Skill Levels Skew Competitive Picture

Written by bloggermark

In case you didn’t notice, we’ve crowned a Beginner’s level champion: Smorgus!

I want to take this opportunity to make a few notes about skill levels. The level in which you play (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, or Expert) bears significantly on your likelihood for survival in later rounds. For example, a player like Rokwilder faced for more risk on a more frequent basis to become Expert level champ. At the same time, Rokwilder benefitted from resurrection early in the tournament. Yet Smorgus, a beginner, made it to Round 7 and Rokwilder did not. So, who is a better player? Unless these two face each other directly, we may never truly know. What we do know is that skill level determines how challenging your games will be, and how much harder it is to survive.

I am still thinking through how to address the inequity of allowing people to compete in protected skill levels within the same tournament. Perhaps players should be permitted to pick their own opponents beginning in Round 1; there would be a natural tendency for more skilled players to prey upon less skilled players. Just like an efficient ecosystem, the better players would live longer, before they were forced to prey upon each other. (Isn’t that a horrible metaphor?) The outcome would be more reflective of who the better players are.

Alternatively, we could keep the skill levels entirely separate. However, this would require the running of multiple tournaments at once, and our automation just isn’t there yet.

If you have thoughts on this, I’d love to hear them.

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15 Responses to “Skill Levels Skew Competitive Picture”

  1. Bex says:

    Would it be of value if the creators of the game devised a system when each player completed a game, their score was recorded and other data (level, time of play, etc.) resulted in an automatic classification of skill level?

    There have been two times, out of hundreds of games, I’ve scored over 400. Once over 500! What level does that make me? I think it would be great if there were parameters in place that auto classed me based on number of games played, scores and levels.

    Not sure if this best by any means, but food for thought.

    Can’t wait to play in my first tournament! LOVE this game and this fan site!! Great job to all involved!!

  2. Jesus Ali says:

    Well there are observable metric. For skill, aren’t there? I guess they still depend on player honesty, though.

    What about Labeling Guidelines for the Skill levels?
    i.e. “Number of games you’ve ever played,” we all know that you get better the more you play and the more new words and strategies you see used.

    Or what about “average final game scores”? This could indicate your ability to use multiplier tiles and bingos. “100-200″, “200-350″, “350-475″, or “475+”.

    These guidelines could help steer people but yeah, players could still hustle…

  3. Ribeyerare says:

    I don’t know what kind of automation is used for the tournament, but would it be possible to actually play something akin to a “season” ( say a game a day or something like that) that would maybe last a month, in which time you would earn a seed for a tournament playoff?
    The playing field could be arranged into divisions and players would play each other at least once before qualifying for a tournament seed. A standings board could be set up and maybe even points or average score could be recorded and play a part in determining the seed.
    This might help adjust the curve of getting good tiles against a better opponent, or poor tiles against a weaker one.
    I don’t know if this will work, just throwing out an idea…

  4. This is the way I run My tournaments. it makes it a lot easier. Everyone is in the same class. Like someone mentioned. (NCAA Basketball) Play (8) 64 players Brackets. Then the 8 winners makes it to Final 4 then Semi Finals (Last two) = Champion

    Everyone will have a shot, rather the so called best “Expert” only plays 4 matches to be considered the best. I have played mot of the experts and most the majority. It’s all about the tiles. A beginner if given bingos could win on any given day. You get my point.

    If you any of you want to play another tournament. Go to

    I hold tournaments Bi-Monthly. Most of you already play in it. Plus I give out free prizes to the “True Champ”. It’s free just like this site!

    • bloggermark says:

      Jeremiah 29:11 – You have done a fine job of setting up your tournament site. Our approaches differ, but the goal is the same. More people engaged in exhilarating tournament play! I endorse. :-)

  5. Pum says:

    I think there should be no levels. I was in Beginner because I just started a few months ago and I was cut off in the 2nd round. Then I invited players in all above levels to play and I managed to beat 90% of them. This may be pure luck or whatever but the thing is ” Different level” means almost nothing. I agree that the super cream will win all in the end ;-D.

  6. supermags says:

    I agree with NO LEVELS…whilst the beginner may luck out on their first game they will down the line anyway. I was playing in the intermediate and found the players skill levels varied, it is a competition after all.

    • jcom10 says:

      In most competitive tournaments (e.g. “March Madness”, NBA playoffs, Tennis, etc), the matches are selected according to a seeding process. For example, if there are sixty-four players, the number one seed would be paired with number sixty -four, two with sixty-three, and so on. Now for the seeding: the winner of the previous tournament would be seeded number one, 2nd place number two, etc. Then, seed the players according to the round in which they lost. So, anyone who was taken out in the first round would have the lowest seeding, the losers of the 2nd round would have the next higher seeding. There are at least two problems with my suggested format: the number of players (512) and the newcomers who haven’t previously played a tournament game. The newcomers could be placed in “middle seeding”, so, initially, they play only themselves. But, 512 players is too high for such a format. Divide the tournament into four 128 player sections. Then, perhaps follow the above seeding ideas, with the top four players from the previous tournament getting the number one seed in each of the four sections, then the 8th round would also have four seeds (losers of that round) evenly distributed among the four tournament sections, the 7th round would provide 8 seeds, then 16, and so on. There shouldn’t be too much of a priority who gets a higher seeding from each round. But, if you wanted to, the software could be programmed to auto-count the win-loss (games, not rounds) record for each player, and seed them accordingly. Then, if there was a tie, the software could look at point differential. In the end, the winners of the four divisions would meet in the final four championship series. Just thoughts….

  7. curtisn says:

    Is there a way to keep a running average of our tournament scores and a Win-Loss total? These seem to be the only tools we have right now for evaluating a player’s skill.

  8. MickDawg says:

    I think there should be only 2 levels.

    NIT (beginners) and NCAA (everybody else)

    If you win a beginners tourney, you’re the best of the beginners, but you don’t get to play with the big boys…not even at the end of the tourney. That prevents top guys from trying to advance by taking on “easier” opponents.

    Everybody else is in a super large tourney, whether Cinderellas face off against proven top players. The cream of the crop will rise, and we have a “true” champ.

  9. pibandito says:

    i agree with sn0wflake that most players just picked the most “logical” class when they signed up, which is either beginner or intermediate. i think it’s reasonable to assume that not many players had any idea how to classify themselves. how could anyone know what skill they are without a benchmark? now that this tournament is quickly wrapping up, though, i think everyone has a better idea of what skill they actually are. that being said, i think it would be wisest to just do away with the classes and (maybe) start issuing rankings of some sort.

    also, i agree with smorgas that the contenders in the “lower” classes are certainly not pushovers or “less skilled” than the experts. most people i played in the intermediate class were exceptionally skilled (with both plays and strategy.) likewise, i don’t think having the expert champ knocked out in round six while the beginner advances is a big deal. this is a tournament, after all. much like any tournament, it wouldn’t be very interesting if only the top players made it to the finals. those who made it this far didn’t arrive through luck — it’s a best of three, not a one-and-out setup.

    i must say, though, that i don’t think allowing players to select their opponents in the early stages will work very well — it just seems as though the fun of the tournament would be lost to competitiveness.

    thanks again for such a well managed tournament. congrats to everyone in round seven!

  10. ThisIsRob says:

    Just eliminate the levels and have one massive throwdown. But if there is some way to seed the top 8 or top 16 players from the Expert division in this tournament and put them all in different brackets for the next tournament, that would be nice — just to spread them around so they don’t all end up in the same quadrant of the bracket. Maybe put the top 2 or 4 Advanced players into that “seeded” group, as well.

    The other idea just stated above, and that is also acceptable, is to simply crown a champion in each bracket and end it. No “interleauge play.”

    Regardless, the tournaments are lots of fun — great job Bloggermark!

  11. blackjag says:

    Another idea would be just to eliminate the levels altogether. That would prevent good players from hiding in the lower ranks. That would make all matches completely random. The cream will rise to the top.

  12. Smorgus says:

    I agree with the above. All I know is that half the players I played in beginner were definitely not beginner :) It’s really all on the honor system.

  13. Uniquesn0wflake says:

    I think the way to keep people from entering the wrong classification in future tournaments is to have a separate winner in each category. This way, the winners get the prestige of being outstanding in their field, but they don’t get to bypass all the tougher players to get to a final, ultimate round with the top guns. When you win the beginner class, you will want to try and get more recognition in the next tournament by entering at the next level.
    Being that this was the first tournament of this size, many people were new and didn’t know where they would fit in. Now 500 people have a better idea of what to expect. For example, I think that the top people in intermediate would like to try for the advanced category next time, if they could only be crowned intermediate champ again.
    Thanks again for the great experience, and for your dedication to keeping things fair and fun! – Damon

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