Let's talk about initial seeding in tournaments


I think you’ve hit the nail on the head here: the seeding you choose is dependent on the goals of your event. For our weekly tournaments, we use random seeding. For the Portland Flip City Championship we use the seeding from a year’s worth of weeklies. For Pinburgh, IFPA ranking is most helpful. If your event is likely to have heavy casual participation, you probably don’t want to force an early match up with a heavy hitter.


It’s definitely all perspective. A seeding process is supposed to provide an easier path for the “best players”. I feel our rankings provide a proper seeding process for any of our internal high level events.

If you’re really good you probably don’t even care - example being Keith Elwin taking the worst seeding position at Expo and simply running the table.


And whether that is a good thing is what this topic is about. I can get seeding based off qualification as an incentive to do better and not just make sure you’re above the cut line, but I think the IFPA ranking is a bit too far removed from individual tournaments to really have that effect. As you say, the better players probably don’t even care. None of the top seeded at the heads up were thinking ‘I’m sure glad I played in that other tournament to get my IFPA rank up so I have a higher seed here’. Giving perks to high seeds only makes sense when it’s something the players are actively taking into account for things. The high seeds probably don’t care, but it sure does suck for the low seeds


I disagree with that. Go ask some of them. Having choice of challenge as the higher seed was a big benefit (in addition to getting to face worse seeds initially).


I’m not saying they didn’t like the advantage, I’m saying they didn’t consciously work with the goal of getting that advantage. The point of giving the advantage is so that people will work to get it, so if they don’t work to get it then why are we giving it to them?


Hopefully people will consciously work to get as high a seed as possible for next year.

For tournaments that aren’t IFPA-corporate tournaments I can definitely see the take it or leave it with this.

Our goal is to push the WPPR system whenever possible as it’s our bread and butter. This allows us to maybe motivate a few people to attend more events to raise their world ranking if they do plan on playing in Heads-Up next year. That in turn helps feed the beast of those State and National prize packages, which is something we want.

So for us internally it’s definitely all connected. For those outside of “us” . . . I can see your point :slight_smile:


From my perspective, I believe that every open competition should be a stand alone event. There should be no seeding used whatsoever in the match-ups.

For a SCS, or UKCS, style event fair enough use seeding based on whatever criteria you deem fit. Especially as it isn’t an open competition and you need to have performed through the season to be invited to play.

Many competitions in sport use random pairings/groupings and that’s what adds to the interest in the first rounds. In fact I can’t think of any major sporting events where there is rigid seeding to pick the matchups.

Whatever the seeding, the best player on the day will win. Whether the top 2 seeds meet in the first round or the final shouldn’t make any difference.

ALL of the competitions in the UK (with the exception of the UKCS finals) are randomly drawn if it’s straight into matchplay without qualifying.
It has given a group of 4 containing the top 3 ranked players in the first round of a comp before now (the group of death) as well as a group of 4 containing all ‘lesser’ players.
If all comps were based on seedings, and I was a lower ranked player, I would have to think long and hard before entering if I knew I was automatically going to get drawn against one of the tournament favourites every single time. I’d be hoping for a lucky draw against another lower ranked player and hope some of the top players could knock each other out.


I totally agree with you. But having said that, look at the Heads Up Championship, which was in no way marketed towards increasing participation. Half the field of the was ranked 3263 and higher and almost a third had never played an IFPA event before.

I guess another way of looking at that is that the lower ranked players showed up anyway, either not knowing or not caring that they’d have a brutal path to victory.


Almost every major sporting event use some kind of seeding (not always rigid), so I’m interested which events you’re thinking that have no seeding at all.
here are just a few examples which sporting events use seeding:

  • almost every team event at Olympic games I can think about it (Icehockey, Handball, Basketball, Volleyball, etc.)
  • Icehockey World Cup
  • Tennis, Squash, Tabletennis
  • Ski Alpin
  • UEFA Champions League/European Championship
  • even FIFA World Cup use some kind of seeding (for the top seed of each group)


Nearly all of these are examples of a non-open event where teams/players spent a season or more going through a qualification process to reach the event. That’s great. I am all in favor of using seedings in pinball for those types of events (SCS, Worlds, etc).

I had hoped by now that it would be clear that I am exclusively talking about my issue with using seedings for an open event, meaning: anyone can show up and be entered into the competition.


I only see it as an issue for events like the heads up championship. If it was a group matchplay event that only the first round groupings were based off IFPA rankings, it would be fine.

I don’t see a better way to make the heads up bracket unless there’s an event or events that feed into it.


What’s the difference if it’s matchplay? I guess it’s “less bad” since there are four players. But you’re still giving the easy path to the best players and the hard path to the worst players.

It should be random. Why do you feel there is any need to curate the matchups at all? The vast majority of bracket and strike tournaments do random seeding.


Because if you do adjacent pairings the top four ranked people play each other first round.

Then after that have pairings based off current tournament standings. Always play people doing similarly to you. A la Pinburgh


What if it “randomly” pairs all the uber high level players round one and deteriorates the later round’s matchups? I would fear that this way of pairings would essentially hold the championship match in an earlier round.

What if all the highest ranked people get thrown into one side of the bracket? Then some person happened to come out of the other bracket that is very green and get demolished in the final match?

Especially for entertainment’s sake, I think the way they seeded it for heads up was best.


None of those competitions mentioned use a rigid seeding system there’s always some kind of randomness in the mix.

The FA Cup (the oldest and perhaps greatest cup competition in the world) has no seeding whatsoever.


I’m suggesting random.

Unlucky for those guys. Side benefit: if the top players are all paired against each other, half of them are guaranteed to advance.

The people who did the best job against what was presented to them by the format are the people who should be in the finals. Stacking the format in favor of trying to pit the two highest ranked players (based on accomplishments achieved outside of the scope of the tournament) makes me a little uneasy.

If we’re following along with the matches, then we should feature these matches as they happen. In the WSOP, if two world class players end up randomly seated at the same table, guess what happens? It becomes the featured table, and earns the focus of the cameras and commentary.

This happens at all levels of sport. What happens if most of the best teams are in the NFC? Unfortunately we might end up watching the Buffalo Bills losing four straight Super Bowls.

What if a stuck ball causes Trent to lose to a noob in the first round and that player goes on to get demolished in the finals? Oh the horror. Following this noob on their path to the finals is a true underdog story that will make for great viewing.

Aren’t many finals just a game of who will get crushed the least by Keith Elwin anyway?

If the Heads Up Championship wants to be this kind of format (like the SCS, IFPA Worlds, Circuit Finals, etc)…where the entire year leading up to it is considered qualification, then I suppose it makes sense. (Though none of the other events mentioned are open tournaments…they are all closed, and invite only).

But seeing it in the HUC, and in the biggest local monthly in my area…I just hope that this doesn’t start to become some kind of trend.


By all means have the second, and subsequent rounds be based on how players have performed earlier. But the first round should not have any weighting based on events from outside of that comp.

PS, this isn’t any kind of judgement on the current ranking system, or any other kind of ranking. An Open comp should be exactly that - Open


The HUC in my mind is definitely trying to be a “high level” competition, so for this specific instance I feel like the decision for random seeding would actually impact potential attendance in a negative way.

Having known commodities of “good players” is far more important to me with the HUC, at the risk of those new players or lower skilled players that feel screwed by having seeding based on a world ranking.

I wouldn’t risk this particular tournament in an attempt to gain a bunch of newbies, at the risk of losing an audience we can already count on as attending.

Totally agree that should NOT be the strategy for most events out there. We’re specifically catering to the elite with this, and of course welcoming anyone that wants to attend and play (which as you pointed out the field was like 1/3rd completely new players, so maybe we can have our cake and eat it too).


But wouldn’t adjacent pairings be more fair to casuals so you avoid your issue of your bottom 3rd being screwed out of the gate?

I don’t like random because it’s random. I’m all for parity, but random I don’t like. Especially when being a spectator.


I totally get how random seeding might impact that.

Yeah, I get that too. Perhaps my entire complaint goes away if this was the year 2020, and this was an established event, and it’s the Heads Up Championship event.

Maybe what I’m fearing is that the success of this tournament will encourage others to run similar events, and those will follow suit with regards to initial seeding. Hopefully that type of initial seeding is used very, very sparingly.

Does anyone else out there have local events that use IFPA ranking for initial seedings?