Switching Up Your Blind Draw Cornhole Tournament with “Switcholio”

Note: If you’re sold on Switcholio, you can skip to the “how to” below.

A year and a half ago, I founded a cornhole club called Silicon Valley Cornhole. Like most cornhole clubs, our main activity has always been a weekly “blind draw” cornhole tournament in which participants are randomly assigned a partner for the evening. At first I ran my tournament as a double elimination bracket scribbled on a whiteboard, but when I discovered Scoreholio I started running my weekly as a round robin with a single elimination playoff.

The Problem with Blind Draws

No matter what format you run, if you assign partners totally at random you frequently end up with some stacked teams and some weak teams, which doesn’t make for a fun event. Before Scoreholio I addressed this problem by classifying my players as As and Bs with playing cards — A’s got hearts cards, B’s got clubs, then “find your match!” Scoreholio improves on that by letting you classify players as A’s, B’s and even C’s as part of the checkin process for blind draw events, then randomizing them.

Such A/B or A/B/C classification can add some much-needed parity to your event, but causes three new problems:

  1. Frustrates your best players by ensuring they always have to play with a newbie.
  2. Makes new players feel embarrassed and guilty for holding back a very good bagger. (And that’s if they’re not so intimidated by the prospect of playing with a great bagger that they decide not to play in the first place!)
  3. Causes drama because some people get offended that the organizer made them a B, while others don’t think it’s fair that were classified as an A because they aren’t that good and they don’t want to get “stuck” with a lesser partner.

I wanted to make sure my best players continued to enjoy themselves, while making sure new players felt comfortable signing up to throw bags with us. In discussing this two-sided coin of a problem with fellow club runners, I had the idea of assigning people a new partner for every game of the round robin.

What is Switcholio, who loves it and why?

Simply put, Switcholio is a blind draw round robin in which players get a new partner for every game, and get ranked on an individual basis. The organizer can use that leaderboard to recognize and reward top finishers, or seed them into a single elimination playoff.

  • Top players love Switcholio first because they aren’t always paired with a newbie for every game every week. Second, because over the course of an evening they should be able to do better than an average player, earning themselves a higher spot on the leaderboard. If the organizer ranks the leaderboard by total points, without factoring for win/loss record, which is recommended, top players always the opportunity to earn valuable points even if their partner can’t hit the board.
  • New players love Switcholio first because it’s less intimidating than a regular blind draw. I used to have potential players say “maybe next time” all the time, usually because they were self-conscious and didn’t want to feel the guilt and shame of holding a good player back all night.
  • Tournament organizers love Switcholio because they never need to worry about making sure they have an even number of players for randomization, or designating a “walker” that plays by themself if they don’t.  Organizers also love the fact that they can add players late, or let players take a break for a little while, and either way Scoreholio will automatically “catch them up.” Finally, if people bail early for whatever reason they’re not leaving a partner in the lurch.

Running a Switcholio Tournament

Switcholio sounds a little crazy, I get that, and that might make you nervous about running it the first time. But Scoreholio automates the whole thing, so there’s really not much to it. I’ll walk you through everything you need to know. To run Switcholio, create a new tournament with format set to Round Robin and Team Generation set to Switcholio.

  • I suggest setting Scoring Format to Total Points because I’ve found the leaderboard is much easier to understand if you base ranking solely on points scored, instead of by record with points as the first tiebreaker. Doing so also gives your top players the happy feeling of knowing they can do well even with partners that will cost them games.
  • # of courts: This depends how many players you expect, and you may end up changing it. Switcholio is all about randomization, and you want enough players in the coming up queue, waiting to play, that the system isn’t limited in who it can pair up. Generally speaking you want to have 8 or more players in the queue. If you don’t, remove a court. (If you want to know more, or learn why, here you go.)
  • # of rounds: I strongly suggest you run 4 rounds, no more no less, because that way no matter how many players you have, everybody will get the same number of games. In fact, if you add somebody late, the system will catch them up and everybody including them will still get those same 4 games. Don’t ask me how it works, but it does. If you’re worried about how long that will take, keep games short by making them 15 point games, or capping time at 10 minutes.
  • For Max Score, I myself like to choose the 25 point option. Many purists cringe at letting points run past 21, but I like it for two reasons: First, it prevents you from having everybody who went undefeated tied at 84 points. Differential is always a tiebreaker behind the scenes, but I like seeing that little bit of differentiation among the top several players. Second, it gives top players the ability to earn some extra points in a winning game to offset a low score they got with an inexperienced partner. Yes, people might sometimes intentionally stall their scoring at 20 hoping for a big final frame, but with just 4 extra points available I haven’t seen that become a problem.

Entering Players

When you check players in to a Switcholio event, or add them via the Players tab of the admin interface, they will automatically be to a “team” that consists only of them. That’s just the way it works. You can rename their team, and that’s what will appear in the dashboard and rankings.

Adding Late Players

Once of the nice things about Switcholio is that you can add players late, and the system will automatically “catch them up.” If you’re playing four games like I suggest they will get their four games in just like everybody else. If they’re too far behind, however, they will tend to hold things up toward the end, and they’ll be queued up back to back to back with no breaks. I like to let late-comers join the tournament as long as at least ONE player who started on time has only played a single game. As soon as everybody who was in the event from the start is at least playing their second game, I don’t allow new players.

Letting Players Leave

Another advantage of Switcholio is that if somebody has to bail, they’re not leaving a partner (and you) in a lurch. Note that somebody leaving mid-tournament CAN cause an uneven number of games at the end, but there are easy ways to resolve that. More on that in a bit.

Swapping Scores

Sometimes players will not pay attention and submit the score of a game backwards. To fix this, go into the “Log” tab, select the game with the incorrect score and click the orange “Swap Score” button.

Evening Out Games

If one player, or a few players, end up short a game because somebody bailed or you ran anything other than four games, it’s fairly easy to fix. Basically you’ll have them play a game outside of the system and add those points to their total. If you one player is short a game, have them play a singles game against somebody in the middle of the pack, and give them however many points they score. Two players, give them each a partner and have them play against each other. You get the idea.

Playoffs

Some organizers just consider the leaderboard their ranking for the tournament, paying out the top few places based on their point totals. You can, however, tack a playoff on to a Switcholio round robin. If you decide to do that, you need to set three things:

  • Single or Double Elimination: Just run single, seriously. Nobody needs or wants to play double elimination after already playing in a round robin.
  • Seeding Method: This actually means pairing method, meaning how the selected players are paired off for the playoffs. I absolutely positively recommend “Top with first of the lower half (1 matched with 9)” every time. With this system the #1 seed is paired with the top player of the second half of selected players. For example an 8 team playoff pulling 16 people, 1 is paired with 9, then 2 is paired with 10, 3 with 11 and so on through the 8 seed who gets paired with 16. The other option pairs “first with worst” and works its way in from there. It’s a system I think is fundamentally flawed and I dont recommend it.
  • Bracket Size: Currently you can only run brackets of 4, 8 or 16 teams, that being 8, 16 or 32 people. I usually recommend that you send approximately half of all players into the playoffs.