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!