Organising my first league/comp. Little help?

So I’ve managed to find a location (barcade) that has a number of pins and no competition set up, so I’m diving in!
First off, the machines (so far):
NBA Fastbreak

Any of these stand out as outright horrible machines for comp play? Settings I should know about? No idea whether the venue owns them/has keys or not, but let’s assume they do.

Any ideas for a format that could be used to accomodate 15-30 people with minimum boredom? In other local comps it’s usually one game on each machine, then aggregate scores calculated and added together before doing the usual final 8 elimination thing. But that usually winds up in massive downtime between games and I’d like to keep that as low as possible.

Also, what about charging for it? Most regular comps I play in now are $10(AUD) but unless you finish in the top 8, that only gets two games and is IMO kinda crappy value. And how to split any kind of entry cost with the venue? Are they typically happy just to have people in the venue, do they rely on a cut from the coinbox or expect a percentage as well? And the rest I assume is prize money.

Finally, what are the requirements on the IFPA side? I believe there’s a month lead-in required, but haven’t looked into much else .

Apologies for what is likely a far-too-long post… I just want to really nail this thing first go (if that’s possible). I’ll be sure to let you all know how it goes!


I don’t know TMNT, but the other three are definitely fine. Unless you’re planning some high stakes competition you just want to avoid games with weird catch-up features. It’s more important that the games play okay.

With four games I would go with some form of group play. That way you can have 16 people playing at the same time. You could e.g. do 4-8 rounds of match play (as time permits) plus a single elimination bracket for the top 8 (best out of three if you want to rake in those wpprs). This is becoming one of the more popular formats around here as it keeps more people playing for longer (shameless plug: will let you run this format on any internet-enabled laptop or tablet).

The location typically splits coin drop with the game operator. It’s not typical around here to give them part of the tournament entry fees. If it’s a bar they are usually just happy that you are bringing in 16-30 people who will buy beer. For maximum happiness hold your tournament on one of the bar’s slow nights and tell your players to support the location by buying drinks (also tell them to checkin on FB etc and mention that they’re in the bar for the tournament).

I don’t know anything about IFPA requirements other than the 30 day lead time :smile:

A typical weekly/monthly tournament in the SF Bay Area is $5 (USD), but in Denmark they are more like $15 (because keeping machines running is way more expensive). $10 (AUD) plus coin drop seems perfectly reasonable to me for a weekly/monthly tournament.


I don’t know for sure, but many of the Data East games of that era had “catch up” features and other significant scoring variations that can make games unusable for competition. I don’t know much about TMNT specifically.

Play match play! You could use the software @joe made to run your league in match play. Competing against opponents directly is a lot more fun than competing against the aggregate. You should decide in advance whether you want “one-off” competitions or a league. If you’re doing one-off, @iscrz or @haugstrup are lifelines for match play software (Brackelope and Matchplay.Events). Our league has never split costs with a public venue, since they’re getting the full coinbox.

Last, don’t sweat it about how many players you get, just go. If it’s fun, you’ll grow an audience.

Good luck!


Most likely, the location will not have keys, but ask them who the vendor is and try to establish a direct line of contact with them. Our league plays in multiple locations, and I send a weekly update to each vendor about any game issues we may experience. Over time, this has slowly improved the general quality of the machines at those locations.

If you choose match-play (I recommend this also!), and you find out a game has a catch-up feature, maybe just have players play 1-player games instead of removing the game outright.

No need to split fees with location. In my experience they are happy to have a regular event that is increasing their coin-drop as well as food/drink sales.


First off, good on you for starting something local. The business should be receptive and happy to have a friendly competition. Everyone wins.

With the limited amount of games, I’d recommend playing out the Vancouver Regional Pinball Association (VRPA) and Seattle Pinball League SPL format. Have 4 player groups, draw up score sheets and have each group play each game. Apply a point system: 7 points for 1st, 5 points for 2nd, 3 points for 3rd and 1 point for 4th. In the event that you have a 3 player group, adjust the scoring to 7-4-2. Once every group plays the four games, tally up the scores and advance the top 8 or top 4, whichever you’d like. In the later rounds scoring is typically adjusted to 4-2-1-0 to make for a tighter match play round.

Figure out fair percentages of the pot like 50%, 30%, 20%, 10% and pay out the top 4 players. Refer to PAPA’s rule book for any issues.
Hope that helps!

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Run two bar pinball league in Vancouver. We’ve got two formats we alternate - X strike head to head elimination (number of strikes depends on number of players, number of machines, average game time, and how long we want the night to last), and a 3/4 player game format which tracks game results across an entire season.

Something I haven’t seen mentioned, is that we’ve had a lot of success with getting support from our host venue in return for bringing in 40-50 people a week - they pay our the local operator to put the machines on free play for our nights, and donate a fairly large dollar value prize pool for the two seasons of the league a year.
If the venue has a night of the week that it’s pretty dead, this can be an attractive thing for them - work with them to schedule.
Obviously depends heavily on the venue.

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Thanks for the input, all! Points taken on a good number of things, particularly the tournament software (I’ve messaged @joe given it’ll be a league and not just a one-off), format (I haven’t played match-play as qualifiers for what feels like years) and game choice (had a hunch TMNT might not be that great for it, but downloaded the game manual anyway).

Thankfully it’s being held in a “retro” barcade, so not only is it devoid of new Sterns (a rarity for location pinball in Melbourne, Australia, so it’s good to have a break) but there’s plenty of arcade games for people to play during downtime.

All that’s left to do research-wise is hunt down the finer details of organising stuff with IFPA and how points work etc. It’s exciting stuff.

Just an additional note: You can also use Joe’s software to run one-off tournaments with, but Joe can best explain how to do that :slight_smile:

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we have a TMNT at a place I frequently play weeklies and I always groan when I pull it for a match. The spinning pizza, that 10M hurry up shot to the sewer, and the fact that ours (don’t know if they’re all like this) doesn’t kick balls in to play during multi all are totally annoying. Hopefully that game works out for you.

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Thanks for the kind referrals from @bkerins and @haugstrup! (The check is in the mail…) :wink:

Yeah, for anyone looking to organize a match-play style league or event, please don’t hesitate to ping me. My League Manager system is primarily focused on running leagues, but it can also work with other match-play events that have several rounds per event… Andy Rosa ran his Pinbowl tournament last year (Pinburgh-style format) using the system, and with the latest version of the software I’ve experimented with (simulations of) the actual Pinburgh 2014 tournament, and the system seemed to handle it well. We’re currently hosting ~25 leagues around the country in a variety of league formats.

You can see an example of what the system looks like at the FSPA site.

And in general, yes, match play is awesome, whether in a league or a tournament. You get to meet lots of great people, observe many different play techniques and strategies, form some friendly rivalries, and just have a really fantastic time with pinball.

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This is all such great info, everyone! I’ve been in touch with @joe and just signed up for @haugstrup’s site too as I like the idea of lots of rounds with a single elimination bracket and he mentioned that specifically (I’m sure the other software is capable of that, too). The IFPA ranking integration sounds great too, gives people with lower ranks a chance to make it through to finals (if I’m interpreting the setup of the comp correctly).

I’ll be having a tinker with what I can get my hands on over the coming days to find out what I think will work, maybe do some dry runs with random numbers/scores. But I think anything will work better than a Google spreadsheet with basic calculations. More play and a fairer chance for people to get into finals is what I’m hoping for.

You should have gotten an activation code in your email. I will give out accounts to anyone who asks, but since it’s not super polished yet I like to touch base with everyone using my app. No fear though, it’s been used in real tournaments since January.

Joe’s software will run multiple rounds for you as well and you can always do a single elimination bracket on a piece of paper. I just like having all the results on the web for players to follow along so I baked it into my app.

Example of the live results that people can open on their phones (4 rounds of match play with top 8 players advancing to a single elimination bracket):

On the same topic, I’m planning on hosting my first tournament in the next month or so. I want to do a double elimination, random draw style, but I want the matches to be best of 3 games so even if you have a bad night you still get to play at least 4 games. I was planning on using the brackelope app, but it doesn’t seem to handle the random best of 3 style very well unless each match is a best of 3 on the same machine. Thoughts??

@iscrz Could help you with that.

The best you can do with Brackelope is manually change the arena after each game. Select an active match, tap Change Arena in the menu, then select Redraw Arena at the top of the alert.

It will redraw to any available machine using the same balancing algorithm as the tournament. But the algorithm cant see all the machines a player has played for each individual game, so results will be mixed.

My suggestion would be to have bracketlope pick a random arena and play that as the first game and then have the loser of the previous game pick the next game.


Thanks @haugstrup and @iscrz. I did see that as an option within brackelope. I want to take the “choice” out of the game selection so I think I’ll go with the redraw arena idea. Any plans to add functionality to the app to deal with best of 3 style events??

Just signed up with your website for my 1st IFPA tournament on my collection July 4. Thanks! Will experiment with this, Joe’s software and Brackelope.

Another (goofy but effective) way to draw three games using Brackelope (or similar) is just to “go right” from the first machine drawn. Just make sure people understand how the loop works if the layout is not just a row.