportunity to be more “epic” than knockouts: players battle through the whole season to climb into playoff contention… make the playoffs… win the playoffs, boom baby! I am the reigning league champion! I get to enjoy and defend that title for the next few months. The grander scale of the league may also be accompanied by other perks: bigger prizes, trophies, etc.

I think leagues may also form a tighter social network, because they’re a commitment… they become something you’re part of. Knockouts are by definition more transient.


I play in 4 different best score leagues. I really enjoy the format of fighting 16-50 other people for high score on each machine. I also like that this format doesn’t require punctuality, it works better with people’s lives.

We are certainly not being WPPR efficient. If someone is point chasing to fill their initial strong 20 events, or SCS card, a bunch of 8 point events helps. Once you play enough, and you are really only chasing 20+ point events, the small strike events are not relevant.