Pinball! Pinball! Pinball! Tournament report and format discussion


I put up a survey to get feedback from people. There were some common points:

Tl,dr: most popular requests

  • Have a way to force machine swapping so there’s forced variety…this could be achieved by just having extra games if you are so fortunate
  • Force “strength of schedule” somehow using IFPA rank/rating
  • Force the same # of games for everyone
  • Win % instead of W-L Diff

Un-equal opponents

  • This happens in every tournament. People also put too much stock in IFPA esp if someone is like in the 2000s or 100+ in state.
  • There’s no format where if I beat Jim Belisto I get 5pts and if he beats me he gets 1…
  • I feel this is partially a complaint about "playing the same people again and again", and this is a weakness of the format. It might actually be solved by having 1-2 machines play longer ironically enough.
    • @jay suggested dividing the total playtime in half and running part 1 to completion, then having a (brief) break and then doing it again
    • This screws over anyone who is P1 on a machine though it could be fixed if Matchplay allows the TD to manually manipulate the queue and place these players at the top of "part 2".

Lock everyone in at X games? Possible but dangerous, need to work around MatchPlay if you are using that

  • De-activate players as they come up to the front of the queue and are at "the X"
  • Mark them as not present and then use the adjust player option to zero everyone out later (easier?)
  • Create a phantom machine and assign players to that (PITA, not a good solution since this will eventually give a win that has to be adjusted)

Can we update MP to use Win % instead of W-L diff + tiebreak?

  • Deliberate slow play might be an issue but I guess that’s possible in the current system anyways
  • Wouldn’t this cause a situation where someone wants to enter the tournament in the last X minutes to try to go 100%? Probably need a “minimum games played” rule.
  • This can be done fairly easily without Matchplay by manual calculation (aka google sheets)
  • This will exacerbate the “unequal opponents complaint” from above. This might also be better if an event forces everyone to play the same # of games.

Areas I noted that I need to work on:


  • People will try to game reporting since queue is public knowledge, not sure what (if anything) can be done about this.
  • I want a queue for people to report so it’s not just “loudest person gets recorded first”…also cuts down on chaos. I’m aware that machines closer to the queue reporting area will “have priority” but that’s life…


  • I’m going to enforce starting on time better, especially since people can be added late. Only allow adds within first 15-30 min?

Everything aside, there’s something to be said for the spectacle this creates at a venue, you get people curious about pinball/competitive pinball so that’s cool. I wonder if they would be disappointed to show up to another event/league night and find it’s not the “crazy line format”?..


Whatever scoring system you use, be it pen and paper, excel spreadsheet, MatchPlay, etc. there will be common issues.

Hypothetically, if all of the machines played for exactly the same length of time, the order of the queue would never be jumbled and players would play the same groups of players each time. Counter-intuitively, this is actually made worse in comps with more machines, rather than fewer.

I have always had a break, and used that time to reorder the players, based on number of games played. i.e. those players with the least plays will be player 1 after the break, and those with the most will start from the queue.
This helps to balance both problems of matching number of games each player plays, and getting people to play different opponents.

Having a couple of games which play shorter or longer than others will definitely jumble the queue up and get people playing most other opponents, but it can be seen as unfair with people playing more games than others.

This is why the break and reordering works so well.


Start the tournament and don’t allow players to be added, with maybe a possible exception to this being if there are still players in the queue who have not played any games yet then the late player can be slotted in. If you’re late, plan better next time. Latecomers can possibly be attempting to exploit the queue – maybe by ensuring they play easier opponent to start (instead of random or however the TD makes the initial matches) – and they unilaterally modify the queue by extending it at their own whim instead of what the TD chose or planned at tournament start.

I also don’t think this format should have finals. The format is the format for a reason, and it has shortcomings, just like any other format. But if a player comes out of four hours of play with the winning record, however the TD chooses to define that, I don’t believe they should have to win a group match play tournament after that. The format is the format and adding a finals to it takes away the uniqueness and inclusiveness (i.e. everyone in it playing the full duration).


I’ll argue for having a finals, especially based off of statistics after the event I ran on Saturday.

After 3 hours of qualifying, the #1 seed was 20-0.

Of the 20 games he played, only ONE of his games was against an opponent who finished inside the top 11.

The event had 16 people ranked inside the top 3000.

The #1 seed played 5 matches against people ranked inside the top 3000.

6 of his matches were against players who have played in less than 5 IFPA tournaments.

Therefore I think having the top 8 play in a PAPA finals was crucial. Unfortunately this player did not win the overall event, but instead finished 6th overall.


Here is some feedback for everyone regarding the first ever Flip Frenzy event in Delaware that I ran on 2/2/19.

42 Players
20 Machines (good mix of SS and DMD, no EM’s)
$35 entry fee
ALL ball saves were off
Tilt warnings were kept at 2
The only 2 games that were “modified” were Comet and Spiderman, the center post was REMOVED
24 was the average number of games played
Most games played was 27 (4 people)
Fewest games played was 18 (1 person)
Longest playing game was Mousin Around (9:16)
Fastest playing game was Stars (5:21)
#1 seed after qualifying played 20 games and went 20-0
9 people were in queue
3:31 average time in queue
Qualifying was 3 hours long, split into 2 sessions that were 90 minutes each. The break in the middle was 15-20 minutes.

Here are my thoughts and observations on this format:

  • I did not play since this was the first time running this event coupled with the fact we had 42 players
  • For all of my tournaments I’m mic’d up with a lavalier mic and I use a PA system. I used this all day to direct players and traffic and it was very effective
  • I setup a very small table in the center of the room with my iPad. People in queue stood/sat to my right. When games ended, players then came to my left to report scores.
  • After every completed game I announced the name of player 2 and told them to go to the back of the queue, I then announce the next match by stating the game, followed by Player 1 and then Player 2
  • It took a good 45 minutes or so for most people to start to understand the exact routine. Had I not been directing everyone this would have turned into complete chaos. As the day went on and especially in the second session, everyone was in the groove and there were a few instances where I had to remove stuck balls and the players themselves kept the queue moving (during session 1 when I had to remove a couple of balls the queue stopped because no one was really sure what to do)
  • Overall feedback from everyone was they liked it. It was awesome that they got to play a ton of pinball
    *We had 3 finals. Top 8 played in “A” division PAPA finals. Places 9th through 24th played in “B” division which was a 4-player group 2-strike format. The rest of the field played in the “C” division which was also a 4-player group 2-strike format.
    *These were the payouts for all 3 divisions:

“A” Division

  1. Mike Veith - $385 + Monster Trophy
  2. Ken Rossi - $185 + 2nd place medal and a T-Shirt
  3. Harry Jackson - $135 + 3rd place medal
  4. Matt Gusler - $85 (minus $10 he lost to Chad on Rollercoaster Tycoon)
  5. Jerry Musser - $55

“B” Division

  1. Dennis DeLong - $155 + Trophy
  2. Craig Powell - $80 + T-shirt

“C” Division

  1. Jetta Hastings - $80 + Trophy
  2. Dennis Vallone - $20


My response would just be that undefeated after three hours of play seems like a winning performance, and he was 7 net wins ahead??? With time for a finals, why not just extend the tournament by one hour or however long the finals would’ve lasted? This would’ve meant more matches and more opportunity for harder matchups. With forty players and only twenty four games… The combination of matchups will never be completed. Maybe the weakness of the format comes in when the size of the field is too large.


You can check the queue page to see avg queue time, 3:31


Voting and talking to people seems to be like 60-70% in favor of playoffs and the people who don’t want playoffs probably wouldn’t make playoffs…so I am going to try adding playoffs in the future (just top 4).

I definitely am investing in a megaphone/bullhorn for future events haha. I guess I’m not as loud as I like to think.

I don’t mind adding people to the back of the queue if they are late (Matchplay allows this), but I do agree some people might be gaming the system. Also if I switch to win % then there will be no late ads beyond the first 15min of the tourney. (No one wants to see a “winner” go 1-0 in the last 5 min for 100% win %…) Also considering saying “if you are added late, you start with 1 loss” because I’ve noticed the same people are chronically late to events regardless of format. (Definitely adding this clause to the strikes tourneys I run).

Has anyone tried out win % instead of W-L differential or overall wins? Is this something that could be done in a future Matchplay update @haugstrup if there is enough demand?

I would also love to see manual queue manipulation by the TD so I could run 2 sessions without penalizing people who were P1 on machines when the queue stopped.

Finally a button that allows TD to “add X minutes to the queue” would be awesome for stoppage time / doing 2 sessions without creating another event. (I couldn’t re-build the queue after it’s been cleared currently in Matchplay.)


Yes this what I heard from players too, the #1-2 seeds were able to “farm wins” against lesser opponents whereas other top players had to play harder opponents more often. I think 2 sessions does help this so does different length games.


I could post a hundred individual responses to the recent feedback in this thread, but I’ll sum it up by saying: everyone who wants to take all the variance out of this format doesn’t understand what makes it fun. Not every tourney has a to be a perfectly balanced chess match where the “best” player wins.


What about taking the top 8 and running another round for an hour and then use that for the final standings of the top 8? The top players from qualifying play each other without switching the tournament to a drastically different format.


That’s an interesting idea. At a glance I’m into it!

@ChubbyGoomba - Maybe consider this for the upcoming FF weeklies? If nothing else it would guarantee things to be done at a set time for the place to close up at 11.

Edit for thoughts

  • I would think the W-L record would have to reset, otherwise someone who dominated in qualifying could possibly have the win already locked up.

  • A fresh record for playoffs might be a small sample size to determine a winner and have a high probability for ties. I guess ties could be broken by qualifying seed though.


just don’t have finals. end it at 10:45 if you wanna play late.


I prefer some kind of finals with this format. Makes it more interesting to determine a winner when the better players have to face each other in some respect than someone catching a lucky easy path for a win. I’m fine with some volatility, but using a finals round straightens it out enough to not feel totally random.

Also most of the players would rather not be there that late. The majority (many of whom are less likely to advance) would be fine with 7:30-9:30 and call it a night. The extended time is great for the diehards, but it wouldn’t be ideal to trap everyone there so long.


Or one more game to break the tie.


I think that this format is so random that an argument can be made it shouldn’t be worth WPPRs. I like having finals to give it more “teeth”. I’m strongly in the camp that the best players at an event need to play each other at some point.


@jdelz Thank you for tagging me!

I really like this idea! I’m gonna try this for the first weekly.


Cool. I’m curious to see how it plays out.

This looks like it will be a fun weekly to me
7:30 - 9:30 - Qualifying
9:45 - 10:45 - Final Frenzy

I could see some potential weirdness with a small player count in the finals, but I’ll keep that to myself for now and just wait to see how it goes.


I also think you’d have to take 8 at a min. Maybe 6 would work too?


Yeah I think 6 might help make it not so incredibly lopsided.

Looks like I’m gonna have to do some rule editing…