Questioning tournament payouts


You forgot the swag bag to top 24 who made the finals. Already talked with Owner of Flippers and a Pinball Machine will be Top Prize along with pay outs for PAPA Circuit Event in November. Look forward to seeing all the New York Crew come down again to Outer Banks had a blast being the TD for PAPA Circuit event for first time . Any suggestions for upcoming event is appreciated ,


I believe in full transparency, but also learned how to do so by running a LOT of tournaments. New directors may not have learned that yet, or understand that some players wonder about the total entries versus payouts.

Besides providing a statement of payout %, expected expenses, etc. the most important thing a director can do is provide a breakdown of the entry fees, expenses and payouts AFTER the tournament has concluded. I do this with every tournament I run and post on my web-site with the tournament results. Here is a classic example:

Here is a screenshot of the main info page. Having something simple like this provides complete transparency to all players. Most importantly, it ensures players don’t leave thinking that I as TD pocketed $420 out of what someone might think was $860 collected (rather than the actual $790). Btw, entry fee is $20 / player, $10 / child (found elsewhere on the page I took the last screen shot from). In case anyone is wondering, the Pintervention Fund is the Pintervention Circuit Championship prize pool (Pinholics Anonymous version of PAPA Circuit event in the Washington, D.C. region).

For those that want to see more results and money breakdowns, just surf my website at under Pintervention or Periodic Meeting under Play…Local Tournaments (many examples from 2016).

Hey, if you want to attend the next Pinholics Periodic Meeting (tournament), it’s this Saturday 4/29 in McLean, Virginia : )


Click on the second picture to see the prize pool breakdown. It’s too large and might not show everything without clicking on it.



That’s a quirky one. :stuck_out_tongue:

Thanks for being so open with your tournament money! I might have to see what’s going on when I swing down that way in May to attend a graduation.


We rock the fire pit during the colder tournaments. Becomes a great central spot for players not in a match. I buy it specifically for the tourney, ergo the line item. If you’re in town during another tourney, come on by


To this I’d answer… are you interested in doing your own event? These kinds of questions are not really about payout, but are intrusive and interrogating how the event is organized. This is no longer about vague payouts, but you questioning the financials of the event. To which, IMO, are not necessarily public ‘need to know’ things.

The topic is really two separate choices

  1. The idea that people think events should be ‘maximum returned to the players’ - That is a philosophy choice, not a mandate
  2. The idea that people should know what the prize pool is up front

-2 for most events is pretty easy, advertise it as fixed payouts, guaranteed minimum, or percentages of the prize pool. What the ‘prize pool’ is tho is not necessarily the same thing as ‘entry fees’ which ties back to point -1. But TDs should publish the above at the minimum (and at least around here… pretty much is needed to get people to show up)

To the first point, and what constitutes the ‘prize pool’ vs money taken in. I think every player has the right to make their own judgement on the matter, but I don’t think people have the right to to interrogate the TD for a line item breakdown. The idea an event is ‘for profit’ isn’t in itself forbidden or evil… just as long as it’s clear that’s what it is and not masquerading as something else.

I don’t have to berate a TD over why the prize pool is 1k when they are probably taking in 5k of entries… I can simply decide for myself if the prizes are worth the investment. If the TD is working for free or not really doesn’t impact my enjoyment of the event. This is because everything is really about EXPECTATIONS and not so much accounting for every expense.

If the guy promotes a 10k purse, but only pays out way less, and that doesn’t match up with the common sense economics… then let’s ask them to justify their stance. ‘Open your books’ isn’t a right the players should feel they have by nature of just being participants. Speak with your feet if the TD isn’t convincing or you don’t like the responses.


as a player… I’d prefer the # of people paid be preset. The bigger the event, the bigger the payout, not more dilluted it gets. My .02

As long as the payout spots were made known before play started I’d be ok… but knowing that before I traveled would be a factor in deciding if I want to attend or not.


I run ~20 events a year (and spend dozens of hours organizing them), and always make the payouts and financials known ahead of time. If someone asked me the questions I asked, I’d answer them.


People absolutely have this right.

You might not be someone who cares about the answer to these questions. You might not think people should be asking these questions.

But asserting that asking is not within my rights is insulting and demonstrably untrue.


Point being… that level of detail (IMHO) is something that an organizer should be left to decide to disclose on their own, not players feeling like they are entitled to.

You don’t ask mhs how much his salary is from replay do you? Or replay’s balance sheet on replayFX? Anyone scrutinize how much replay is paying before deciding if the pinburg payouts are adequate?

I’m all for transparency, but I think digging into the profitability or expense breakdown of an event is something that falls into ‘proprietary’ info. If an event wants to fully disclose all of that (like Kevin has done for pinholics) I think that is FANTASTIC. However, if he did not, I would not be drilling him over what food he decides to provide or not vs the prize pool. It’s his event, I as a player will not play auditor. I will make my decisions based on the info available and feel there is a line between sharing and intrusive.


So you think Kevin Martin owes us all that info about PAPA, and now Mark for all Replay events? How have those conversations gone?


This is a weird PAPA strawman you’re throwing up. PAPA is a benchmark for payout and fee transparency, while Pinfest is at the opposite end of the spectrum in my experience.

I agree that Pinfest and any other tournament isn’t required to disclose anything. But I was well within bounds to respond with a request for details to the organizer, who wrote, “If there are further unanswered questions that will help people decide whether they make the trip to PinFest or not, please do let us know and we’re happy to attempt to answer them!”

And I was obviously, patently, clearly, unequivocally within my rights to ask these questions. Can you understand why asserting the opposite might be offensive?


Based on what? PAPA is not transparent… PAPA has just guaranteed payouts over the years that avoid scrutiny because they are high enough that players are satisified. (and we often speculate how much Kevin would LOSE on the events). There was no transparency, just a lack of concern over unfair payouts relative to the size of the event. Very different. Transparency would be disclosing the breakdown of expenses, revenues, and itemizing that. We all know for years people tried to reverse the info about revenue using the stats on entries… because the info WAS NOT shared. And frankly given the likely lopsided nature of the balance sheet and the extent Kevin would go to support the events… people accepted.

You might also understand that when someone asks ‘is there anything else I can help with?’ that doesn’t mean there are no bounds, nor that any question is immune from being perceived as probing. You may feel you have the right to ask, that doesn’t mean they have to answer, nor that others will feel the same about the appropriateness of the question.


Is this your way of saying yes?

So you’re saying these guys don’t have to answer my questions? Enlightening.

We appear to agree on a lot of this stuff; from what you’re writing, it’s hard to tell if you realize that this is the case.


Keep cherrypicking while ignoring the bits that counter your position.


Mod note: This thread is in danger of derailing. Please rein it in. Thanks!


It all comes back to “Don’t Be Shitty”. The shitty bar is different for different people, but do your best.


Hello folks. Unfortunately I had a work situation the past few days so I haven’t made the time to check on the boards.

We know that anything remaining after expenses goes to the prize pool. Then, the cost of the non-monetary prizes is subtracted (trophies, awesome pinball-related prizes, etc.), and the rest is cash. Last year we used the following target percentages for the cash portion (these are subject to change based on the sponsor prize allocations and total participation):

Main & Classics

  • 1st ~43%
  • 2nd ~20%
  • 3rd ~15%
  • 4th ~10%
  • 5th to 8th ~3%

We round the cash payouts to make them even.

The Womens and Kids will have a series of non-monetary prizes for the winners, these are funded with prize entry funds and with sponsors donations.

I appreciate seeing the various comments here from people regarding how they’ve chosen to publish prizes and expenses; it gives me ideas on how I’ll look to share these items in the tournaments that I run in the future.

As Jay mentioned in the post on Pinside, the total direct costs for last year were $311, and we expect them to be hopefully under ~$400 this year. That is subject to change based on various factors that are impossible to exactly predict.

Classics and Main are separate. Each day funds its own prize pool.

The PinFest entry fee is separate from the Tournament entry fee. It’s limited qualifying (eight entries max with first two free), so the MAX that we’ll take in per person is $30. Some people won’t pay for all eight, and we provide some free additional free entries to volunteers that help with the setup of the show.

  1. Venue Payment - For PinFest, we currently don’t have any vendor space fees. We owe a big thanks to the current PinFest organizers as this was not the case when the show was under prior management and the cost of the space had to be subtracted from the prize pool.
  2. Equipment - Equipment costs have not come out of the prize pool in any way for PinFest. That said, I know that Jay has invested thousands of dollars in equipment, with no other purpose than supporting the PinFest tournaments.
    3 & 4) Entry Money & Payouts in 2015 - I wasn’t involved in the events in 2015, so I don’t have numbers. I do know that it was a similar situation and that all 100% of money (after expenses) were paid back into the prize pool. It is my understanding that in 2015 more of the money was allocated to purchase non-cash prizes.

I know Jay mentioned this on the Pinside thread, but the goal of the event is to create a family-friendly experience that is inclusive of women and kids. The intent is not to build a large cash payout for the elite players. The secondary goal is to get people interested in the local scene in and around Philadelphia. We had about 15%-20% of players last year where PinFest was one of their first five tournaments, and since that point I’ve seen a number of those same people become regulars at events in places like PinCrossing, Pinball Gallery, River City, and North Bowl.


Thanks @coreyhulse for providing all this info.

In the Pinside thread, Jay had said “The prize pool gets distributed to the top 4 finishers, in each category, each day (12 total spots per day).”

If you’re paying out 8 spots, this would be the difference between me playing and not playing. I (along with a large number of players) should have an outside shot at being in the top 8 but almost no shot of being in the top 4 assuming the field is as strong as it’s been recently. I’m generally happy to travel to and play in tournaments where I don’t have much of a chance for a payout, but in this case your tournament is competing with an incredible show – flea market, parts, vendors, farmer’s market, etc. – that definitely influences how I want to budget my time.


Just to try to get this back on track to the original intent of the topic, I don’t think the question is whether or not someone should be allowed to profit on a tournament and I don’t think it was to say that anyone needs to show a line-item breakdown of the expenses that go into a tournament (but the more the transparency, the better, IMO). It’s to point out that there are some real issues with some major shows and their complete lack of transparency.

I’m not sure how the poker world works, but I can’t imagine anyone putting their money into a poker tournament without knowing what the rake was going to be.

Imagine playing in a poker tournament where you are putting in $100 and you have no idea what they payouts are going to be if you do well enough to get paid out. After it’s over… if you lost… you still don’t even know what the final payouts were. You have no idea what first place won, what second place won, etc. AND the only way you find out anything is because someone who placed tells you, firsthand. Then you do some back-calculating to figure out what the “rake” was and you figure out, “wow, they only paid out 20% of the money they took in”. Yet, the tournament goes on, year after year, without anyone knowing what the payout structure is. Even those that went and figured it out on their own from having inside information don’t even know if next year’s tournament will hold to the same ratio.

Do you think any poker player in their right mind would play in a tournament like this? Yet this happens all the time in major pinball show tournaments and it doesn’t really get talked about. Maybe because 70% of the players are naive to the issue because they are under the impression that the payouts are done fairly and have never placed high enough to realize that they are being used to make money for the show organizers?

No one questions whether a casino is trying to make a profit on holding a poker tournament. No one is going to demand that they show how much they are paying to their dealers, or what the overhead is on the space used for the tournament, or how much is going back to the casino owner. All they want/need to know is how much is going in and how much is coming out (whether they are hard payouts or percentages) so that they can determine whether or not the structure seems fair to them.

I know that comparing payouts between poker and pinball is not an apples to apples comparison. Money is much less of a motivating factor in pinball, but I don’t see why that should have any bearing on whether or not this information should be disclosed. It’s my opinion that the only reason to not disclose the payouts is because you know that the disclosure will make you look bad.