Pinball! Pinball! Pinball! Tournament report and format discussion


Ah, that makes sense. Thanks Josh


I ran one of these about two months ago…just decided to try out the format for my normal monthly tournament.

It was…different…but not as fun as I expected. (I was really excited).

We had 12 people, so selected a bank of 5 machines, and then had 2 people in line. One thing that nearly ruined it was that there was one player who just could not grasp the format, and would wander off and sit in the corner instead of getting back into line.

This was a big problem since there were only 2 in line at any time…and sometimes both would be called up at the same time (generally when someone lost two in a row). So there was a lot of baby-sitting that needed to be done, but I was playing in the tournament, so that didn’t help.

I would have been much nicer with 3 people waiting in the line.

About halfway through the tournament, I put down tape on the floor. A giant #1, and a giant #2. You should be either playing at a machine, or standing on one of those spots. This helped a lot.

The feedback from people was mixed. I think people felt that two hours was too long…and it was too many games. Most played around 14 games. Suggestions were to shorten it to 60 or 90 minutes. But at only 60 minutes, that’s not many games and I’d rather run a more regular format.

Maybe having a longer queue would have made it feel less frantic.


Could you elaborate on this magnet system? I’ll be running an event with this format in May, and want to ensure it goes smoothly.

(Sorry for bumping this old thread.)


Each player’s issued a magnet with a number (you could write names on 'em too, I guess). People playing have their magnet on the game—1P on left, 2P on the right. When you lose, you go back into ‘line’ and put your magnet at the back of the queue—in our case it was on the side of the change machine. The same numbers were used on the scoresheets: as mentioned above, one scoresheet at the game and another master at the queue for redundancy.

The ‘line’ was in a circle drawn with arrows on it, so you didn’t have to fuss with it when people left: the person most-clockwise in the line was next, etc.


Thanks! I’m going to get some magnets and try this method.

Looking forward to seeing how this format works out. It’s novel, and unlike almost every other format, ensures no machines are left idle.


So in this situation you wouldn’t take the average of the highest and lowest number of games?

BTW i’m going to a tournament with this same format today. This location has done it twice before and both times were very fun.


Nope. For this format we just use the actual games played for the winner as “meaningful”.


We’re trying this format our tomorrow (Sept 6) at PinCrossing in Linfield, PA.

Thanks to everyone on this thread for the thoughts and insights. Will report back with how it goes!


Hello Everyone,

We ran a Pinball Pinball Pinball event last week at PinCrossing in Linfield, PA. It was awesome and chaotic. Here are some thoughts and some analysis that I’ve put together after reflecting on the event.

We ended up with 15 people; we picked seven games and had one person in the queue. We got 121 games in during the two hours.

Game Stats
KISS (Bally) - 26
Fathom - 20
Attack from Mars (LE Remake) - 17
The Addams Family - 17
America’s Most Haunted - 14
Funhouse - 13
Dialed In! - 13

The two Bally machines we have on site played the fastest. We made our best guess on the other machines to put in, and avoided Sterns but put in AFM and DI! because they were the newest machines on site but had been playing relatively fast.

Pre-Event Prep

Ahead of the event, I purchased a few things that I thought would make the event go easier based on the some of the pieces of feedback from this thread:

  • Magnetic White Board - A place to list the match-ups and the queue
  • Magnetic Letters - Each player was assigned a letter as they registered (more on this below)
  • “Hello, my name is…” Badges - Each person would write their letter and wear a nametag. It was a bit goofy given that most people knew each other already, but it made it easier to find your opponent and people had fun with it by giving themselves new names based on the letter they were given.

I have a Google Sheet that I’m linking here that I’ll be making reference to below.

I printed out the “Scoreboard” and the “Queue” tabs and put them on the magnetic board. I printed out a bunch of copies of the the “Logsheet” so that we could keep track during the event.

Event Setup

As people registered, they were assigned a letter and given a nametag. The “Letter” is what was used to identify them on the board, in the queue, and in the standings. The magnetic letter would be used in on the magnetic board to identify game and position, and to move them in the queue to have a “virtual” queue instead of a physical line.

Here’s a picture of what the board looked like during the event. We had seven games used, so 14 people playing at once and one person in the queue.

The players would play a game, and person exiting the game should have done the following:

  • Marked P1, P2, Winner, and Loser by writing down the letters (not names) on the paper scoresheet
  • Removed their letter from their match-up
  • Placed their letter at the back of the queue
  • Called the next player in the queue
  • Next player up would move their letter from the queue and go to their next game


  • We played for two hours and got 18 games in for the winner, bringing us to 72% TGP. Another hour would have surely gotten us to 100%, which is great for a 3 hour event.
  • Faster playing machines means you can get more games in quicker; we’re thinking about hosting this event next at a place with a whole bunch of old Bally machines.
  • People got to play lots of competitive pinball, as opposed to four games which we typically get in on a league night.
  • Everyone seemed to have a lot of fun and play a variety of different opponents and games.
  • It was a lot simpler to say and report “A is P1, J is P2; J wins, A loses” than “Corey is P1, Doug is P2; Doug wins, Corey loses”. It made it a lot quicker to log the games on a spreadsheet by adding letters and letting COUNTIF() formulas do the rest.
  • We plunged all extra balls to make the games go faster.

Cons & Opportunities for Improvement

  • People ended up stuck on the same game multiple times, sometimes by being stuck at the same game three times in a row and others just by happenstance of the queue. I ended up with five games in a row on Addams Family, and others had similar experiences (some numbers and analysis below).
  • When multiple people finished a game at once, there was confusion about the “order of operations” and who would end up where. This is an opportunity for improvement to have people familiar with the rules and to have a TD helping to direct traffic -or- come up with some better automated way to log results, enter the queue, and receive your next game.
  • We had people write the results down on paper, and I had an Excel sheet ready to go that would accept the Letter inputs and then calculate standings on another sheet. I was rushed after all the games concluded and didn’t double-check results. We gave out prizes and ended the event. The next day that I realized that there were a set of games that had been entered multiple times which had an affect on the Top 5. Moving forward, before we award prizes, I would want a second set of eyes to verify that the games have been all entered correctly based on the paper scoresheets.
  • We debated entering games twice: Once on a scoresheet at the game and once at the main tournament desk. We only did it at the tournament desk. A week afterwards when I was doing analysis, I know I won a game on Funhouse but I now have no record of it. Duplicate records would help going forward.
  • We crammed the games into a 2 hour period without a break, and the queue only had one person. This worked for the most part, but people really didn’t have any time “off”. If we go to a longer period of play (3+ hours), I’d like to introduce a “halftime” concept that gives a 15 minute break.
  • With the “winner leaves the game except if the loser lost two games” rule, it caused confusion at first, but people eventually got it. However, it causes situations where a person might be on the game for three games in a row. Player A wins, but it’s Player B’s second loss. Player A stays. Player A loses against Player C, and it’s their first loss so they stay. Player A plays Player D, and exits the game win or lose. Our proposed change is that each person plays two games on the same machine (with an exception being the first game). When you assign match-ups to start, P1 plays P2. P2 leaves the game, P1 becomes P2. In the second game, the new player is ALWAYS P1, and it will always be P2’s second game. Repeat from there on out.
  • Prizes: We gave prizes to the Top 4. Next time, we’re also going to introduce some other prizes like “Most Games Played”, “Most Losses” (with some kind of junk prize giveaway like a broken coil or something as worthless but still humorous), “Most Games Stuck on KISS”, etc. We’ll want to make sure that the prize structure doesn’t cause incentive to throw games and for people to try their best.
  • We had a scoresheet that was on a spreadsheet tab, but it was on the same computer that I had to enter results. Ideally, we would have that scoresheet always on a screen that everyone can see.

Player Stats

All of this was manually compiled, but here are some breakdowns by Player, Game, and Matchup:

Overall, I really enjoyed this and am ready to host our next “PinballPinballPinball” event.

Happy to share more information and engage in further discussions.


We had so much fun, we’re going to try it again. Pinball Pinball Pinball at PinCrossing on Nov 29.

If anyone else has run this event and has feedback, please let me know!


re-opening this old thread- have people tried running and playing in this format at the same time? I’m worried that it’s too hectic to both TD and participate in.


I’ve seen the TD try to do both and drop out of the tournament because there was too much stuff to deal with. Would not recommend trying to do it all.


Agreed. The only way I’d consider it is if there were 3 or 4 co-TDs, but even then it’s very possible that all TDs will be playing at the same time. I don’t try to play in the ones that I run, FWIW.

Anyone wanting to try out this format with some world-class players participating is welcome to play in the pre-BPSO warmup I’m running on 8/16 ahead of the Buffalo Pinball Summer Open. There will be a 50-player cap. Pre-registration details should be announced this week. I’m also working on a fun (optional, no WPPRs) activity to entertain the players in the queue for the ~5 minutes they’ll be waiting to play.


I’ve played and TD’ed in the two we ran, and it’s hectic to say the least, especially if you have only one person in the queue. To be fair, I played pretty poorly because of the hectic-ness, but people gave positive feedback on the format and we’re willing to try it again soon with improvements to make it better for both the TDs and the Players.

When we did our post-event recap after our second event, here are some of our thoughts:

  • We made a change that instead of winner-leaves-except-in-specific-cases, we said you’re going to always play two games on a machine. P1 becomes P2, and P2 leaves the game. New person who comes onto the game is P1. It worked a LOT smoother as people always knew they were playing two games on each machine.
  • Designate at least 3 TDs. We ran this with the same group that we typically do League with, so there were multiple people on hand to deal with game issues even thought half the field was usually playing at once.
  • I am not sure how you plan to enter scores, but I would designate either the TDs or (maybe a few others) as scorekeepers. We had people write results on paper (so we’d have a paper trail), and then I would add those scores into the Google Sheet that we were using for calculating standings. When you’re not playing, the Scorekeepers should be entering the results.
  • One item that we’ll do for next time is opening up the Google Sheet to be viewable by everyone during the course of the event, and there are some improvements that I’d like to make to make it as simple as possible for people to view outcomes of individual matches that they can be engaged and fact-checking their own individual matches during the event so that they can raise any objections before the event is closed out.
  • Throw some kind of timer up on a shared screen so that people know EXACTLY how much time is left, and tell people that they can’t start any new games when the timer goes off, but they can finish up existing games.
  • Build in 10 minutes post-event close to finalize any final scores and to double-check results.

I have a mostly-baked Google Sheet that I’m happy to share with everyone. There’s no documentation to it, but feel free to copy it/use it for your own events, and I as I continue to iterate I’ll publish new versions.

I also submitted a MatchPlay Request on UserVoice to see if there was more general support for this idea to be included on the MatchPlay Platform:

Match Play Events Open Thread

How do people feel about this? I’m mulling over how to add this tournament format to Match Play and this rule would make my work much simpler (and I also think it makes running the event simpler for the reasons Corey stated)


That’s a pretty clean rule, I like it. Most of the confusion I’ve seen with this format has been who stays on the machine. A lot of times you end up playing a game twice anyway, so this rule just makes it the norm.


I have, and it does not work well, even in a small tournament. I wouldn’t recommend it at all.


that rule makes sense and especially if you have newbies it’s waaay easier to explain. I may be running a tourney of this format for a new location that is targeting newbies and like the 2-games per person idea


I participated the one time I ran it, and it felt very hectic. If I did it again, I would participate, but I would spend a little more time making sure everyone understood the format. (Rather than just letting them off the hook if they nod when I ask).

I would also have a longer queue. I had a queue of 2 for a 14 person tournament which meant that sometimes the queue was completely empty when two games opened up at the same time, so there was no one to direct players just coming off machines. If someone has to stand in line an extra 30 seconds, they’ll have a better idea of what is going on and can help others if there are questions.

Also with only two, if you have one player who just doesn’t get it, this will mess up everything. If my queue was four deep, then it wouldn’t have mattered if one person kept wandering off to sit in the corner, or others wanted to go get a beer.

I’d recommend using tape to put numbers on the ground that represent positions in the queue. “Go stand on the lowest numbered available spot” is easy to follow. And “keep moving forward as spots open up”. Have the results being recorded at the back of the line, so people are already in the right spot.


Don’t even think about trying to participate as the TD. It’s simply not going to work. Netherworld has been running flip frenzies for a year now, and they had problems keeping up even with two people maintaining the queue and recording results, plus dealing with any rulings and/or malfunctions.

Scott wrote some brilliant software that automates the entire process and shows the current matches and the current queue on a projection screen. The software also directs players to their machine via the PA system. Very slick system. Jack Danger saw it in action while he was here and was quite impressed, I believe.