How to Host a Tournament

By FireMage and Lady Salamence. Art by Bummer
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Tournament hosting may at first seem like an easy task, however, it can become a daunting enterprise once you realize exactly what is behind hosting, from the application, to signups, and beyond. While opinions differ on how difficult hosting a tournament really is, this article will hopefully help explain how to host a tournament in more simpler terms than you'd find elsewhere, and hopefully, when you finish reading the article, hosting a tournament isn't that hard and is a fun process that is very enjoyable at the end of it all.


Seeing as this is the phase where your tournament will either get approved or turned down, the application phase is probably the most important. There are numerous rules/common practices that are in place for the application to make it easy on the Tournament Directors and everyone else involved, and ignoring these only makes it less likely that your tournament will be approved and harder on everyone involved.

There is literally no reason not to get feedback on your tournament before submitting an application. Friends on IRC/forums, Tournament Directors, and other tournament hosts can all help you with your tournament by asking questions you never would have thought up yourself, finding tournament-ruining loopholes, and making sure that your tournament concept wasn't already hosted—it's common practice to make sure the previous host of a tournament you want to rehost is OK with giving up the rights to rehost before submitting for approval. The Tournament Listing thread is there for a reason, do a couple of quick searches there to see if something similar has already been hosted.

After you feel that your tournament is no longer an idea, but a concept, you need to start working on the actual application. You need to know your tournament concept inside and out; if there is a question the Tournament Directors have, they will ask it, and you will need to provide an answer. Also, when you do write the application, remember what I just said! Go to a friend, a Tournament Director, other Tournament hosters, or a Tournament Mentor and have them look at it, they can ask you questions the Tournament Directors would have had to and can only quicken the process.

Writing up the application itself is a very interesting experience, as there is no set standard for how it should be written. However, there are some necessary information you will need to include in your application, however you format it—for one, you need to explain your special rules clearly, if any exist. Take Birkal's "The Highlander Tournament", for example. If Birkal did not explain his special ruleset clearly, the Tournament Directors would have had to either ask him numerous questions about details, or possibly reject it if they so felt like it. While not necessary, a little show of what the OP of the actual signups or a round would look like is extremely helpful to visualize exactly what the actual tournament would look like.

Post Application

You log onto Smogon, and see a couple of alerts in the top corner of your screen. After filtering out the Likes and such from random places, you notice that a couple of TDs have posted in your application thread.

After looking at it, the thread is locked, with a couple quick 'approved' posts from three or so TDs. Now that the Application phase is over, you need to start getting ready for the actual posting of the Signups—just don't do it immediately, as there is a queue you can see in the Tournament Listing as soon as it gets updated with your post. First things first, you want to develop the thread, if it isn't already made. While not necessary, the artists in Smeargle's Studio have a system set up to provide art for any tournament host who wants a piece of art made especially for their tournament. However, should your tour require outside help, you may want to set that up before the time to post. An example would be a Google Doc for the information required for FireMage's 2012 Tournament tour in which he used a Google Doc to provide participants with a list of eligible sets that could be used in the helping hand round.

However, should the tournament not have gotten the approval, you should see what happened. Did it get rejected? If so, why? If it was hosted recently, then you only have to wait. Were there questions? Answer them, and remind yourself in future applications to possibly explain better. However, if it was rejected for other reasons, which the Tournament Directors don't normally do, then consider their reasoning. If you feel your tournament still has merit, then try to find a way around the rejection reasoning while staying true to the basic concept.

So, how DO you get Tournament Directors to look at your application favorably? Well, aside from what I told you earlier about a solid concept and not having loopholes in your idea, a clean application that doesn't look like it was scrawled by a drunk person helps a lot.


Before I start on the technical aspect of the signups phase, let me clear up a couple of stuff. You can choose between sign-ups and signups; don't be worried about lackluster OPs, when you accrue players your OP will look better/longer. And remember: post signups in the topic title to let people know what exactly your thread is for.

Now we can talk about the more technical side of signups. Unless your tournament functions on handpicking or a novel way of having people sign up, there are some rules in place for picking who makes it into the first round when you don't have a proper (64, 96, or 128) amount of users signed up, which will usually happen. First of all, first come first serve. This prohibits hand-picking, and while there may be complaints about timezone issues causing users to lose out, there really is no better way. However, once a certain number of users sign up, the remaining slots for the tournament, be it 64, 96, or 128, are done by random with the remaining users who signed up.

Some more simple technicalities would be something along the lines of not trying to push a tournament to the next level. If you have 110 users signed up, for example, don't sit around for a week waiting for signups to slowly trickle to 128—just go for a 96-man tournament. If you're really close to 128, or 96, or whatever, contact people on IRC who haven't signed up yet and see if they're willing to go sign up when they otherwise wouldn't. Also, if your tournament is really popular, still try to leave signups open for at least 48 hours to allow users of all timezone and Internet restrictions to have a chance to see your tournament and post the iconic 'in.'

The Normal Rounds

Now it's time time to post the Round 1 thread. You've got the player list ready, but how do you make matchups? There are a ton of different ways you can do it. You can try writing down names and pulling them out of a hat, but I don't plan to write certain usernames and have them be found lying around my house. There are some good matchup generating sites out there, and a couple in the Tournament Guidelines thread, but it's largely up to the host to decide how to randomize them. I personally use's List Generator. Please note, you will get inactive users now and then, and having subs is a very important part of most Round 1 posts. Generally, a quick 'post if you want to sub' message in the OP will get you a few subs, and it doesn't hurt.

For everyone's sake, a standard process is to bold the names of winners, letting the community know who won the match, as well as giving you an easier time when you're getting next round's matchups ready.

Your OP should be as clear and clean as possible—nobody wants to see a 'np: whatever' in the tournament OP, and it doesn't belong there. State your tournament concept, the rules, matchups, and deadline, and if you're in an advanced round and had to do activity wins or coinflips, then (optionally) put your decisions in the OP, and if you're in the first round, put the list of substitutes in. (Please note that in higher rounds, subs are not allowed, as subs are not allowed to piggyback on a different user's win.) Also, for the peace of mind of everyone, pick a deadline, put it in the OP, and make it reasonable. Unless your gimmick is short deadlines, nobody wants to be forced to build a team and battle someone in a week or less. A 1.5 or 2 week deadline is a good deadline.

While you may be the tournament hoster, it's good sport to not get involved in the petty fights going on in your thread. You should only be posting to answer questions, remind users of deadlines or sub them out if necessary, or when you make a tournament-changing decision everyone needs to know and may not see a bold EDIT in your OP.


As this is the final phase of your tournament, it helps to make it stand out a little bit. A standard thread won't do, as it'll look just as big as your puny original sign-ups post, without the participants. Bolding the finalists or adding a little paragraph or two about your battlers will make your final post all the more better.

A quick thing: if you started with 96 people, you will end with a round robin finals. Basically, each of the 3 people in the final must battle each other. Should all people go 1-1, they must play again. When one person wins against both of the other finalists, he or she is the winner.

Decision Making

As any experienced tournament host will tell you, while you may think that there are no loopholes anywhere in your tournament, you will eventually have to make a decision that can make or break a user's trip to the finals, or remove a user from the tournament, or worse. These things need to be handled very carefully and on a case-to-case basis. I'm going to try to list some standard decisions you need to make, and explain what is a generally accepted decision to those incidents.

While you may be the tournament host, it is generally considered good practice to contact a Tournament Director through IRC or PM to see what the official stance on the situation is, but generally you're able to make your own decisions.

Rule breaking: Let's say you're hosting the Terrorist Cup tournament—all Pokémon must know Explosion or Selfdestruct. However, you find that a user did not put Explosion or Selfdestruct on a Pokémon, or was using a Pokémon that is unable to learn either move. Firstly, you have to decide if it was a mistake or not. If it was not a mistake, then disqualifying the cheater is probably the best option. However, if it was an error, then decide based on how far in the match was. It isn't hard to replay a couple rounds without hitting hax, but replaying 40 or so rounds is near impossible.

Every tournament will have a couple matches that just never get finished, due to timezone issues, laziness, or people signing up and never coming back to Smogon. Activity wins will be needed to decide who goes on. Checking some stuff such as last login time, VM conversations, and activity posts will help you make a more informed decision. There are three types of activity decisions:

  1. Coinflip - use this when both are equally (in)active
  2. Host Choice (Activity Win) - use this when one is more active than the other, by host's discretion.
  3. Extension - use this when they have already planned a time to play past the deadline, are extremely close to finding a time to play, or you don't feel it's right to put one in over the other since they're both trying hard to get the match played. Please note that users may sometimes complain to what they think is an unfair host decision regarding activity—therefore, posting reasoning or a basic "user X won from coinflip" will hopefully quell any arguments.


While this may have been a large article, it explains, in a simple matter, how to host a basic tournament. If you still have questions, feel free to ask the writers of this article. Or, go check the Tournaments part of the Mentor Listing or #mentor on SynIRC. Tournaments are very fun to host, and there can never be enough tournament hosters out there.

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