Moddified Bracket Qualifying Match Play Format

Not real sure exactly what to call this format so name change suggestions are warranted :slight_smile: There is some discussion in the Houston Expo thread which has turn a bit more towards the format in general and I thought it best to create it’s own topic to not hijack/muck up that thread.

Spraynard - Please correct any discrepancies I may present in the format as it stand. I figured I’d start the thread vs being lazy and asking you or a Mod to do it.

The Format:

These reasons/benefits of the format change:

  • Give players more time to enjoy the show outside the tournament area.
  • Increase the total number of players that can participate when machine count, space or time is an issue
  • Allow players who cannot attend multi days to participate in a match play type of format.
  • reduce crowding in the tournament area.

All this is done to keep the matchplay format. The very basic description of the format is there will be multiple distinct qualifying sessions (4 in this example). Players may play in up to two of these sessions, and can choose which is most convenient for them. Each session will be around three hours long, limited to 52 players, and will feature 6 rounds of group match play. The top 6 players from each session will qualify for finals.

This format now expands the possible tournament participation from 52 people to, up to 208. Thus allowing more people to play which is a great thing!

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Replying with my feedback in a separate post to keep my feedback clear from the format in general.

  • The ability to allow more people to play is awesome!
  • The ability to only have to come one day is awesome!
  • Being Matchplay is great as you are constantly playing vs sitting.

Overall I think the format has a lot of potential. I just have some concerns with it for large/major tournaments.

  • At only 6 rounds and 52 players you will only play (at most) 18 different players out of the 51 (you are one of the players thus why not 52). This is only 35% of the field so your ability to impact other players is very low and you really aren’t able to compare your skill vs the entire pool.
  • Strength of Schedule - With only playing such a small % of players whom you randomly get paired with can be a big impact. Some players will have a much harder path than others. Since it’s football season I look at it like this. Is a 1 loss SEC team really less deserving of a playoff birth than a 12 and 0 Mid-America team?

My suggestions:

  • Increase the number of rounds played to make sure you hit at least 50% of the field. If timing doesn’t allow for more rounds then reduce the number of brackets and increase the number of people moving on from each bracket.
  • If those aren’t possible them make it a SWISS format to where the top players play the other top players.
  • If players “qualify” in one bracket and are allowed to play in more than one bracket. If they chose to try for a better seeding, they give up their spot. Risk vs reward scenario but more importantly, after the round ends, everyone knows whom made it and whom didn’t.

Overall I think it’s a pretty neat concept that I’m interested to see how it plays out. Figured since conversations have started about adapting this format more broadly, it would be nice to discuss the pro’s and con’s. Neat Idea though!

Northwest show has been doing this for years.

I’m very medium on it from a raw competitive standpoint but it does get the job done and people have a lot of fun.


Ohio Pinball show does that as well.

The difference at the Ohio show is that they add your two best session scores together for qualifying. Having to play a minimum of two sessions was difficult for a lot of players with the only options being on Thursday and Friday.

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In the Northwest and Ohio shows are you still only playing 35% or so of the population in your bracket?

Here’s a link to poke around from this year’s event. Top 16 qualified for playoffs.

Just looking at the Ohio match play link it looks like the number of people in each session varies heavily. It doesn’t affect the format though because the way they did it was by taking the 2 top session scores instead of some people from each session qualifying.

For the Northwest show, you’re playing 5 4-player games, so 15 out of the other 59 participants in your group (~25%). I understand your concern that some people will randomly have an easier path of play than others, but in my experience, especially given the overall level of skill in the region and the fact that every group is sold out, the appropriate players make it through to the finals. You can take a look at this year’s NWPAS results here.

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You’re only playing against 4% of the field at Pinburgh. Just saying. :slight_smile:


Variation in strength of schedule is a factor in just about every type of competition. Pretty minor in the grand scheme of things, and like @zvrabes said above, the cream will usually rise to the top.

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Apples to oranges. That is SWISS so top players are playing top players. My question around “strength of schedule” types of things is when it’s balance format.

I don’t understand this comment. The only time strength of schedule is a factor IMHO is in balance match play formats where there aren’t enough rounds to play the majority of the field.

  • In SWISS - Top Plays top
  • In limited entry everyone plays the same games and top scores are used
  • In card format - you are playing against everyone
  • I guess flip frenzy is another one where strength of schedule is a factor but I haven’t heard of that format used for the main event of a major tournament though

I meant in sports and games outside of pinball.

I guess we will have to agree to disagree there.

In the NFL you play everyone in your division twice and the non-division games are played against mostly the same other teams.

In Soccer (I follow Premier league so may be different in MLS) you play everyone.

In College Football - A 1 loss team in a strong conference nearly always gets the pass over an undefeated team in a weak conference.

In Golf you play against everyone in the field.

In baseball you are playing against the same teams.

In Nascar you face the whole field. Same with drag racing (seeding is based off qualifying times, not random draws).

Gymnastics you compete against everyone there.

I honestly can’t think of but one other sport where you play a small subset of your peers in a tournament and that is bowling.

Thanks for sharing. It’s hard to follow that since I don’t recognize most of the people. I do think this is a pretty cool format and interested to see how it plays out. I did think it would lead to an interesting conversation on how to make it more level though.

I’m perfectly fine with that, but you definitely simplified some of those to fit your position. Especially baseball.

I’m just saying that having a little strength of schedule variance in one type of pinball tournament that isn’t super common isn’t such a big deal. Good players will do well, just like they do in every other format. Maybe a mid-level player or two will sneak through and make the cut, but then they’ll need to compete against the other qualifiers and everything will sort itself out.


We already have Tiered Swiss as a modified Swiss format (which Pinburgh uses). It would be cool if there were also a modified group-play Swiss format that used standard Swiss, but prevented Player #1 from playing any player more than once (unless impossible, due to having faced all remaining players who havent been put in a group yet). I’d call it Non-repetitive Swiss, or something like that.

  • Use standard Swiss pairing methodology by starting at the best seed and begin matching them against other top seeds with identical records, or seeds one “rung” below the best record if needed, etc. After a foursome is formed, then take the remaining best seed and do the same process.
  • But instead of allowing groupings/pairings to have Player #1 face Player #2 again and again (if they both remain top seeds), if P#1 and P#2 had already faced each other in the tourney, then P#1 gets matched up with P#3, P#4, and P#5. P#2 gets matched against P#6, 7, & 8. Etc. (provided that none of those players in each group had faced each other). If P#2 had already faced P#6 and P#8, then P#2 gets grouped with P#7, 9, & 10. Group 3 consists of P#6, 8, 11, &12. And so on…
  • Or, to provide P#2 with less of an advantage relative to P#1, interleave P#3-8 (probably also having to go lower than 8) as best as possible between P#1 and P#2 groups. But this interleaving option would likely have a ridiculous algorithm to pull this off.

Just brainstorming here. Pick this idea apart. Does it have merit vs just using Tiered Swiss in certain situations (player pool size and # of rounds in a tourney? Is it feasible to code into a software like MatchPlay? Bad idea?


Sounds like a good compromise between SWISS and Balanced. That’s always the challenge with SWISS as the top players keep playing the same people (can get boring) where the opposite can be true with Balanced (luck of the draw).

I’ve been tossing around the idea in my head for a Group Round Robin, which provides the opportunity to rotate between a series of players with the goal of playing once and only once.

As I’ve come to learn, it’s also known as the “Social Golfer” problem that I’ve been doing a little of research into. The potential problem is that you need an exact amount of people/rounds to make it work if the goal is to rotate through everyone once and only once.

9 People, 3-Player Games, 4 Rounds
16 people, 4-Player Games, 5 Rounds
21 People, 3-Player Games, 10 Rounds

There are other combinations that get you close, but would have caveats like playing everyone except a single individual.

I’ve only done a bit of research on this, but we’re going to use one of the structures this upcoming Saturday for a Tournament. 40 people play regular Swiss Match Play (8 Rounds). Then, the top 16 will play an additional 5 Rounds of 4-Player and each person will play each opponent once and only once with seeding and game choice advantages going to Top Seeds. Top 4 out of that group are going to move onto a simple Ladder to round out the event.

I’ll report back in the other thread how it goes. You could take this construct to have essentially qualifying “pods” of say 16, 21, 24, or 32 people and advance the top X point-getters depending on how you want to structure it. The other post I linked mentions the Australian Nationals which runs 3 Pods of 16, and takes Top 5 from each plus a Wild Card to make it 16.


World Cup Soccer, you only play whoever is on your group. It’s an extreme example of segregation.

NFL, MLB and NBA all have asymmetrical structures where the teams in your division/conference/whatever do not all face the same opponents. They don’t play round robin schedules like the premier league and the strength of schedule varies for each team.