PAPA Style qualifying assistamce


I’m running a competition in October at the largest exhibition in the UK of pinball, arcade and console machines.

Due to the nature of the event the qualifying period is going to be very strict. From 10:00-17:00 on the Saturday 10:00-12:00 on the Sunday with the finals following. So 9hrs in total.

The initial plan was for each entrant to play 3 games (Scoring 100pts, 90pts, 85pts, 84pts, etc.) out of a bank of 10 to achieve their qualifying score. Top 16 will progress through to the finals.

However, now I’m worried that with so many games in the bank, it will effectively be the 10 people who come top on each game, plus those who have come 2nd the most who will qualify. Rather than those who perform the most consistently well over 3 machines.

With so many games available to choose from the bank it would be easy to avoid the machines which the top players had already qualified on, thus not ranking yourself alongside them.

I’m considering changing it to either 3 from 8 or 4 from 10 as I think that this will change the dynamics.

As this is the first unlimited PAPA style comp ever held in the UK (to my knowledge) I’d be interested in any feedback from those who have ran / entered similar comps.

Am I overthinking this?

Further points which may need considering:

  • The whole event is being ran for charity - so the more entries the more the charity benefits (Prize money is being sponsored from the venue)
  • There are over 20,000 people through the doors over the weekend - the vast majority of whom will never have entered a pinball competition at all.
  • The chances are that there will be all the top players from the UK (and maybe some from mainland Europe)


You can also reduce the first place and second place bonus.


Assuming this is unlimited entry, do this. You’ve already identified the key point that with a small fraction of the bank of pins counting, there should not be a big 1st and 2nd place bonus point value. At Bat City Open, we used a 100-97-95-94… scoring format. This was borrowed from lower bonus value scoring system first used by CAX or INDISC (I forget which one).

If you only get one play on the 3-4 pins you choose to play, then a bigger bonus for 1st and 2nd can still be appropriate incentive to reward players who shoot for the moon.

Oh, and unlimited entry will generate the most $$ for your charity.
But also consider how many players you expect, and do you have enough pin “capacity” to accommodate X players, on Y pins, during Z hours of qualifying.


The scoring system is better off using the INDISC scale, but either will do. That’s less of an issue than the “pin capacity” observation. Let’s do the Math.

Qualifying time of 9 hours at say 4 minutes per game including scorekeeping, or 15 games per hour, gives 135 plays per machine. 10 machines means 1350 total games played. 3 games per player means 450 players have time to do this. If game times or scorekeeping take longer, then the number is even lower.

I’d say you should do two things: get more machines, and maybe have only two tries per person. More machines is the better option, since I think it’s good to give people more than one chance so they feel they aren’t ruined by one bad game. I wouldn’t go as low as a single try no matter what for that reason.

The real question is, how many people do you expect to participate? The number of machines used and games to be counted should be backed into from that. If you only expect 200 people, then you have enough with either 8 or 10 machines and can count more games if desired. If you expect or want to be able to handle 1000 people, then you need the capacity to play 2000 or more games across however many machines are there in the 9 hours you have.