Pinball League Q&A

Hey all, I’m looking into starting a pinball league and have the format all drafted up. I met up with the bar owner and we are on the same page on some things and not on others. I’m very confident in my ability to run the league, submit to IFPA, run the matchplay through, and make rulings based off of my experience playing in many tournaments/leagues of different formats, watching a ton of tournaments, having rulings made on games I’ve played in and read the IFPA/PAPA ruleset. I’m looking for some people with experience directing a league to bounce some questions off of so please hop in my messages if you are interested in fielding my questions. If you run a league in a Bar that would be especially helpful!

A draft of my League Format:

The League season starts “insert date here” and meets up every Wednesday for 8 weeks concluding with finals on “insert date here”.

League nights consist of five rounds of matchplay in 3-4 player groups with points awarded depending what position you finish on each game. 5-3-2-1 scoring.

Scores are added up across all nights towards standings.

At the end of week 7 everyone’s lowest week score gets dropped so you can miss a night without it majorly effecting your standings.

Finals will be 3 games with PAPA scoring (4-2-1-0) for the top 4 if less than 16 total league players and top 8 if 16 or more total league players.

The remaining league players will play a 3 strikes knockout tournament that will not affect final standings.

Cost: $? League dues plus coin drop into machines you play. All League dues distributed in full via Cash to top 4, Trophies, and IFPA fees.

Rulings made by the Tournament Director will be based on the PAPA/IFPA unified ruleset which can be found at

TD has final decision on rulings

Hi @scaredstiff

You – and everyone – are welcome to hit me up at with any questions you might have about league operations. Always happy to help.

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I’ll comment here on one of your bullet points that immediately catches my eye: 5-3-2-1 scoring during the regular season. You don’t mention what scoring you plan to apply to 3 player groups, but it turns out that with that scoring scheme for 4 player groups, you can’t have an overall balanced scoring system and keep integer league points.

What I mean by “balanced” is this: with 5-3-2-1 scoring in a 4 player group, that’s an average of 2.75 points per player per game. Any integer solution for 3 player scoring will result in a different average, which means that group size will have an effect on how many points are possible for each player to earn. This seems like a minor thing, but when final rankings at the end of the season can often be separated by just a point or two, IMHO there’s no reason to use unbalanced scoring when balanced schemes exist. The most common balanced scoring scheme is 7-5-3-1 / 7-4-1.

(And yes, you can also solve this with non-integer league points, but that’s pretty ugly.)


My league’s format is somewhat different, but we also use eight meetings with the lowest one dropped for each player followed by a night of finals. Everything you have here sounds pretty standard and workable. (Edit: I misread. I thought you meant you have eight PLUS finals, but I think you have eight INCLUDING finals. We do eight plus finals, but it isn’t a difference that matters.)

I agree with this. Unbalanced scoring makes more sense during finals.

Since I feel league are more on the casual side, I would consider allowing the knockout tournament to affect final standing in the league.

Rest looks good to me, outside of the scoring for the regular season already mentioned above.

Good luck!

I would consider dropping your 2 worst weeks to give people a little more flexibility for schedules.

Are you going to be in the same group for all 5 games, or does it shuffle every round?


Hadn’t really looked into the scoring just picked one from to draft the format so that was an aspect I was very open about changing. Thank you for the info I’ll utilize it!

Shuffles every round. Planning on running 4 player matchplay thorugh Haven’t decided yet between balanced or swiss. I want everyone to get to play with everyone but also don’t want a casual to get discouraged if the keep getting pit against a better player. I was thinking maybe a combination where the first couple weeks I run it with balanced pairings and then switch to swiss pairings for later weeks. The majority of tourneys I play in use swiss but I’m not sure if that’s the vibe for a league?

I think doing the first couple weeks balanced and then switching to swiss sounds like a interesting idea.

In regards to groupings: My current league just switched over to using match play and switching groups every round. It’s still fun, but it doesn’t really feel like a league anymore. Just feels like a weekly tournament.

What about game selection?
My league previously let the players pick all the games. Low rank picked game 1, loser picked the next game. Now the league is all random using mp. Again, not really a fan.

Second the recommendation to stick with one group per night.

My league also switched to new groups every round with autopicked games and I agree with @ectobar - it made things a lot less fun, now it just feels like another tournament. Makes it harder to get to know other players and kind of killed the sense of camaraderie that used to make me so excited for league nights.

@scaredstiff - Awesome that you’re starting up a league! Where are you planning on running it?



There’s multiple different styles and formats, but what I’ve found starting up in a new location:

  • Do X number of weeks of qualifying, and drop worst Y weeks (in your case, I would echo @ectobar and suggest doing 7 Weeks and drop 2)
  • Do scoring like 7-5-3-1. This allows three-player groups to be 7-4-1.
  • Draw a group for the night, and stick with that same group of people. That way that group travels together to the various games, and you’re not being held up each round waiting for a single group to finish. I equate it to bowling where you play the same opponents for that night.
  • If you’re sticking to the same group, then let each person pick a game, and do a rotating play order. If you’re doing five games, the fifth game can be either a random draw.


  • Pick either IFPA/PAPA or FSPA, and modify where you see fit. For example, our “base ruleset” is IFPA/PAPA,. but we have some modifications in our ruleset that deviate modeled after Pinburgh and after FSPA’s stuck-balls-in-multiball rule. [Example Ruleset from a Tournament Series we did: PinCrossing Winter 2022 Tournament Series - Google Docs]. I’m sure others will have opinions on rulesets that work.
  • Get yourself on the TD Slack: Slack → Real-time access to people who can help you make judgement calls on rulings.
  • Deputize others to also TD. Ideally you shouldn’t make rulings on games you’re involved in, so you’ll need at least one other person. TD Slack is a good back-stop.


  • Get familiar with the rules on transition to Finals. For example, you need to have at least 10% but no more than 50% of qualified participants move onto A Finals. I (and I’m sure many others here) are happy to help you work through the details. Looks like you have it covered with the rule you laid out, but if you only end up with seven participants, then only three can move onto Finals.
  • Have a plan for Non-A Finals. For example, we do Top 8 in A, and everyone else in B. Top 8 play PAPA-Style finals, and B-Division does a Fair Strike Knockout (which gives us lots of flexibility in the number of B players).

If you go the route where you’re in the same group, I would give the FSPA software some consideration.

Really liked the metrics it kept.
Also liked game selection. 1 random and everyone picks 1.

Didn’t really like how ranking worked.
Also it wasn’t great for when people didn’t show.

Definitely worth a look.

Highly recommend FSPA. You get a lot of cool stats that newer players like to see plus you can have machine average etc. I always like the same groups, each player picks one game for the round. That way you get everyone to play a game they like which makes it a lot more fun.

Same with balanced for the first few weeks(think of this as seeding) then Swiss after that. Makes it a lot more fun for players of all levels to compete where they should be at.


If you care about your IFPA points, I’d suggest to run an even number of league sessions (without finals).

Can you expand on that? If you’re doing 5 weeks count and 5 games count, you’re at 25 games played with 2x multiplier and are already at 50 TGP before finals start. Or are you referring to something else?

I agree with this. Do you have access to the keys? Are interlocks disabled? Coin door ballsave on? If not, consider documenting your modification to adapt to no keys.

I also explicitly removed the no coaching rule from our leagues. The reality is coaching was happening, and we are trying to get new people into competitive pinball, so I feel coaching is actually a good thing.


Yeah. And the coaching rule is really there because it can just make a tournament take ages. So best to just say no at big comps.

True year long leagues are not trying to save time, so rules tend to be much more tame.

We don’t do penalties for tilting through or playing out of turn for example.


I’m referring to this rule:
“League members must compete in at least 50% of the total meetings/sessions that were held in a season to be included in the results submitted to IFPA.”
with an even number of sessions there’s a lower risk you’d have to eliminate a player from the final standings → for every player you have to eliminate the total value for the winner diminishes plus the curve gets steeper.

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Seven weeks dropping one result is an even number of sessions.