I am not able to attend the tournament this year. I did the next best thing and put in a order for a copy of the Inside Foos DVD of the event. Inside Foos is an international video production team that has been following multiple foosball tours across the globe for 18 years and counting. A professional sound booth, camera array, and trained crew are overlooking the main pit tables of the biggest foosball tournament of the year this holiday weekend. Hall of Fame commentator Jim Stevens is a student of the game that has honed his craft by following the biggest events and covering the matches of the greatest players of all time. Jim's commentary,insight, and professional crew add a priceless layer of information to any match.
I don't make anything off the endorsement but if you are even semi-serious about playing foosball then buying Inside Foos coverage is money well spent and an investment into your game. Watching the best players compete at the highest levels of the game is how I did my homework and gained crucial knowledge that helped me to turn pro. The first year I went my first worlds in 1995, I bought the entire collection of VHS tapes. They were perfect for after tournament parties and training sessions. It was great when local Pro-Masters would come by and add their unique perspective. I was able to pause and slow-mo the footage to dissect the best players in the game. Later this footage lead me to victories over some of these same players. $60 is a cheap investment for a scouting report of today's top players compared to the $500-$1000 it cost to travel and play in just one tournament.
Moving on from current events. As promised (snicker) I am keeping this post more specific in subject matter: "How to run a successful foosball tournament on the smallest scale". I am going to assume that a group has a playing locations with 2 or more tables, a Tournament Director (T.D.), and players wanting to organize for a night of foosball competition.
- Establish the best day and time for the tournament
The day of the week and the time tournament starts is the first step. Friday and Saturday are typically the most requested night from players. It is the weekend and most individuals are free of of getting up early for work or class the next day. The problem with this is that a majority of society is out for the weekend. These are the two nights that commercial table locations like bars, sport's grills, and game rooms earn a majority monthly revenue. If the location has a large weekend crowd it maybe more beneficial for the location to host events Sunday - Thursday. If space and occupancy are not an issue, then Friday or Saturday night are the logical nights to host a primary tournament due to simple customer demographics. No night will be good for everyone but this is typically the best night for "most people". Understanding the perspective of the host location and understanding the nightlife business is what makes a good promoter great.
The cyclical nature of foosball attendance but must be understood and balanced with the needs of the host location. To speak in general broad strokes... It is not uncommon for attendance from casual players to fall off in the summertime. Weather is warmer and people want to get out. College Football can affect Saturday events in the fall and the NFL is likely to cause trouble on Sunday. The state fair often marks the end of the game room slow season and the start of busier times.With all this being said each location and playing environment is unique. A successful sports bar loaded with TV screens and fans may draw football fans to play an event while watching the game. I know from personal experience that it was not uncommon to lose 1/3 to 1/2 of my Saturday night tournament attendance to a University of Oklahoma football game. Even with big screens in view of the tables.
The time the tournament starts is dependent on a few variables. What time does the location close? What night of the week was decided on? How many tables are available for tournament play? There must be time to complete the tournament in one night. The tournament director, the number of tables available, number of attending players players, and match format are the major factors that decide how long a tournament will last. An 8 team bracket (16 players) on 3 tables can be typically be completed in 4 -5 hours. One or two tables can be used but depending on attendance the finish time will be exponentially longer. Four or more tables is the optimal number for an 8 team bracket. This allows all first round events to play simultaneously minimizing player wait between matches. Always start registration for the event 30 minutes before the decided start time and stick with it.
My Tulsa weekend tournaments sign ups started at 8:00 and close at 8:30 sharp with weekday events running one hour earlier to allow for prompt completion. The early start time did not fly at the Dallas tournaments I was involved with. Traffic, longer commutes, player culture, and tradition prompted a later start time of 9:00 even during the week. It is also not uncommon for players to drive 30 minutes to 2 hours round trip for one night of foosball. It is must to give people enough time to make it to the tournament and then run the foosball tournament in a timely manner. It is a must to value the players time so they do not regret the drive home.
Value efficiency and the time that players are committing to enter in the tournament. Give players all the foosball they can handle without holding them captive. By this I mean, players will stop coming to events if the event does not began reasonably near the decided start time, the tournament last an unreasonably late, or the tournament runs slow due to poor directing. Establish a reasonable time for players to start a match once the director has called it up. IFP has instituted a 10 minute rule that forces players to start the match within 10 minutes of being called or face forfeiture. The rules of the International Table Soccer Federation (ITSF) are as follows:
26. Recalls and Forfeiture
Once a match has been called, both teams should report immediately to the designated table. If a team has not reported to the table within three minutes, they should be recalled. A team, upon being recalled, must report immediately to the table in order to stop the forfeiture process.
26.1 A recall is made every three minutes. Penalty for third and subsequent recalls is forfeiture of each game until the match is over.
26.2 If a team has forfeited any games due to recalls, they get the choice of side or serve once play begins.
26.3 Enforcement of this rule is the responsibility of the Tournament Director.
First let me say that the ITSF rules were taken from the the United States Table Soccer Association (USTSA) . The ITSF head Official Tom Yore was a former head official of the USTSA. The USTSA rules were honed after decades of play. I personally used the above recall procedure successfully to get players to start matches. Write down the recall times on the back of the bracket. Bend but do not break. If the event is running ahead of schedule in the bracket and a player needs time a T.D. can delay calling the match. This is not always the case and no room can be given to a match that has priority in the bracket and is causing a hold up. Some players are habitually late and must be given boundaries for the good of the event.
- Tournament Format - Open Draw Your Partner
Example of a Open Draw Your Partner bracket with 7 teams
The random nature of this format serves to shake up teams. This format is the most popular but does have pitfalls. There is a level of luck involved in the random draw of players. Anyone can win that gets in BUT not everyone can win with everybody. Players can begin to think they are unlucky or even question the integrity of the draw claiming teams are fixed. There must be an even number of players. If 15 people show up to play and there are 2 people on a team there must be a way to ensure the odd number player can play. I strongly encourage promoters who own their tables to volunteer to sit out in the event of an odd number of entries. This gives the tournament director time to focus on promoting during event, expedites the tournament, and portrays a spirit of good customer service. If the Tournament director is a volunteer and accepting additional responsibilities for the good of the group, then find a way to work with an odd number of players. One method used in foosball is called using a "bubble". I will cover what the bubble is after explaining the draw.
The nature of the beast is random, you cannot change "unlucky" player perception but you can take steps to make sure the draw is truly random. Number the sign up sheet so each player is assigned a number then use a tool to randomize the draw. A deck of normal playing cards with numbers written on them is one tool. Shuffle the cards. Fill in the "bye" spots on the bracket. For example, 7 teams on an 8 man bracket would leave one spot unfilled. This is where the "bye" team is placed. The bye team always loses giving the lucky opponents a free advance to the next round (Team T.J. and Chris E. in example bracket). Flip over one card at a time. Starting at the top of the bracket write down the first player that comes out from the corresponding draw of a card (T.J. in the example bracket). Then flip over the next card to decide the partner of the first drawn player (Chris E. in the example bracket). Continue this process until all teams have been decided.
Tournament Directors should prepare for players to complain about possible fixed draw in the heat of competition. This must be taken with a grain of salt. If you are a cheating tournament director rigging the draw stop reading this blog and quit directing events. It is not for you. You will get caught, lose player trust, and severely tarnish any goodwill you have garnered. Most players that are willing to go out of their way to run promotions, in this day and age, are not doing it for the the money, they are selflessly working for others and for the good of the game. Just remember it is a common player gripe to complain about the draw as an excuse for losing. It does not matter if a deck of cards or computer decided the random teams, some people will complain. Accept it and do your best to ensure that all procedures of the draw are fair.
I will admit after running tournaments for 7 years or, I grew thin skinned to the comments of the draw. One player said I even knew a special shuffle to manipulate the card deck. My answer was a bingo ball machine. A simple $10 toy that takes up more room than a deck of cards but can be easily stored in a foosball table. Any flack I received about rigging a draw was now comical in nature. People even volunteered, in a child like fashion, to operate the bingo machine. While it was socially conceivable someone could rig a deck of cards, a bingo machine was another story.
As mentioned. there must be an even number of players for a draw to work. If there is an uneven amount a "bubble" can be used in place of the person as a holding spot. The first player eliminated from the tournament takes over the bubble getting a second chance to play, and evening up the teams.
Here is how you draw up a DYP bracket with a bubble. The first spot on the bracket is left blank representing the bubble. The first spot is used so if there is a bye in the bracket (like the example) the bubble gets the bye, this is very important to time management for reasons I will explain later. The first card out is now the partner of the bubble. Complete the draw process and call matches.Who plays in the bubble spot is determined after the first team is eliminated from the tournament. A coin flip decides which member of the team is lucky enough to gain new life in the event taking the place of the bubble. The winner of the flip is put into the holding spot of the bubble completing the team and allowing the tournament to progress as normal.
The bubble must go in the first player spot on the #1 team spot. This way the team with the bubble has a bye so the other teams can play to decide which player will take the spot of the bubble. This is crucial to time management and tournament efficiency. If the bubble were to be placed on a point in the bracket without a bye it is not possible to play that match and could even lock up the bracket. The bubble method is a fair way to allow for everyone to play an event. It is commonly used across the country. I would stress that T.D.'s who are owner operators or paid employees should bow out to even a Draw your partner over the bubble method for reason previously mentioned.
- Match Format
- Entry Fees and Cash Payouts
The general rule of thumb on payouts is at least 1/4 of the field should get paid. In a Jackpot payout, 100% of all the entry fees are paid back to the players. Sometimes the host location or promoter will add cash to the jackpot to draw more players. This add varies from a few dollars per player or a flat amount. Some locations have an add of $100 or more. If the add is significant I suggest paying more than 1/4 of the field. "Cashing" or making it to a spot in the bracket that pays, is uplifting for a player that does not make it to the finals. Even if the fourth place team takes home $5 each, at least they did not go home empty handed.
Distributing the payout should generally be about 55-60% for first. 25-30% for second%, and 10-20 for third. Example pay out for a tournament with a $100 jackpot with 8 teams could be 1st $60, 2nd $30, and 3rd, $10. A $200 total jackpot with 8 teams could be $100 for 1st, $60 for 2nd, $30 for 3rd, and $10 for 4th. The second payout pays 1/2 of the field due to a larger total jackpot. 3rd receives 15% and 4th place takes home a parting gift of 5% of the jackpot. In all of these examples first place is always significantly higher to reward the victory.
- Running the Tournament
The first rule in the ITSF book is the Code of Ethics rule
1. Code of Ethics
Any action of an unsportsmanlike or unethical nature during tournament play, in the tournament room, or on the grounds of the host facility, will be considered a violation of the Code of Ethics. Mutual respect between all players, officials and/or spectators is a requirement. It shall be the aim of every player and official to represent table-soccer in the most positive and sportsmanlike manner possible.
1. 1 The penalty for breaking the Code of Ethics may be forfeiture of a game or match, expulsion from the tournament, and/or a fine. Whether or not the Code of Ethics has been broken, and what is the appropriate penalty for the infraction will be determined by the ITSF Disciplinary Commission or if not present by the Head Official and Tournament Director.
Table Soccer Rules http://www.table-soccer.org/rules/
When a match is called write the table number on the bracket. If the format is 2/3 games or 3/5 games note this on the bracket. Locally, we ran matches three out of five games in the winners, two out of three in the loser, and then returned to three out of five games when the winner of the match places in the prize money. Notice in the above sample bracket the tournament pays 3 places and goes back to three out of five when loser takes 4th.
Avoid using nicknames to limit possible confusion during the draw, while running the tournament, and in later record keeping. Nicknames cannot be found in the points book are not universally known.
- Tournaments for beginning players.
Proper promotions and tournament directions can highlight the game to spectators and draw in new players. A "free entry amateur draw your partner" format is a great way to build a player base. Free entry means less pressure. This gives new players a chance to learn about the tournament experience and gives aspiring rookies a chance to shine in lower divisional play. Link ran the event paying $20 for 1st, $10 for second, a rule book or sticker for third, and $5 for the highest placing female. When I bought the format back I did not have rulebooks or sticker at my disposal. I opted to increase the payout. The host location paid 1/2 of the payout. So my free entry event paid $30 for first, $20 for second, and $10 for third. I often did not make enough quarters back to cover the payout but any loss was minimal. I considered it a cheap investment aimed at building new tournament players out of recreational players and giving everyone a place to start experiencing tournament table soccer.
The weekly foosball tournament is important to the grass roots development of foosball.Organized tournaments encourage intense competition, build a sense of community among the players, and sharpen the skills of the player base. An efficient tournament director will build a solid reputation and increase location revenue equating to an increase in demand for foosball. A greater demand for foosball tables and new players is exactly what our great game requires to survive. FOOS ON!