Local tournaments – what made them great?

I really enjoy running tournaments and I’m always playing with formats, details, timing, etc. to find the sweet spot where everyone has a good time, there are a decent number of WPPR points available for those who are SCS focused and people want to come back when I’m hosting because it’s a positive experience.

So, I’m looking for feedback from outside my community regarding what makes a local tournament a great experience for you. I’m looking for the little touches that a venue or tournament director can control that have an impact for you as a player for a local weekly or monthly tournament. What are the little things that have improved your experience as a player? What are the pet peeves that bug you as an attendee (preference for things that can be corrected by a director or venue)? What causes confusion for newbies or guests that could be solved with an announcement or two? I hope that I’m already covering a lot of these things since people do keep coming back for my tournaments but I want to keep my eyes open for continuous improvement!

Thank you!


Things that bum me out…

A lot of waiting around… either because games are playing long or some people keep wandering off or lollygagging. Trying to keep the set of games used well balanced, or using a format that isn’t always at the mercy of the longest playing game, is appreciated.

Games that are too easy, games that have integral features disabled or borked on purpose, and hair trigger tilts.

Tournaments full of DMDs

The strikes format… 3 games and out sucks for anyone. Unfortuantely, sometimes it is the only format that makes much sense for a location or TD.

Things that I love…

Variety of game types… EM to latest Stern.

Formats that keep me playing more and waiting less. FWIW, I consider 3 other players pounding out 15 minute balls on Lord of the Rings waiting around. Some players seem to feel like being in a game, no matter how long it takes, is playing. I don’t really agree.



One unique thing that was pretty cool at @spraynard 's Space City Monthly tourney held last weekend: the venue (Game Preserve) added to the prize pool in a unique way… Instead of trying to manage the hassle of door prizes (drawing #'s, etc) to provide something to players that don’t typically make finals, the venue owner opted to give prizes to specific finishing positions that were outside of both A & B finals (announced prior to the first round):

  • 20th place got $20
  • 25th place got a Bat City Open T-shirt
  • 32nd place got a souvenir Batman pint glass
  • 43rd place got an arcade wall sign

I thought this was a really good incentive for repeat local tourney players that aren’t yet at the level of making the finals cut.


I’m not the best at this, but always make sure and have a quick 5 min pow wow about the format and rules and goofy things going on with any of the games. Even if all the players are aware of all that, it’s good to have it each time as just a way to get things kicked off. And new people obviously really appreciate it.


I’m still fairly new as a TD, as I’m still in my first year of competitive pinball playing, let alone organizing, but I’ve here are a few things that have helped set our events apart in a positive manner here in Eugene:

  • Every event we run is played in a group format. Our league is match play, and our monthly is a group knockout. New players have more opportunities to observe and socialize, which could make them more likely to return. They’re also worth way more points, so… why not?
  • We partner with a local nonprofit for our monthly knockout, where 100% of entries are donated directly to their organization. I can’t say enough about how positive this has been for the pinball scene in Eugene: 1. new players feel far better about an entry fee that goes to a group doing good things in their community rather than to the guy who lives at the arcade. 2. The nonprofit is invited to table at the event, host an activity, and their employees are all given free entry. It’s also free promotion for you; they will likely post about this a lot on social media and tell their supporters. 3. Some of our dedicated league members first came to a charity tournament because they supported the charity, not because they liked pinball.
  • Variety of prizes, both in what they are and in how they’re given. For league meets, we have 3-4 prizes for the top 3-4 finishers. The 1st-place finisher selects which prize they want first, and so on. We also make sure to do at least one prize drawing for those who finish outside of the top 4. We have a mix of local business swag, GCs, etc. and pinball-themed gear.
  • Community partners / sponsors. Try to find one or two businesses that really see the value with partnering with you and are enthusiastic about what you do. It gives you great visibility in the community as well as clout within your player base. A local breakfast food chain called Off the Waffle not only gives us a $15 gift card to give away every event, they kick us down $3 off / free waffle coupons, which players get just for signing up. Additionally, OTW came to one of our tournaments and handed our free mini-waffles to all players.
  • Submit results to IFPA ASAP. This one seems like a no-brainer, but when WPPR points are a selling point of your event, it’s frustrating as a player to have weeks go by and see nothing, particularly as a new player who’s enthusiastic.

By far my biggest gripe about tournaments at public locations is not capping entrants based on venue size, and interference by random walk-ins.

Many locations have sufficient machines to run a decent tournament, but not the space. Packing 30+ people into a hole-in-the-wall is already hard, when you add in 20+ randoms plus their children crawling all over the place, it quickly becomes a terrible place to have any level of serious competition.

For TD’s considering public locations, I would suggest asking if exclusivity to the pins can be had for the duration of the tournament, on the logic that you’re bringing in a big block of business for many hours. This holds more weight if the location serves food or beverages.


Experienced players who treat new players nicely and help them understand WTH is happening.