Limited qualifying and practice

So I heard from a couple of different players this weekend attending the TPF that on Thursday, after the main tournament bank of games was setup, a number of Texas players got to play exclusively on this bank of games as part of some “league finals” competition. If qualifying for the tournament was Unlimited Herb, then this extra practice afforded these players on Thursday would be no big deal since everyone would have “unlimited” opportunities during qualifying to get their practice in. However, qualifying for this tournament is actually limited to only 20 tries with your best 8 scores counting towards your total, so getting any practice on the games ahead of time is a HUGE advantage.

I asked @Snailman about it and he reasonably explained that the purpose of this Thursday night gathering was to thoroughly play test the games before the tournament and that there were complaints in the past when only a few select TDs and their representatives got an opportunity to test play the games before the open tournament. I’m not sure how expanding this “exclusive” list to more players is better or a more fair solution, but I know that Colin and his crew have worked hard to turn this tournament around these past few years and have made it the huge success that it is today and is always open to constructive feedback, so I will offer some here:

If you are concerned about thoroughly play testing your machines before a tournament, I think it is only fair to have a published time (of an hour or two or whatever) to allow for anyone registered for the tournament to stop by and get a chance to play the games. If this is not possible (show schedules etc.), then you should limit the play testing as much as possible and only have TDs and other “official representatives” of the tournament do it. Full stop. For a limited qualifying event, it’s too much of an advantage (perceived or real) to get even a single extra try on a game in the bank ahead of time.

If someone feels it is unfair that a TD and their crew gets “extra” practice setting up, they are welcome to run their own event and get as much practice as they want! We’ve discussed a lot on this forum about TDs who also play in their tournaments, and that is just a fact of pinball tournament life. And a good thing, in my opinion, because often some of the best players in the country run the very best pinball tournaments and I wouldn’t for a second begrudge these player/TDs the opportunity to setup the tournament bank as expertly as possible and then participate in that tournament, if they want to. Again, anyone who complains about this is completely missing the bigger picture.

That said, having a large, local group of players “play test” the machines the night before a limited qualifying tournament just feels like nepotism to me. As always, YMMV.


I wasn’t there, but having this the night before leads me to believe that they were set up in the exact spot, with the same pitch and tilt settings that were used for qualifying and/or finals. I would say that’s an advantage for the players who had extra time on it.
Also, thank you for teaching me a new word.

Not a big corporate guy, eh? :wink:

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I understand wanting to play test games to resolve any issues, but this seems like too much of an advantage for the locals. Especially with only 20 entries on a 12 game bank.

Would the the show logistics make it possible to have a 1-2 hour practice session, similar to Pinburgh, before qualifying kicks off? It could be open only to those who didn’t get any advance time on the lineup. I’m not sure how much that would help with 100+ players trying to get on 12 games, but might balance things out a bit.

We ran into similar gripes between Nationals and then Pin-Masters, with the Nationals players getting all that practice match time the day before.

We did end up adding an open practice session for all, as well as adding in 30 seconds of practice before every Pin-Masters game (not practical to do for a Herb tourney).

Based on the PAPA Circuit survey feedback these two changes have been much appreciated by the participants at limiting the advantage for those Nationals players (and now Women’s Championship players).


I’m glad someone brought this up. IMHO, this is just cheating. 16 local players (10% of the field) playing 84 full games + any tie breakers to “test” the machines? I would have liked to have been able to test the skill shots, tilt limits, kickouts, bounces, etc before the tournament started too.

I understand those involved will try to justify this session but really, everyone knows it was wrong.

Otherwise, well run tournament and great show.

Not sure what dictionary you’re referencing, but Webster, Oxford, and even Urban don’t imply that.

Does it provide an advantage? Maybe a little. Would I rather have these games thoroughly stress-tested by knowledgeable players ahead of time? Absolutely. It’s a weird issue that is sure to have no easy solution.

Thankfully these games weren’t set up in a way that would wildly surprise you. Aside from The Addams Family swamp kickout being weird (when I played, it sent three balls unsavable SDTM but later seemed to be more reliable), or Stargate having one funky tilt sensor, most everything played how you would expect them to play.


[removed by @keefer]


Fine, then call it cronyism. There is no reason to continue down this ridiculous line of arguing over the exact meaning of nepotism instead of the spirit of the comment.

Stop it.



I am not worried, you will be sufficiently distracted listening to people complain that they can’t get cell coverage.


Easy solution. Either

  1. Use players that won’t be competing
  2. Use an open format that allows equal opportunity (like Pinburgh’s open practice)

The problem with #2 is you always want this at a period of time BEFORE the event so you actually have time to deal with the actual output of the session. So, unless your event isn’t happening until well after your larger event… its unlikely to end up with equal opportunity for people.

#1 isn’t as bad as it seems… especially at an event like TPF. Competing in a tournament is a huge time commitment… not something all players are willing to do. That doesn’t make them unqualified to vet game setups.

I totally think it gives players an unfair advantage… but if said advantage is given to people who will be materially insignificant… I don’t think it’s a big deal.

For instance in other events, we’ve let techs and organizers put in entries… and play test games in setup/debug. But those techs/organizers are typically completely out of the hunt in competing because the format simply doesn’t give them the time to practically compete. So it’s a bit of a ‘no foul’ situation…


nepotism is perfectly appropriate. it’s not restricted to just relatives the same as it’s not restricted to just nephews.

To all:

We’re done arguing -isms. Just stop it entirely.

Stick to the topic at hand.


I didn’t know about that change, i always thought it was a certain advantage for the National/Women but it was just part of the restriction of the format/event that needed to be dealt with. nicely done!

Hi I’m Phil. I was the assistant TD. I speak for myself, not for Colin.

Constructive criticism is great. I am eager to hear from the attendees how we can improve the tournament experience for next year. However, accusations of nepotism and cheating are not particularly constructive. I’m not even sure it qualifies as a criticism. The decision to run the Texas Pinball League finals the way we did was made for practical reasons, and I don’t much care for the attempt to attribute nefarious intent.

I personally worked my ass of this weekend to facilitate the tournament. I set up games. I rebuilt flippers. I moved games. I ran cables. I crawled on nasty carpet. I entered scores. I made rulings. I set up equipment. I made brackets. I studied rules. I stood for hours. I watched score reels. I built a computer. I figured out how to stream 21 goddamn c920 cameras at the same time. I stayed up late. I woke up early.

I was stressed.
I barely slept.
I barely ate.
My body ached.

I did all that because I enjoy playing in a well run tournament, and I want other people to experience that at the Texas Pinball Festival. It’s hard to pour your blood, sweat, and tears into something and then come home to see the first Tilt forum post on the tournament accusing you of cheating and nepotism.

Look, I get the argument. I don’t really agree, considering that the TPL finals were run during set up, not after. We used the results from those games to adjust the tilts, pitch, and outlanes. The quality of the tournament was improved by doing this, and the games were altered after those players played. Nevertheless, if the perception of unfairness is there, that’s what matters. Thanks for the feedback, we’ll make changes next year. I like the suggestion to have an open practice period. Of course, players who are local will be more likely to make the practice period, so we’ll still be accused of nepotism, cronyism, or what ever ism you can think up.

I truly welcome all feedback, but unless you are trying to drive away new people that are working to grow the hobby, please save the accusations.


OK, so you walk into an event, where there is a tournament in which every player gets 20 attempts only to get 8 scores on 12 machines.
First thing you see is every good local player on those machines, playing 4 player games.
Well, that’s what I saw.
I was pretty much shocked, thinking it was just a local practice for people providing games, or TDs and helpers.
Then Colin explained they were holding their Texas regional league finals, with the best from each city representing to get a champ.
That was still rather unsettling, and unexpected.
I didn’t complain or really comment, no need to stress myself and others before my tournament had even begun.
But as I play each machine in the tourney for the first time, trying to figure out feeds, tilts, and all the information a player must compute. I couldn’t help but think how helpful it would be to just get one practice game on some of these machines, and that it must have been nice for all the locals.
Still no need to stress during the event, but when I spoke with other players about it, I didn’t find any that really thought it was cool.
I still enjoyed the event, and am thankful for the changes and work that the TX guys do, I have been there and it’s hard work and stressful.
But if you are concerned about running a quality event that is seen as even ground for all players, and have limited qualifying. Then I would never let those games happen, there had to be another option.


Hi Phil,

The tournament was great. Thank you for all of your hard work. I don’t mean to take away from that, but I spent alot of money and time to come play in your tournament.

I drove 13 straight hours.
I left my family for the weekend and missed one of my daughters softball tournaments.
I spent nearly $1,000 for the weekend.
I also was stressed.
My body also ached.

Again, the tournament was great, but I left feeling that it was not played on an entirely even playing field. It’s hard enough for some of us who are not top players to try to compete, and rather discouraging to see anybody, let alone some of the better players getting an unfair advantage.

I’m sorry if I made you sad when I accused you of cheating. I guess I could have sugar coated it a little, but what I saw was 16 great players unfairly getting an advantage before the tourmament started, which is basically the definition of cheating.

I would be curious to know what conversations were had about how you guys thought this would be perceived by the 90% of participants who weren’t allowed practice games.

There were 100’s of other games there, I’m sure a bank of non-tournament games could have been set up for your finals.

If you all collectively thought that this was ok and that nobody was getting an unfair advantage and that nobody would frown on it, then I apologize for my naivety. Otherwise, I would say that allthough this post isn’t positive feedback, it is still constructive feedback.

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