Friday, August 31, 2012

How to run a successful local foosball tournament

     I appreciate all the page views and positive feedback on my blog thus far. Before I get into my next article I want to turn everyone's attention to the biggest event in Tornado Foosball hosted by Independent Foosball Promotions.  Right now the $100,000 World Championships of Professional Foosball is going on in Dallas, Texas. The best players are coming from around the world to compete on the Tornado Foosball table for a coveted World Championship title. The Inside Foos production team will be onsite recording and commentating on matches live from the event. Keep up with the brackets and  live video streaming from the $100,000 World Championships of Professional Foosball at

      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
      Foosball tournaments are usually double elimination. Printable brackets can be found online. The most common format at the local tournament level is the Open Draw Your Partner. This event is a blind draw where players are randomly teamed up and placed in a bracket. Each player should have an equal chance at drawing another player. This makes each tournament somewhat different than the next. The worst player as a chance to randomly team with the best player giving anyone have a chance to win. As Link Pendley once said,  "Anyone can win and You cannot win if you don't get in".

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
     Typical Open draw your partners are 2/3 games on both the loser's and winner's side of the bracket. In Tulsa, we play regular weekly dyp's 3/5 in the winners and 2/3 in the losers. We have a veteran player base (Most players have been playing 15 + years) that competed often in the Open events at regional  and major tournaments that are played in a format of 3/5 games. Playing the DYP in this format helps prepare our players for the extended format and works more games of tournament practice into the night. The mindset and strategy between the two are different. If time allows and there are adequate tables for the event, I would suggest running all Open tournaments 3/5 when time allows. The closing time of the bar, number of tables, and tournament efficiency are what should ultimately decide the format. 
  •  Entry Fees and Cash Payouts
     Entry fees vary from $3 to $10 for most weekly tournaments. Commonly entries are a flat rate regardless  of rank. Sometimes entries are staggered by rank with Amateurs paying the least and Pro ranked players paying the most. Pro's cash more often and are less dependent on the luck of the draw. Allowing beginners or amateur girls to play for free can be a good way to increase player exposure and attendance.

      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 tournament director is responsible for orchestrating a fun and efficient event. Holding the money, recording winners, and properly advancing the bracket is the easy part. Getting players to cooperate can be a problem. The recall procedure can be used to prompt tardy players by putting them on the clock with increasing penalties. I suggest being lenient with players unless they become habitually late. Controlling problem players can be one of the frustrating aspects of tournament directing but is essential to insuring the good of the group. Designated tournament tables must be cleared of practice players if a match is available to be called. The final call on rule decisions and disputes is settled by the tournament director.

  • Sportsmanship 
     Tournament intensity varies from location to location depending on the player base. Foosball's competitive nature is one of the big draws that personally attracted me to the game. The desire to win can cause normally happy players to take on a nasty attitude. A bad draw, a rule call, or an unlucky point can cause some players to go into tantrums. This can never be removed from the game entirely but the tournament director may have to make tough calls if an individual becomes a constant problem. It is not acceptable to threaten another player, damage equipment, or break the rules of the host location. Dealing with player issues and the sociological side of local foosball promotions will be given more attention in future articles. 

     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

  • Brackets

     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!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Foosball Promotions: From the Nineties to Today

      One of the primary reasons for this blog is to assist new foosball tournament directors across the nation. Grassroots promotion is the key to rebuilding foosball. The number of foosball promoters has dramatically dropped in the last 20 years. I began playing Foosball in 1994. This was an era before the internet, casino expansions, the poker craze, and smartphones. Gas was still under a dollar a gallon, allowing for cheap tournament travel and foosball table locations were plentiful.

     A complete shift in the entertainment industry was on the horizon. Arcades, billiard rooms, game rooms, bars, and night clubs all were host to a staple brown-sided marble Tornado coin-operated foosball table.  If you looked in the yellow pages or night life pages foosball was advertised everywhere. Recreational and tournament players co-existed, fueling a number of successful foosball promoters. The manufacturer directly controlled the Player's Association and professional tour. Tornado ran 5 "major" tournaments across the country every year. The payouts of these events ranged from $25,000 to $120,000, the smallest of which had a larger attendance than the majors of today. The World Championships would commonly have 512 man brackets with rookies fighting for a payout that consisted of a table, trophies, jackets, and a coveted title. All competitors had paid only a modest $10 to enter. Total attendance at many of these tournaments reached well over 1000 people. Media coverage included all major news networks, documentaries, and even extensive ESPN coverage. In 1996, Rob Mares and Oklahoma's own Tommy Adkisson took home the Open Doubles titles. The ESPN footage of this tournament aired on both ESPN and ESPN 2 for years. ( )

   Veteran tournament directors, promoters, and foosball vendors like Link Pendley, Tracey McManus, Rocky Wilson, Charles Macintosh, Lloyd Mandel and hundreds of other successful foosball business people maintained commercial foosball table routes, promoted recreational foosball, and hosted tournament operations suited to their tournament player base. These successful business people made money fifty cents at a time and were not dependent on picky tournament players to pay the bills, as most promoters of today are. This increased business allowed entrepreneurs to invest more capital into their business and promotions.

     The 1995 United States Table Soccer Association magazine, the Table Talk, was filled with flyers of multiple regional tournaments all less than the tour cap of $15,000. The game was not about the money for most players. During the summer there were multiple regional tournaments every single weekend all across the nation. I once attended a $1,500 tournament in Dallas that drew around 200 players battling on 15 or so very used commercial tables. A majority of the players were Rookies unlike today where Expert is by far the biggest rank. The Rookie Doubles event at the $10,000 Halloween Open held at Star Bucks pool hall paid 1st-$60, 2nd-$30, 3rd-$10, plus trophies, a jacket, and the title to the victor. The bracket was a 128-man bracket and payouts were four times that the advertised amount after Link added more money due to the awesome turnout. Player desires, motivations, and expectations were entirely different than today.

     Inside Foosball video productions and Fooscaster Jim Stevens began covering the sport in 1993 (  The following 1997 Inside Foos promotional internet post offers a list of events that were professionally recorded, commentated, and sold to foosers worldwide.
 Produced using a 4-6 camera set-up and featuring the rapid -fire play by
play of 'The World's Only Fooscaster' Jim Stevens along with expert
commentary by Tom Yore, Mike Archer, Evan Stachelek and other of the
game's top stars...

1993 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS-DALLAS, TX    (Tommy wins two)
1994 U.S. OPEN-MINNEAPOLIS, MN  (Dube & Srock underdog champs)
1994 MASTERS-ATLANTA, GA   (Mares is Masterful)
1994 NATIONALS-ST. LOUIS, MO   (Yore & Pruitt do it)
1994 WORLDS-DALLAS   (Colorado sweep--Head unbeatable)
1995 HALL OF FAME CLASSIC-HOUSTON, TX   (Swan, Terry & Todd)
1995 U.S. OPEN-CLEVELAND, OH(Horton/Beine vs. Murray/Adkisson)
1995 MASTERS-ATLANTA   (Loffredo finally Masters it)
1995 NATIONALS-SAN FRANCISCO(Swan vs. Loff. Singles classic)
1995 WORLDS-DALLAS   (Todd & Scotty again--Gummeson takes Singles)
1996 U.S. OPEN- MINNEAPOLIS   (Todd vs. Terry)
1996 MASTERS-ATLANTA(Cartwright & Moore's defensive struggle)
1996 NATIONALS-NEW ORLEANS, LA(Terry vs. Jeep classic match)
1996 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS-DALLAS(King Louis-Mares &Adkis.)
1997 HALL OF FAME CLASSIC-OAKLAND, CA(Moore  and more Moore) 1997 U.S.
OPEN-ST. LOUIS,MO(Yore vsGummeson-Tommy & Rob). 1997 MASTERS-ATLANTA
(Moore triples--Swan's Masterpiece)

            STATE AND REGIONAL EVENTS ($20 each)
1994,'95,'96 Oklahoma State--1996 North Carolina State--1995,'96 Texas
State--1995,'96 Minnesota State--1995 East Coast Open--1995 Louisiana
State--1995,'96 Halloween Open--1996 New York Cup--1995 Mississippi
State--1997 California State--1995 Colorado State  ___________________________________________________________
 This amazing coverage from Inside Foos represents just a small fraction of the regional, state, and major events that occurred on an annual basis during the era. Many of the promoters retired from the game or watched their demand dwindle as their route went out of business. One regional promoter of the time, Mary Moore, began Independent Foosball Promotions during this decade ( IFP now organizes and runs the majority of the regional and national tour events in the United States. IFP was not involved in with the USTSA and even backed the Warrior table for one year of the tour.
     The regional and major tour of 1995 may have been much larger in scope of attendance compared to the tour of today. While this is a disturbing example of foosball shrinking in the United States, what is even truly alarming is the drop off of local foosball tournaments and recreational play. People gathered on a nightly basis at hundreds of various foosball table locations. A majority of players gathered for fun while others chose to raise the intensity by competing in local tournaments. There was no such thing really as a "beginner". Play began at the recreational level. Some players would never transfer over to tournament play, happy to keep the intensity level down and stay at the recreational level play. There were plenty of skilled and savvy players that were by no means beginners after decades of play but had no prayer of competing against serious tour rookies. At the recreational level of play the only thing to play for was to "hold the table". Loser usually pays in recreational play and quarters would pile up with players waiting to challenge the king of the hill. This is where "beginners" learned to play the game, facing a variety of shots, game styles, and players back to back with little pressure and more fun. This is scenario is a rarity in this day and age.

     Today, challenge play happens only before or after tournaments. This lack of recreational play often leaves the tables to sit empty during the week. This is does not look good to the location owners. In 1995, the busiest location in the world hosted 12-15 tables that operated to capacity every night. It was not uncommon for a couple hundred people to file through and play a few games even on a weeknight. 98% or more of foosball was played by recreational players of varying skill levels that had no desire to enter competitive tournaments. Retired tournament players, old school players of the 70's & 80's, and new players created a demand for the product and fueled the business of foosball. Some of the top locations made respectable 6 figure incomes fifty cents at a time. Tournament promoters added another competitive element to the game that was secondary to recreational play in the scope of financial gain. Tens of thousands of national recreational players fueled the demand for the game that allowed higher levels of competition. Tournament foosball then had a wide player base and a solid "grass roots" culture in place to draw in new players from the recreational side of the game.  Business practices, tournament formats, styles of play, and entire player bases disappeared over the course of a decade due to numerous internal factors and environmental variables.

    Tournaments rules and formats varied across the country. Tournament directors learned from each other through word of mouth, traveling players, and traveling to larger events that were host to promoter meetings. This was a time before the internet and social media. Formats like Hawaii 5-0, Goalie's Delight and Pick Your Partner DYPs that were once common tournament variants across the nation were lost. Most foosers of today have not heard of these formats nor did the new directors and promoters of today have the opportunity to learn from the veteran tournament directors. 

     I began running tournaments 6 months or so after I started playing tournaments in 1995. I filled in for the local employees of the regional promoter. That's right, there was a promoter with MULTIPLE employees on the payroll, with two in Tulsa. Link Pendley owned Southwest Tornado and a pool hall in Moore named Star Bucks. This was well before the coffee chain had began the global surge. The largest promoter in the world had 100+ tables on location with 20+ weekly tournaments in 4 states. This provided a fertile ground for foosball player growth and competition. Southwest Tornado became the most successful foosball vending business in the world.  Link became the national tournament director. In 1997 or so Link closed his pool room and took a high level postion working for Tornado. After many changes of corporate ownership, Link is still director of International Sales at Tornado. The loss of grass roots foosball routes like Southwest Tornado has affected the level of foosball promotions, business opportunities, as well as the level of play.

     Link made sure to have a flyer area at each location with the tournament calendar, flyers, and other foosball information. A small newsletter with results, the Rookie of the Month, other foosball news kept people informed. This great Oklahoma promoter was the person I graciously borrowed the sign off of "FOOS ON" from for my past and current promotions. Link's national exposure allowed him to gather new ideas and his massive player base offered the testing grounds. Locally, Link employed Scott Nobles as tournament director and promoter for the Tulsa Billiard Palace. Scott was not only a Pro-Master at the game but managed to run a 25 team tournament at the same time he played. For two years Scott and another local Pro Master, Trad Powell, won 95% of all the tournaments in Tulsa. I saw my first true example of a successful player/promoter. Modern foosball promoters do not need to re-invent the wheel to be successful but they must attempt the uphill battle to grow in a era that offers little grass roots support. Now in the United States, recreational play has dried up and foosball is no longer part of the entertainment culture.

     Promotions, tournament variants, and business practices of past foosball promoters are applicable today. There are numerous foosball promoters and business people putting up hard earned capital to fight the good fight of trying to rebuild this sport. After a few years of being an assistant tournament director, I became a full time Tulsa Foosball promoter April of 2000. I purchased my first foosball location, which happened to be the 12 table location I mentioned earlier that had at one time at been the busiest in the world.The frequency of play was down for numerous reasons and an opportunity was presented for me to buy the location. I had been a Licensed Real Estate Agent for 7 years and the General Manager of a real estate business for two years. I had been successful but burned out. I got a loan, quit my job, took the pay cut, and began to do what I loved for a living: playing, promoting and talking about foosball. I was fortunate that I already had received training as an assistant tournament director and had exposure to a quality program. 

    I worked hard personally running most of the tournaments (as many as 5 tournaments per week), buying new equipment, and improving playing conditions. I brought back a free entry rookie tournament format, an investment that paid great dividends in way of future players. My Tulsa location surged back to the top becoming best in the nation (per Link Pendley at that time). I bought out a retiring OKC promotions company, gaining tables allowing me to gather more locations.  A few years later I expanded across state lines by buying out 50% of Dallas based Mercury Games from Mike Archer. I had a great partner and incredible operator in Steve Marshall.

    I was involved in some part of 40+ tables, in 2 states across up to 6 cities. I ran six regional tournaments every year and assisted in running events for other promoters. Tournaments of the 90's routinely paid more than the amounts suggested on the flyer. This was a tradition I continued and planned for. Players would cheer as revised and raised payouts were announced. One annual tournament I ran every year consistently doubled in payout, The Rookie/Semi-Pro Regional. This annual tournament would routinely double in advertised payout from $5,000 to $10,000.  The results and some details from these past tournaments are still on my old business website, .

     While foosball action was heating up in Tulsa at the beginning of the century, this was not the case nationally. Foosball was losing touch with the younger generation, demand was plummeting, and vendors were leaving the business . Arcades, game rooms, and pool halls began to go out of business as home entertainment began to surge. Xbox, Playstations, DVD players, and personal computers were what the kids wanted now. Foosball demand and identity was disappearing at an alarming rate from youth entertainment radar.

     Table quality fell of in 1997 when Valley-Dynamo Inc. bought Tornado Foosball. The factory was moved to Michigan and skilled veteran builders from the Texas factory were lost. Corporate cost cutting, price increases, and quality issues affect route owners and players alike. This all came at a bad time as demand for the product was already beginning to falter. Now the impeccably reliable brand was not only in less demand for play on commercial vending routes, but also required more maintenance and parts were retailing at a higher cost.  By the time I began to promote full time in 2000, a majority of the local vending companies no longer offered foosball.This left me the opportunity to vend only foosball with little competition.

     Gas prices were increasing with trouble in the Gulf. The existing tournament player base that fed the tour was affected by this. Gas increased to 50% or more around 2000 then skyrocketed after September 11th. The effects were traveling foosball players were able to afford less events and had to stay closer to home. The large tour events depended on traveling players and turnouts quickly dropped off. The 5 Tornado-run majors shrank to 3 events then 2 before they removed themselves entirely from the foosball promotions business and instead backing the promoting efforts of Independent Foosball Promotions. 

    Changes in the youth culture and a relatively sudden increase in travel cost were not the only blows foosball.  I wrote an article that was published in the foosball magazine Foosball Quarterly warning of a change in the landscape of adult entertainment. The rise of casino gambling and the later surge of Texas Hold'em popularity raked players from foosball. The lure of riches not only gave foosers a new vice to battle, gambling, but also removed the disposable travel income. Foosball players stopped playing as they began to invest in poker bankrolls to chase large payouts. The change in national gambling laws and rise of casinos were not the only culprit of this gambling intrusion into entertainment markets. The internet brought online poker and gave access to game to everyone, 24 hours a day from the privacy of a home computer. Huge poker tournament payouts that reached the millions made foosball seem like a waste of time for the money to some players. There was one more source of entertainment for foosball to compete with. Coupling this surge with the rising gas cost was brutal to the touring player demographic. This was not the only variable crippling the game. Locations were closing for another reason, changes in smoking laws.
      California was the first to begin smoking bans. One newspaper article of the day reported that 75% of the bars, night clubs, pool rooms, and cigar clubs closed with in a year. Regardless on one's stance on the health of smoking, this was a big change for the existing entertainment industry. Casinos were either on sovereign tribal lands sheltered from smoking bans or just exempt from such measures. Most people did not just quit smoking overnight, they just began to relax at entertainment establishments that found a way around the law, frequented casinos, or just stayed home. Society has since adapt to changes in public health laws but the business landscape is forever changed and the  number of possible foosball locations drastically decreased.

     The changes in the domestic entertainment scene are not the only issues for foosball in 2012 Technology has progressed and people are spending more time playing games on tablets and smart phones. It is hard for a $1500 foosball table to compete with a 99 cent copy of Angry Birds.

   The United States International Team is now hindered in ITSF international play because Tornado withdrew from the ITSF as an official table. This move left team USA without the choice of Tornado in multi-table tournament tournaments like the World Cup ( The team was forced to chose the Fireball table. Since Fireball tables do not have many commercial location in the U.S and are more common global this gave opponents a more even playing field against the U.S. team that dominated on Tornado. This caused the usually dominant U.S. team to take home the bronze.

     There are positive changes in the game. Tornado has returned to former ownership. Though the company is no longer directly involved in promotions, they are making a quality table. The retail cost has increased but at least the large purchase price is no longer a gamble on table quality. Tornado is doing what it does best, building great foosball tables. This is important for table sales and promoters investing in commercial equipment. Along with the IFP tour, there are still many independent promoters investing in tables and furthering the game with regional events (

     Internationally, foosball is gaining in popularity. Europe has growing markets for multiple table manufacturers that are non existent in the U.S. The International Table Soccer Federation (ITSF) has attempted to bring the nations together in a multiple table team competition.  Italy has a Foosball auditorium built by the government. Germany has the P4P (Players for Players) association with a championship that draws nearly 900 competitors. Globally the high level of soccer popularity has benefited table soccer, something that is not the case in the United States. Further east, Fireball tables are in production in China. The Fireball is similar in play style to Tornado but are more forgiving technically. This forgiveness is especially true in catching the ball which is the usual disparity between good and great players.   Fireball is quickly making a global mark. Fireball is establishing sales, locations and tournaments in Europe and across Asia/Pacific, building a well made table that is cheaper alternative to Tornado for both commercial and home play. New manufactures are still starting up and markets of opportunities exist.  I have been consulting for a table entrepreneur in Thailand which is currently putting together the first alpha units. This international growth helps keep the game alive even as popularity skips along the bottom of the charts domestically.
      Foosball is still a great game! Yes, there is a big learning curve but that makes success sweeter. The game is fast paced and all participants (up to four players) are continuously and actively involved. This is vastly different than other bar rooms games. Darts and pool force players to take turns and wait for the action of the active player. Foosball is all action from the first drop to the final point. As one of my local players liked to say, "the most fun you can have playing a game while standing in the same place".

     So now you are one of the brave few that still love this game and still reading this long blog post, Hurray!! Some of you reading this are giving of your time by running a tournament or buying a few tables. Awesome!  I want to take my 17 years of foosball experience and share this with current local promoters. Tournament formats, table location negotiations, player sociology are all important factors to success but there is no FAQ, assistance, or local tournament guidelines.  Consistency and professionalism are more crucial to success than the passion to play and run tournaments. Most foosball investors have limited investment income to work with, do not know the pitfalls of the business, and are only listening to the desires of the remaining players instead of building a player base and establish a program of conducive to growth.

   I retired from active promotions Dec 2009 to return to school and start a family. Now I am assisting the local Tulsa foosball promoter, Jeff Cook. The first location closed, the second location burned down, and we are gearing up for another reboot starting this Saturday (Tulsa Foosball Facebook). So  I am not just writing this blog to teach but to share and learn. I want to teach new promoters and bring in successful ideas from current promoters and foosball tournament directors! We need to work together, share experiences, pitfalls, and cross promote the game regionally for the benefit of all. If a new idea works in California maybe it will work in Florida. Ideas could work together and pay dividends for all! We must all think at of the box and not be quick to discount new ideas or avenues of promotion.

   I did not expect this post to become such a monster. The next post will be less historical and more informative in nature. I will narrow the subject matter down right now to discipline myself. The next topic will be how to run a successful local Draw Your Partner tournament format.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Super Saturday is back on!! New Date and Location. August 25th.

     The tables survived the fire at Southern Hills Sports Bar. They were smoke damaged but will be professionally cleaned by a fire and smoke restoration company. Local Tournaments will resume on August 18th. Super Saturday will be the following Saturday August 25th. 
     Amateur and Beginner rank players are eligible for a drawing for 1 of 4 package deals to the $100,000 World Championships of Professional Foosball. Each Amateur and Beginner will receive one Entry for entering each of the Super Saturday Expert events. Play both and double your chance for a free Package Deal good for free entries to the Worlds!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Tulsa Foosball suffers fiery set back.

     Tulsa Foosball was just making a comeback. The new host location Southern Hills Sports Bar was starting to pick up steam with the players. The tournament last Saturday drew around thirty people with 16 players filling the 8 team bracket. I had been assisting the table owner, Jeff Cook, with promotions. We had a Super Saturday tournament ready to rock August 18th. Word of the tournament quickly went viral among foosers across the nation. Mary Moore and IFP promotions added 4 packages deals to the $100,000 World Championship to all Amateurs and Beginners entering the Expert events. This bonus was valued at up to a $1,000 (Beginner Package is $150 and Amateur Package is $250).   

     All of tournaments are cancelled as of now. The two Tornado Coin Operated tables are most likely a loss from the smoke and heat. Insurance reimbursement is not assured. Right now the only remaining table is at Sharky's on Brookside.  Here is the official notice that was sent to the email list and circulated on Facebook. 

     I posted the to the Tulsa Foosball Facebook page later that Tuesday "The shopping center that Southern Hills Sports Bar is located in burned last night. The Bar was the only one not touched affected by the flames but the smoke and heat was extreme. Jeff attempted to enter the bar today and could not get 3 steps in the door because of the fumes. Right now tournaments are on hold. We will know more about the condition of the tables and bar tomorrow. We do have back up locations on hand. We will regroup. Jeff was already planning on buying three new tables in the very near future. This is a bad break no doubt but we will rally back, regroup, and FOOS ON!!!" 

    Currently, the building is restricted by the Tulsa Fire Marshall.  The condition of the two Tornado Coin Operated table has yet to decided. Right now Tulsa Foosers need to keep Jeff Cook and Tulsa foosball in their prayers. This is a tough blow to take so early after taking over Tulsa tournaments. We will know more in the next few days. Stayed tuned to Tulsa Foosball on Facebook for the latest details.

Professional Foosball tables in the United States.

    In terms of professional foosball tables and tournaments, Tornado has dominated the United States for better part of 25 years. Also known as table soccer, foosball is not often tied with Soccer promotions in the United Sates. Many foosball tables have attempted to enter the domestic tournament scene since the golden days of the 70's and early 80's, most have disappeared. Tornado became the dominant coin operated table found in game rooms, arcades, bars, pool rooms, college campuses, and bowling alleys across the nation. Tornado is not the exclusive foosball table currently part of tournament foosball in the United States. Tornado will be covered more in depth in future articles. This article will touch on Bonzini and Fireball tables currently promoting foosball in the United States. Then look at the return of Warrior Table Soccer which has recently announced a return to the domestic foosball market.
         Bonzini is manufactured in France and commonly found across Europe. Bonzini USA ( was formed in 1998 and maintained a loyal niche of players on the east coast. The 38th annual North Carolina Foosball Championships to be held October 5-7th, 2012 is the "The Nation’s Oldest and Longest Running State Foosball Event". The style of play is radically different due to the composition and build of the Bonzini table. The surface is sticky, the foot of the player figure is smaller, and the ball does not roll perfectly true  for a tic-tac style of play explaining why pin shots are more prevalent. The rods are telescopic and appear flush on the outside. The quality of the table is great regardless of any bias on the play style. The Bonzini is the highest priced production table available in the states though some Tornado Distributors are nearing this cost with extreme table markups beyond suggested retail cost. The Bonzini comes in a number of models in both coin operated and home model formats. A Handicap accessible is also a model option, a fact that warms this disabled fooser's heart. (

     The Bonzini has been commonly found in Europe for decades but never found roots domestically outside of the central east coast region. Bonzini USA President Alan Cribbs has been promoting for decades and importing the table from France for fourteen years. This track record speaks for itself in terms of success. Bonzini USA does host a small number of domestic tournaments and events. Many of these are to raise money for benevolent causes. Bonzini is well represented on the international tournament circuit and through participation in the International Table Soccer Federation multi-table events. 

     Fireball ( is a table manufactured in China. engineered by Dennis Jiang, and has quickly gained international exposure. Fireball play is similar to the Tornado style of play so much that Tornado players will adjust in a couple hours of play. The Fireball table is more forgiving to the beginning player while still offering the ability to host top caliber play. Fireball hired the insanely talented, world champion Tony Spredeman as the official Fireball spokesperson. Tony travels to events globally and is one of the most dominant players of this century.

     Fireball also offers multiple models including both home model and coin operated tables.  Fireball USA is operated out of Washington State and President Brad Laurine has ran many Fireball promotions on the West Coast. Laurine made it a point to take Fireball on the road. Fireball USA quickly coordinated with many different promoters for a nationwide series of tournaments. Fireball USA created numerous new events and became the official tournament of the well established Bart O'hearn Memorial Foosball Tournament held yearly in Austin. The results of this exposure was pockets of Fireball tables across the country. Laurine went back on the road last year focusing on grass roots research and laying the ground work for another series of table soccer events including the $15,000 U.S. Open to be held in Albany New York later this year (

     I attended the $4,000 Fireball Fort Worth Open. This is where I met Laurine for the first time and had my first chance to play on the Fireball table. Not only did the table play great, Laurine was in constant contact with Fireball Headquarters in China shooting back player feedback.  Though it appeared Fireball was beta testing the table this was not the case. A newer version that was soon to swing into full production was already on hand. It was evident Fireball was committed to staying in touch at the ground level of play to continuously improve the product. I finished 5th in Open Singles.

     Both Bonzini USA and Fireball USA are domestic cogs in their respective international wheels of table soccer. Both tables are members of the International Table Soccer Federation (  Tornado was an official ITSF table until the manufacturer decided to pull out of the organization last year. Now the Tornado is not even a "recognized table" by the ITSF. Players from the U.S. still travel for international play but no longer have the choice of playing on the Tornado table. Instead Team USA is forced to dub the Chinese built Fireball table as the home table.This choice is due to Fireball having the closest in play style to the Tornado. This has caused a disadvantage for the United States in international team play. One member of the squad and a Tornado World Champion told me the loss of the Tornado table was "the reason" the US finished with a bronze at the 2012 ITSF World Cup.

     Tornado may not be the only table based out of the United States for long. Warrior Table Soccer has announced a return to foosball. Warrior Table Soccer is based out of California though the table manufacturing will be outsourced to China. Warrior Table Soccer is a subsidiary of the successful Warrior Custom Golf Clubs owned by Brendan Flaherty. The table first debuted nationally at the late 2003 $200,000 Warrior Indoor Outdoor Sports Extravaganza held at the Rio Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. This was and still is the largest single payout at a domestic foosball tournament. Warrior even had a professional film crew on hand to document the event ( ).

     I was in attendance at the $200K Warrior Tournament. The payout may have been record setting and deep but the turnout was not. Mostly due to the fact that the players were not yet willing to part with the Tornado. I spoke with the table lead as the event neared due to speculation the table would not make it from China in time for the event. Ken Oda was excited about the playability of the table and quick to put to rest any major concerns I had. I knew my primary shot, the rollover, was viable. The rollover was also the primary shot of Oda's. I went to the Warrior tournament with zero expectations of the untested tournament table. The table was not perfect but was a solid start. The surface ripped, the clear sealed wood handles were slick forcing the use of wrap, the balance of the man was not perfect, and the balls often hung up in the corrugated pvc tubing used for ball returns. The Warrior table did play consistently from table to table and absorbed jars well despite the light weight aimed at reducing shipping costs.The best I managed to finish for the weekend was 7th in Expert Singles. Flaherty and staff threw an excellent tournament.

   Warrior backed away from nationwide promotions until 2008 when it became the official table of Independent Foosball Promotions (  A improved version of the Warrior Table was introduced. Warrior and IFP joined to run a number of regional and major events. Debuting at the2008 Kentucky State Foosball champions as covered by Inside Foos ( Warrior made strides into Texas, the home state of Tornado Foosball, with the purchase of the the Runaway Bay Country Club just north west of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metro Area.  Players accrued points over the course of the tour that year for prize packages and sponsorship to a tournament event in Hawaii ( IFP and Warrior dissolved their relationship. Independent Foosball Promotions reestablished ties to the Tornado table and the Warrior Table faded into the background. Warrior did not fully step out of foosball promotions. Runaway Bay hosted numerous tournaments on Tornado tables. Warrior also sponsored many benefit events and donated to other tournaments in a philanthropic fashion. Warrior is continuing this philanthropy by sponsoring the Junior National USA team to compete overseas in ITSF events.

     Earlier this month Flaherty announced on The Foosball Board ( that Warrior Table Soccer's Director of operations and Pro Master ranked player Fernado Rosa had completed the latest incarnation of the Warrior foosball table. Photos and official release notes are still forthcoming but Rosa did open the topic up for player questions. The table will be home model only despite years of whispers of a warrior coin op.

     Flaherty has competed on the professional tour since the the 70's and has been upfront about having strong opinions on progressive changes in tables soccer rules over the decades. Number one on the changes is the advent of the rollover shot. Flaherty reluctantly announced that  the shot would be legal on the Warrior table in most divisions of play. The the exception to this would be of the top level of Warrior Table soccer Events. Flaherty has been openly biased towards the immensely popular shot (For a history of the rollover check out the topic on the foosball board ). This controversial announcement will be a hot topic of conversation for some time. Warrior begins to amp up promotions in 2013 and many details have yet to be announced. The initial reaction of the rule adjustment was mixed but the overall reception of Warrior returning to the U.S. Foosball scene was very warm.

    This rule change would make Warrior the lone table where the rollover would not be universally legal across all divisions of play. Many top U.S. players shoot the shot with active players yet to weigh in. Former World Champion and Louis Cartwright was excited about the announcement despite the banning of his primary forward shot. Louis stated this could bring him out of retirement. I witnessed firsthand Cartwright gambling with Oklahoma 5 time World Chamion Tommy Adkisson in a duel of dead man pull shots. Louis hit 13 in a row losing to Tommy's 14 in a row. Louis is no chump or stranger to shooting a pull shot on the three bar.

    I was excited to read that Warrior was returning to foosball. Domestic foosball as shrunk to epic lows. The re-entrance of a well funded  and experienced entity is a good thing in my mind. Then I reread a post that Flaherty made in response to a troll that appeared on the board a few weeks before. Flaherty outlined the new rollover rules and echod his low opinion of the shot.  I edited my post to state my disagreement with the ruling and that I would not play on a tour where I could not aspire with my primary shot to the top level of play. While I have faith I could have turned pro shooting a pull shot and could do so again. I do not have faith I could take my game to the top level of play shooting a pull shot. If I were forced to abandon a shot I have been using for 18 years and that has been legal for more than 25 years.

     The progression Charcot Marie Tooth disease ( in my forearms will not allow it. I am already fighting a uphill battle attempting to stand for the required long hours of regional tournament play. Tournaments take place over 3-5 days with playtime sometimes racking up to 16+ hours a day. I wear custom made Ankle Foot Orthotics, take medication to counteract the pain and other symptoms of a degenerative nerve disease,and limit my events to maximize success. Factor in using a shot that is dependent on forearm strength and requiring a balanced stance with firm footing is not feasible. I have shot a pull playing goalie to win many Open tournaments at the regional level. In my prime I could shot an effective long pull from the top of the wall to the long hole. As my disease as progressed I have had to reposition the origination of this shot to closer to me to allow for lost speed and stamina.

     I applaud the return of Warrior but disagree with the rejection of the rollover at the top level of play. The shot is internationally accepted, applauded by spectators, and shot by many of the remaining foosers. The inclusion of the rollover at all levels of Warrior play would insure the acceptance of the table by modern players.