Scorekeeping at tourneys

Hey there, so I thought I’d write this up as I’ve done a bit of scorekeeping and have noticed how good scorekeeping can affect a tournament in a variety of ways. Now not all tournaments have the same responsibilities given to scorekeepers but these are just my observations and some things maybe people can leverage for their own tournaments, especially the HERB/pump-n-dump formats.

  • Clarify what the expectations of the scorekeepers are:

    • some folks may not know that aside from the actual scorekeeping they may be called upon to do a variety of other things. Some of these may include:
      • making sure players don’t try and sneak off to make a play not count (this is cheating and some players will actually try and do this so they can re-play that entry on a different machine)
      • find an official for a ruling (pretty standard) - but may need to let another scorekeeper know they are doing this so that scorekeeper can keep an eye on the machines in that area
      • only let the next player start once the scorekeeper has confirmed they are up (sometimes someone thinks they are next and starts, and this is not fair to the person who is really next in line. Towards the end of qualifying this could really affect many players too). The Tournament Director should also let players know they can’t start until the scorekeeper has given them the OK (typically to make sure the score is recorded correctly and in weird cases where an additional ball may have to be played to make up for a machine malfunction)
      • monitor all games to make sure only tournament players who are supposed to be playing are. (No practicing, etc.) Sometimes a person who just wanders over to see what’s going on may think ‘hey cool free play games!’ and jump on a machine. So you need to be diplomatic in letting them know the machines are just for tournament play
  • Keeping an eye on when games are ending and being prompt to get scores recorded as efficiently as possible. Some older games hold scores only for a little bit and then will scroll through with no way to speed it up via flippers so all this added wasted time can mean fewer plays overall and more waiting = less pot and chances for players to play/qualify

  • Being respectful of and monitoring space - sometimes a player is blowing it up and you’re kinda interested to see what’s going on as a scorekeeper, remember to give them space and if others are crowding to let them know as well. Also at SFGE I know some media were around and being inappropriate so sometimes you need to keep an eye on spectators/media to make sure they understand not to use flash (same goes for phone pix) and/or control their kids if they run up to a game someone is playing and press the start button or otherwise interfere.

  • Monitoring any other rules (e.g. no coaching, etc.) saw times where someone would trap up and ask for help from someone. Most tournaments won’t allow this but if they do that’s fine but sometimes people don’t realize that coaching during play is not allowed.

That’s all I got off the top of my head. I’ve only scorekept at INDISC, SFGE and a bunch of local tourneys so I hope that stuff helps. Might be something that could be compiled and re-used by Tournament Directors if they find it useful…

Scorekeeping can be really fun and it can keep the flow of tournaments going quite well and it’s fun to note that even top players don’t always put up big scores :slight_smile:


Cool info, Gene.

Is it possible for you to add some data regarding volunteer rewards, if any, you’ve seen?

In particular, I’m trying to figure out a reasonable rate of scorekeeping hours vs. free entries. At the last big tournament I ran, I gave volunteers $10 worth of entries for an hour of scorekeeping. Potentially a bit overgenerous, I think. On the other side of the scale, the Canadian Pinball Championships are offering $4 (CA!) worth of entries for 2 hours of scorekeeping.

Great discussion topic! I hadn’t thought about some of the prepping the storekeepers ahead of time on a few of the incredibly pertinent instructions you listed.

Some other topics/pointers to include in a prep sheet for scorekeepers:

  • thank them for volunteering… Profusely.
  • people are going to complain and potentially piss and moan at them. Tell them to have a thick skin, and even though players shouldn’t do this to them, for scorekeepers to not take it personally. However, let them know that similar to ruling issues, that they should tell players to direct criticism to the tourney director.
  • while being friendly is great and encouraged, to not spend an undue time chatting with a player about their completed game while taking their score, thus unduly delaying the next player from starting.
  • be on the lookout for players re-starting their game after a bad game.
    **** one possible solution to this is a what I saw advertised for a European tourney that uses “no cheat” mechanism on tourney pin start buttons, that only allows scorekeepers to start EVERY game. ****
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Good tips, Gene. We’ve got a pump and dump tournament coming up this weekend in Western NY so your post is timely! I’ve shared it with my fellow event coordinators.

If anyone’s in the area, stop by Pinapalooza:

Thank you Gene. Great job at SFGE.

Louisville and Pittsburgh Pinball Open both paid $15 in tournament credit/hr. As a result they had no trouble getting complete coverage two scorekeepers in each bank, allowing Tournament Directors, front desk, techs, and PAPA TV folks free reign to roam.


This post makes me feel:
A) Better about the reward rate I chose
B) Worried that the CPC will not have enough volunteers


SFGE was 2 entries per hour of scorekeeping. Entries were 3 for $10. Think at INDISC it was similar but don’t quite remember.

and @Snailman, do you have any photo/video of how that start button thing worked? Very cool!

Sorry. I didn’t bookmark it. I recall reading it either from a tourney website, Facebook event page, or internet forum and thinking "That’s a cool idea."
If I come across it again, I’ll post it here.

Altered my sequence of search terms in Google, and voila!

Second post down the feed.

Looks interesting.

Direct link:

When I first started scorekeeping, it blew my mind that people would cheat in pinball tournaments (jeez, it’s only pinball). Even once my innocence was destroyed (by Elizabeth’s cold heart), I didn’t know what cheating looked like. If we’re briefing novice scorekeepers, it would be useful to have a list of “known cheating methods” to warn scorekeepers about.

For instance:

  • Certain EMs will restart a game if start is pressed in the middle of
    a game. Bad ball, just restart. Scorekeepers need to keep a sense
    of progress and listen for the clatter of reseting score reels. It
    should really be practice on those banks for scorekeepers being the
    only ones to start games.
  • Players will walk up to a bank, and start a game without
    getting queued on an active ticket in the score system. Then either they
    sneak away (from a sucky score) or lament “So sorry,
    I didn’t know. Give me a break.” to get their score entered on a
    ticket. I once had a player tell me that “That woman, said it was
    OK”. Nice try, dude, she’s my wife, an she warned me about you
    already :wink:
  • Playing with a trapped ball or other beneficial
    malfunction. This is quite hard because novices often don’t know the
    rule, and can honestly not recognize the situation until the
    multiball they just destroyed ends and the bonus count doesn’t come
    up. I’d hate to interrupt a player. It’s a rare issue where
    scorekeepers get close to making rulings. When a bank is busy it’s
    about impossible to monitor this.

I’m sure there are others I’m missing.

  • Having hard copies of the rules printed out and on hand is key, especially if things are a bit convoluted coughTPFcough

  • Likewise, I noticed TPF had cheat sheets for scorekeepers about common scenarios that might come up and how they should be handled. This allowed them to make quick decisions instead of having to flag down and wait for a tourney director. I thought that was a great idea. It would be nice to have some standardized rulesheets that you could download off of PAPA or IFPA and easily modify/use for any tournament using a standard format.


Thanks for the link to the photo of this European anti-cheat thing, but what IS it? If I had to guess, it looks like something that registers a credit only via badge RFID or QR code scan, and the standard coin mechs are disabled (and game not on free play). Is that about right?

This reminds me of the earliest CA Extreme tournaments, where the tournament games were on special token mechs. Entries were purchased as tokens to play the games, so one game only. The RFID/QR solution for this sounds more elegant but same general principle.


So would you work for $2 an hour, or even $10? Would your player base?

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I think most people see a difference between working and volunteering. (For example, I generally work harder when I volunteer than I do at my real job, at least in terms of exertion.)

I think $10 is relatively reasonable for the tournament I was running, especially because I only needed around 3 hours’ worth of scorekeeping beyond what I did myself. My players were happy to do it, and I had more volunteers for scorekeeping than I needed, so I think $10 was reasonable in this case.

Regarding the $2/hour, we’ll see how much turnout the CPC gets. I guess the biggest reward is an hour of early qualification time for volunteers, but obviously that’s something the organizers can provide for free. If it were me, I might keep the extra qualification time, scrap the $2 altogether, and just put together a raffle for volunteers.


Personally I think $10 an hour or in equivalent tournament credit is fine. My impression as someone watching the recruiting pleas was that some recent Pittsburgh tournaments upped it to $15 after they had trouble filling slots. In my experience, this is a side effect of having a large and friendly league: all the wives and girlfriends start competing and aren’t around all day to take scoring shifts! :slight_smile: Another question is whether to offer scorekeepers a cash payout instead of entries - that could recruit a wider range of volunteers. Jake encountered a system (Louisville?) where scorekeeping credit was non-transferrable - which was interesting (you cannot enslave your non-competing spouse to earn your entries) but maybe not really a good thing (your non-competing spouse might be happy to pitch in for three or four hours but would prefer a useful reward).

As a scorekeeper I would benefit from a list of cheating techniques to watch out for; even after several years there are probably exploits I would miss.

Also they should know to keep an eye on EM reels when they get near rolling over to the digit they don’t have.

Scorekeepers should also know what not to do - I’ve seen scorekeepers at smaller tournaments nudge players’ games to free a stuck ball, which in my opinion should be absolutely off limits. They also should consult an official instead of giving opinions about rules - they are not authorized to make rulings in most cases.


Scorekeeping has a fatigue cost, which figures into the math for me. A appropriately generous tournament credit that pulls in “volunteers” makes it easier on the organizers (and their families), making them more likely to organize more events. Win-win. It’s going to lower the prize pool marginally, but probably not enough to make any real difference assuming you have a reasonably well advertised/attended tournament. And well run scorekeeping org makes a big difference for a tournament, especially in crush periods. A special hour of qualifying for volunteers is a nice add-in, but not really enough to make a difference if the credit / hour isn’t worth it to me. I don’t think I’ve ever taken the cash even when it was offered - I always took entries or PAPA merch. But, I do know others where the cash makes a big difference for them.


Yeah exactly, if scorekeepers are on top of it there can probably be a variance of up to 20% as far as how efficient machines are being played I’d say. I’ve seen slow socializing scorekeepers who aren’t watching everyone like a hawk to know when someone might finish their game and that efficiency would more than makeup for any non-paid entries by more people playing their paid entries.

I think the role of scorekeeper is really valuable and sometime tournament organizers might be smart to screen folks doing it so they aren’t drunk or too buzzed when scorekeeping as well. (Admission: I drink when I play and might when I scorekeep :slight_smile: