Novice specific tournaments/pinball events

I’ve run two events this year oriented to beginner players. One was a private event for a company holiday party. They rented out a location that has, among other things, a lot of pinball machines and requested a tournament be available as part of their entertainment package. The other was a public novice tournament that I advertised fairly widely where participation was restricted based on WPPR ranking. The players seemed to have a really good time at both events.

More generally, the response I’ve gotten to the idea of a novice tournament has been very enthusiastic, so I plan on doing more of them. I have another one scheduled for April, and am still trying to work out what kind of format I want to use for that.

I’m curious if others here have experience running novice-specific events. I’d love to hear about your experiences, what you’ve found worked well or didn’t work, how you find them to be different from open events, and so on. Anyone?

I’ve never actually ran a novice tournament, but I wanted to try a paired down swiss format here for new players.

It’s pretty much regular chess swiss except you only play two games instead of three. If you win them both, you get get 3 points, if you go 1-1, you get one point each. If you win none, you get 0 points. Then each round it reseeds the players by points and continues until you have a sole winner or you hit the round/time cap.

The nice thing about that is players can drop out whenever they feel like it without messing up the results.

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Yeah, I think a format that allows people to leave early if they want to is key.

We had a number of people who showed up for the novice tournament on Saturday but started wavering after arriving about whether they wanted to enter. Three of them signed up after I told them they could leave whenever they wanted. Five ended up not playing.

For that event, I scheduled three hours of best-of-one head to head match play followed by single elimination playoffs for the top 8. Three players left early (after about 2 hours) and I actually ended the match play portion a little early because folks seemed to be getting fatigued. We ended up getting 11 rounds in.

I sent out a post-event feedback survey which most people did not fill out, but of those who did, most indicated that they would prefer a shorter event, did not need to play so many games, and would like more time for socializing. For the next tournament, I’m leaning towards having them play in groups of four, with new groups after each game.

I think two hours is a good time commitment for a novice tournament. It’s the same kind of commitment as going to see a movie. I would try two hours of play and then top 8 moving to finals but play in groups of four (so your finals can be over in 3 games).

@echa, I’m interested in hearing your strategy for publicizing novice events and recruiting participants so that it’s worth it (whatever “worth it” means) to hold the tournament. With both novice tournaments and my efforts to recruit more women into the Portland scene, I’m not sure how to successfully let people know the option is available and/or convince them they should participate. I think having novice events is a great way to nurture new players’ interest and talent rather than having them leave defeated and disinterested after losing badly to much more experienced players, so kudos for doing that!

To reach people I don’t already know online, I post about my tournaments on Pinside, both on the calendar and also as a topic in the events subforum, make events in the Play Pinball in the Bay Area group on, and make Facebook events for them that I share to the Pinball in the Bay Area Facebook group. Between all of those, I usually generate one or two players per event, but they don’t cost me anything and it’s not terribly time consuming to just copy and paste the same text a bunch of different places so I keep doing.

I also get flyers printed up for the tournaments, which I leave in little stacks on the tables near the machines and put up on the backglass of all the games at the location. I also bring the flyers to other pinball events, give them to other event directors to pass out, and stick them on or near the machines at any other locations that will let me.

Most of the players at the novice tournament last weekend who I didn’t know personally said they came because they saw a flyer. In this case, the flyer specifically said it was a novice only event:

All of the players seemed to have a good time, and most of them told me they were eager to attend another pinball tournament in the future. I was also able to bring a good sized crowd into the coffee shop that hosted us for a few hours. A number of the players said they hadn’t known the place existed before even though they live nearby, and that they definitely planned on coming back to play pinball there in the future. That was enough for me to consider it worth the time.

Yeah, this is what I’m leaning towards for the next one.

Happy host, happy future :smile:

Last year at NW Pinball and Arcade Show, we ran a “Rookie” Tournament (some people like that name more than Novice), with the restriction of WPPR ranking of 2000 or lower. We expected about 30 players, ended up with 54. Only a handful of them also played the main tournament, and thus we captured a huge segment of the show who probably would have skipped the multi-day main tourney. We just did the plain old Brackelope tourney, at 2-strikes.

It was a huge success, it will be back this year, but we’ll expand it to 3-strikes.

The key thing in running such a tournament, have a few tournament veterans on hand to answer questions, because there are a LOT of questions. For many, it truly was their first tournament experience. By using the format we use in weekly tournaments, and giving prizes of “free entry to weekly tournament”, some of them did start showing up at the weeklies. They now understood the format, and thus playing in a weekly was a lot less intimidating.