What makes a good (big) tourney?

I’ve been to a few in the last few years of all formats and sizes. Most I love, only a few I’d pass in the future.

For the bigger (PAPA) sized ones, I don’t mind long lineups or wait times. It’s expected and with cueing there are others things you can do. Too hard to control, and if it’s a pump and dump you know what you’re getting into when you enter.

I like (if possible):

  • a variety of tourneys (main, classics, women, etc.)
  • seeing people from our community from all over different parts of the world. The common bond of pinball and being able to play he best in the world is unlike anything else.
  • a good mix of games, especially in Main events. I wouldn’t want to play only all new DMD’s or only just older DMD’s.
  • accessibility. This includes parking, hotel, proximity to airports/highways
  • personally, I love the NeverDrains software and cueing system. I’d imagine it’s easier for organizers and scorers.
  • full TGP. If time permits and you’re close to the max, what’s a few more matches to get there.
  • lots of volunteers. I realize this wish is easier said than done.
  • rules clearly laid out prior.
  • if a game goes down early, replace it. This is key and only makes sense. The Buffalo Pinball Summer Open did this with perfection when Domino’s went down early.
  • clearly define where the $ goes. Doesn’t matter if it’s charity, players, trophies…as long as its transparent.
  • I don’t mind limited entries. Helps control size and timing. As long as you can play each needed game 3x that’s fine.
  • seminars. For the bigger shows these are great if time permits.

Things I don’t like:

  • need to have techs available. Again, easier said than done, but it’s necessary if people are investing time and money to come to an event.
  • people bumping into each other. I think we all love PAPA and Pinburgh for the space they provide. If you’re bumping into someone when your playing, it’s too tight.
  • bad lighting.
  • going overboard with swearing. Look, I swear too, but as these events are streamed and beyond, it won’t help the broadcasts and potential sponsorships.

What do you like/dislike?


And consistently enforced as written!

I find it especially frustrating when the rules explicitly say one thing, but then when ruling time comes, something blatantly different is done. And of course it’s worst of all if different TD’s rule differently for the same situation. Gah.


Add to my list of BIG dislikes, tourneys (or leagues) that directly go into a one-game ladder match for playoffs after playing for several hours, rounds, days, or months in the case of leagues. This is short sighted. I liken it to playing 162 games in baseball, and then having the playoffs consist of one inning each. (wild card games that play a one game playoff do so because they weren’t good enough to win their division).

I do not include the PAPA Circuit finals round 3 ladder as a problem at all, because the ladder match only happens after 2 rounds of 4 players/4 games with all 40 players. So in other words, not a one game elimination to begin the playoffs.

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Things I like:

  • Tournaments which offer ‘perceived’ value for money for all, with a decent number of games in qualifying.
  • A variety of machines forced to be played, not just Sterns.

Things I dislike:

  • Backloaded latter stages to max TGP
  • Changes to format after the start
  • HERB style unlimited rebuy attempts through qualifying

Not to mention the amount of “regular season” (circuit) work to get up to that point. You have to prove you’re able to make the match play first, then have to prove your worth again to make the ladder, and then climb your way to the top (or sit there with your IFPA-backed high chair). There’s enough same-day and over time work that the Circuit ladder is completely justified, especially if it gets tied in with other events during the weekend to compensate for the players who were taken out early.

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Ladders and single game elimination formats aren’t as bad if there’s some sort of bye put in place after a significant amount of qualifying.

Similarly, it’s beyond frustrating when a TD confronted with a ruling just kind of shrugs shoulders and says “I dunno, what do you think?” I don’t think anything, *YOU are the TD, you should be making the choice. If you’re not willing to think ahead and come up with decisions for things likely to happen, or aren’t willing to analyze and rule on the fly, then maybe you shouldn’t be a TD.

This most commonly happens for things like playoffs format (is top seed driving the bus for all rounds? does loser get pick after round 1? are we doing 3 games or 4?) or tiebreakers (are we doing a one-game playoff? are we going by when strikes were awarded? are we doing that bizarre thing that 7-5-3-1 tournaments do where first place/second place results make up the tiebreaker?) No player wants to see TD indecision after surviving a ton of rounds to get to the promised land.

*you = the generic you, not anyone in particular.