Most of our mail-in events use a standard single/double elimination bracket, like those you see in basketball and other sports. It’s a tried-and-true format and always a lot of fun, but there are other tournament formats out there and some of them can be pretty entertaining as well.
This past January was the first Rookie Rally and rather than use a standard bracket, I decided to go with a round robin format. With the round robin format, every car races every other car once. It’s a nice format that avoids the “what if” questions when seeing who beat who (and who didn’t) in a normal bracket. But it can mean a lot of extra racing too.
Different but familiar
The Rookie Rally only had 8 entries so having everyone face everyone else once was very straight forward and went pretty fast. Eight people breaks down into 4 match-ups per round with 7 rounds total...or 28 races. More than usual but not overwhelming.
The round robin format is also easier to keep track of, if you ask me. I didn’t have to worry about who moved on, or a loser’s bracket, or getting confused by my own doodles. All I had to do was track the wins per car. After spending years doing standard brackets, this felt a lot less stressful.
The feedback I got from the participants and spectators was also positive. They liked that the format eliminated some of the “what if” scenarios often created by normal brackets. I think knowing that you car really was a winner (or loser) lets you sleep a little easier at night, rather than feeling like you got a bad seed draw.
Mo’ cars, mo’ problems
The round robin can be a breath of fresh air if you’re looking to spice up your racing, but be careful because it’s a slippery slope thanks to math. The round robin format is great when you only have a few entries but things can get out of hand quick.
Lets say you have 32 cars entered in your tournament. With a normal bracket, that means 5 rounds with 31 races. But in the round robin, that’s 31 rounds with 16 match-ups each round. And if abacus has all its beads, that means 496 races. We like to say, “the more racing the better,” but even that has its limits.
Now, you could certainly do a long round robin over many weeks and that could me fun. But for me, I think 10-12 entries would be the max I’d want to try and deal with. At worst, that’s 66 races over 11 rounds. That’s a lot of racing but still doable over a weekend, which I couldn’t say for 496.
Give it a try
If you’re looking for something a little different to keep your races interesting, the round robin format is certainly worth a try. You can easily generate one at PrintMyBrackets or on Challonge to get your started.
I’m certainly going to integrate more round robin races into my yearly race calendar. I might also use round robin as a fallback for when a normal bracket tournament gets only a few entries. It’s nice to expect 16+ cars for your tournament, but when you only get half that, a standard bracket might be a little underwhelming.