Tourney organizing: How to create brackets - Purely random or not?

This discussion popped up in another thread, and it was pointed out that this topic probably deserves its own thread.

I did a search and did not find an existing thread for this issue (how to create brackets at FG tourneys), so if there was a thread for this, my apologies.

The primary focus of this thread is to discuss and possibly answer the question: What is the ideal method for placing players in brackets in FG tourneys?

**Side questions are: **

Is anything other than 100% random bracketing…flawed or unfair?
How much human manipulation is too much? How much is acceptable?**

Is it actually BETTER to manipulate the brackets to ensure a somewhat even skill distribution across all the brackets?

Does the type of tourney (round robin, single elim, double elim, teams) impact the ideal bracket creation method?

The two most obvious methods are:

  1. Purely random placement, no manipulation of the random results.

  2. Humans manipulate the placement of players.

At MOST of the tourneys I have been to over the last year (more than 6 including SB4, MWC, etc…), I have seen players being hand picked for bracket placement based on skill.

For example, if you have Daigo and JWong battling through the brackets, you might not want them put in the same starting bracket for obvious reasons.

Likewise, it could be stated that if you did random selection, and you ended up with one bracket entirely composed of the highest skill players in attendance…that would also probably be regarded as bad for whole list of reasons. (And then of course the opposite is bound to occur - a bracket entirely composed of low skill players).

Now, as a tourney player (I have never run a tourney), I always regarded this as perfectly normal.

I have witnessed bracket creation at multiple tourneys and usually it goes like this:

  1. Randomly generate brackets.

  2. Move bad placements around until the overall picture is mostly random, but has the known top players as spread out as possible.

But with the discussion in that other thread, I felt this is a conversation the community could benefit from.

Please discuss this issue, I would love to hear opinions from BOTH tourney players and tourney organizers.

If you have never entered or organized a tourney before (online doesn’t count), feel free to participate, but please realize that without first hand experience, your opinion may be considered nothing more than conjecture.

I support pure random. The whole premise of a tournament is to find who is the best through competition, not to try to predict it. If you start messing around with brackets, all you’re doing is putting a favorable bias towards certain players who already won before - if they’re actually skilled, they won’t need that extra push. Let them prove their worth by taking on all challengers, right from the start - not just the hand-picked weaker competitors.

Besides, it makes things a hell of a lot simpler for the organizers.

either is a valid option, especially since the player pool sucks. if it didn’t, then it would only serve to increase some player’s (or players’) chances of winning. it all depends on the reasoning. if you want to see Justin vs Daigo as late as possible, that’s fine. If you’re manipulating the brackets to give yourself or some guy you like a better chance at winning, then that’s kinda fucked up.

i’m sure you could create a way so that even non-random brackets are totally fair for everyone

“if you want to see Justin vs Daigo as late as possible, that’s fine.”

How is this even justified reason to manipulate a bracket? I’m gonna have to reiterate a point: If people really care that much about hype matchups, start paying top people to play each other, or do what Wizards of the Coast does with Magic tournaments: take a random match and feature it to showcase notable players or players who are high up in the brackets (not really brackets as they figure in fighting game tournaments, but close equivalent). hype solution fixed for ya and no reason to shit on brackets.

Other than that, there is no reason to have unrandomized brackets. If it happens top players have to play each other? sucks to be them? If I have to play jwong, sucks to be me? If you are going to a tournament to watch the names you see on your computer screen playing each other on the big screen. Just pay for the badge, keep the attendance low which will make the tournament go faster and we’ll get to your favorite part soon enough.

Hey guys, it might help to state whether you are a tourney player, tourney organizer, or just a spectator.

As someone whos been putting fighting game brackets together for almost 10 years now I’d like to point out that player skill is the SECOND biggest problem with doing purely random bracket. The largest problem/headache BY FAR is geographic location. People will deal with having to play another high ranked player early, they’ll complain but they’ll usually deal with it (shady pot splitting deals aside), but if you make two people who drove 4 hours together to play new people play each other in the first or second round you will not hear the end of it.

On the other hand, couldn’t random in extreme hypotethical cases work against finding the most accurate top 8? I’m not to versed in the math of brackets though… Just a thought.

And as a spectator to these things, I don’t mind moving some people around to assure hype late in the tourney. I can see the point of the other side though.

i’m a new tourney player (started in 09) and gone to mostly local tourneys and some of the regional fuddruckers (not a major).

and i can tell you that from my experience it just makes more sense to try and put the more hype matches at the end of the tournament, because when they happen the crowd tends to all huddle around that match to watch the whole thing, if that was happening during the middle of the tournament it would slow things down and or people would have to miss the hype match because they were playing their own match.

oh, and on the skill distribution of things, i don’t want to think that the first time i actually place well in a tourney and make it to the later rounds was just because i got lucky and was placed into a weak sauce bracket while all the top players canabolized themselves… like honestly my good placing would then be completely meaningless because i wouldn’t have beaten any top players to get there (the whole point).

Excellent point!

That is why at signup, they ask you to list your location…to avoid people getting matched up against their friends/training partners early in the tourney.

This is a VERY VERY common practice, but some people would consider it wrong.

(Personally I have no problem with impartial tourney organizers reshuffling the bracket as they see fit, but that is just my view).

if its a local no seeding
regional maybe like 4 people max that consistently get top 3
major you can seed maybe 8 people (assuming like 128 man bracket)

usually random will give you a good show anyway. unless you’re absolutely sure on something, go with random.

ive run a few tournaments but mostly enter them.

This is something that I’ve heard before from an Alphaism podcast where Ponder discussed how is it that they went about trying to stop that from happening. Its definitely something that has happened to me before in M:TG tournaments and to an even more extreme level to a friend of mine (ended up playing almost all the people that he traveled with). But at the end of the day, business is business. You play your friend and it sucks but if you can’t accept the fact that it may happen in the tournament, then you are shooting yourself in the foot.

If you don’t think that you and your friend will meet each other, it means that you are already defeating yourself mentally and your friend. Really, when I traveled with my friends, I wanted to play them all top 8. If it happened that we played, then we just played and did our best at it. At the end of the day, none of us would sacrifice the integrity of a tournament just to make sure we didn’t play each other.

um… idk about the scene where your at, but i can’t remember the last regional here in norcal with under 128 people in it…

oh, and the region seeding makes all the sense in the world, even at locals (some people would drive like 45 to an hour to get to the local) people go there to play against new people… they don’t want to just play their training partner off the bat.

Eh, your point is right but your conclusion is wrong. If you seed the brackets, wouldn’t any random person STILL come out ahead ANYWAY? According to your logic, they should since they’re that good right? However, you can randomize a bracket so that the third best person has to play the 1st and 2nd best people and the fourth best person has to play the two people better than him. How is it fair to the third and fourth best going into games where they are SUPPOSED to lose and then tying for last place?

RE: Fairness

Personally, I’m not concerned with “fair”. Blatant cheating is the only “unfair” action that I would have a problem with.

Put me up against low skill players, fine with me.

Put me up against guys who will wreck me, fine with me, I’ll learn something for sure.

As a player, my only real concern is playing better at every tourney, then I did at the last one. This is something that I can do, regardless of how the brackets are set up.

I care about the results of tourneys. Knowing that the pairings were manipulated in any way discredits the tournament. Why people care who they are up against is a conundrum to me. I go to a tournament to win the tournament, not because I wanna play people from different areas. If that is really important to you, save up some money and do some traveling. Play a bunch of a casuals before the tournament starts.

There’s a time and a place meet other players. Before the tournament, in between matches, hitting up regions on their proper forums. Trying to turn the tournament into anything other than a tournament is a shit idea. Otherwise, we should just have gaming conventions where players can just hang out and kick it. Then we can pay top players for showing up and they can do some exhibition matches while we jerk off to their performance. They’ll be the best ice cream socials ever. Because apparently, these are people’s expectations of a tournament.

Pure Random please.

I don’t want to travel halfway across the country to fight someone I know who lives right across the street from me.

That can happen with pure random; if brackets are messed around with then it is avoided. Really now? Why do you care so much if you have to beatdown your neighbor in a tourney?

Seeding has nothing to do with “hyping up matches”, i have no idea where this came from.

Seeding is common in sports as well. People are saying seeds favour the top players, but random brackets favour the poorer players, since there’s a good chance the better players will knock each other out.

Seeding also works out better for the “poorer” players in double elimination tournaments. If the good players aren’t beating each other, that means they remain in the winners bracket instead of smoking through everyone in losers.

For those advocating random, what’s the difference to you if it’s seeded or not? If the best player wins no matter what the bracket is, then why would you care what the bracket is like, since the best player will win anyway?

I personally care because I travelled half way across the country to fight other people, maybe learn a thing or two. I mean really now, fighting your neighbor does get old.


Seeding is biased. You can argue that some organizers have good intentions, which is true, but it still opens the door for people who never win but are seeded because they are well known for other reasons.

Its too hard for your opinion not to be skewed by irrelevant factors such as having a Street Fighter related website, or running a podcast. Its already becoming a problem.