Uberflip’s 2015 Tournament Bracket – #startupong2015 retrospect

Uberflip’s #startupong2015 event was the 2nd annual tournament run at SPiN’s ping pong bar Toronto. Tournament participation clocked at 200+ players, a 64-team single elimination tournament that ran in a skinny 2.5hr window. The overall general attendance grew from last year’s 300-ish basement capacity, as the crowd spilled ceremoniously onto the 2ndFloor event space that housed another 300+ of standing room.

Hats off to Uberflip for running the event again. Exhibiting their reach and influence with big-time sponsors, attendees were offered free admission with a drink ticket in tow… clearly more than generous. Teams paid $20 for tournament entry but all proceeds – $2500-ish – were donated to Sick Kids Hospital.

Uberflip’s #startupong 2015

Over the last couple of years startup-themed tournaments have thrived with the growth of startup companies and culture. SPiN’s ping pong bar offers the perfect venue for a single elimination tournament and (unofficially) began in earnest back in November 2012. Wattpad, the original sponsor of the first startup tournament, ran a single elimination tournament bracket of 20+ single players and attracted heavyweight Toronto startups Wattpad, Freshbooks, and Kobo to name a few. Overall attendance clocked in at roughly 150 people – not bad for a private-run event.

Singles bracket from Wattpad’s startup tournament back in 2012.

The growing and ever-changing landscape of Toronto’s startup scene continues to sustain a thirst for ping-pong dominance. There is more than enough desire for more and if anything, this is but a snippet of the aggregate interest level. Last year #startupong winners GataLabs for example, couldn’t participate to defend their title; meanwhile, 2012 heavy contenders Kobo and Wattpad were nowhere to be seen… not to mention the obvious absence of tech behemoths such as Facebook, Amazon, LinkedIn and Google.

Just imagine a 128-person and team bracket that featured the best of Toronto’s startup/tech companies: One pong competition to rule them all.

For years we’ve dreamed of a full, 128-person company bracket tournament. Using some polka-roo imagination, it’s not far-fetched to envision one ridiculous, off-the-chart, mind-blowing experience. The hype would be insane: just imagine a 128-person and team bracket that featured the best of Toronto’s startup/tech companies. One pong competition to rule them all. Taking a step further, leveraging SPiN’s North American reach, this could be a multi-city affair. With SPiN’s expansion into San Francisco and Chicago in the very near future, not to mention their current presence in NYC and LA, the stakes and pieces to take this a step further may be closer than you think.

Wattpad’s startup tourney in 2012 reserved SPiN Toronto’s backroom. The tournament has since grown from one room, to the full facility last year, to two floors this year.

The challenge of course is time and logistics. 2.5hrs is barely enough time to run a 64-person bracket and even then, a single-elimination tournament isn’t enough to sustain continued interest. There has to be more.

Why not take a page from soccer’s FA / Champions League series and run a year-long tourney with a grand finale of 16 teams and players at the end of the year?

The other hurdle foiling this grand vision is player time. This is the reality of today’s workforce – we ain’t 9-5 anymore and trying to ram a strict schedule down a startup’s throat is like trying to feed a crocodile without losing a finger.

So the real question is: Why run the tournament simultaneously? Why not take a page from soccer’s FA / Champions League series and run a year-long tourney with a grand finale of 16 teams and players at the end of the year? If executed correctly, this could circumvent the time issue.

This kind of format orchestration would require  qualification rounds, general rules to be governed and ruled, a venue (at least for the finale), and a basic system to help manage results and progress. Perhaps a ranking system at the company level to help manage seeding. And most of all… someone would need to organize the monster.

Screen Shot 2015-10-16 at 11.46.30 AM

Therein lies the rub. This needs a committee or council body at best. Someone to oversee it. Someone to set rules and regulations. Someone to market the messaging and spread the word.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s take a quick poll of the floor: tweet/share/like this post and let’s see where this goes. This might be just a dream but hey, worst case, startupong 2016 will run. That’s more than just good enough for me.

But imagine – even if it is that bloody male actor changing into a costume –  it could be so much damn more.

Fall League Seasons have begun!

What a start to the Season. Who says drama doesn’t exist outside pro leagues? There is so much to say in so little time. I’ll try to summarize in 5 fat points:

  1. NYC has started off with a bang. We got – check it – 50 players that have played a match in Season 3. It’s official, the thing down in New York is catching on.
  2. I’m giving the best name and avatar between both cities to the hands down winner…. the ‘Knee of Justice’ (NYC). See what I mean?Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 11.08.28 PM
  3. And just like that the Denier Streak (from Toronto) is over. I made a BIG DEAL about his streak in a previous post. After going 60-0 in Season 4 and 72-0 in Season 5, his win streak was snapped by newcomer GeorgeBor in his 2nd match. It’s no surprise that GeorgeBor leads the division after Day1.Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 11.14.29 PM
  4. Like the beginning of S5, we had Div2 graduates begin S6 in Div1 and boy was it fun watching their progress. Ivan took no time producing the first upset of the day with a scorcher over League vet and S1 winner, Craig M. He sits in 11th tied with that guy from Northern Ireland. Just so everyone knows: Ivan barely beat me in 3 last year. Just saying.Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 11.20.39 PM
  5. We had some old crew back and THAT was nice to see. Steph by Steph. The Eye of Soren. The Thunderbolt (ponytail or short this year?). It’s also REAL nice to see Broxterman in top spot. He had it last year. I don’t think he’ll let it slip like John Elway. Right.

And finally one sad observation: It was hard not seeing Queen Talbot among active players. Have we lost her to career-ending wrist ailments? Tell me it ain’t so. Juan Del Potro you’ve got company.

Set Winning Percentage. Does it matter?

During SPiN’s Season 3 League session, questions were asked about the ‘Set Win Percentage’ (# Sets Won / # Sets Played). Here’s the ranking of the Div1 players at the time by set win %:

Rank by Set Win % Div1 Player List Set Win %
1 The Denier 93.8%
2 Vivian 79.5%
3 Danilo 76.5%
4 Roman 75.0%
5 Klaus 73.3%
6 William 71.3%
7 Craig M 71.1%

Vivian was officially ranked 8th, Roman 10th, and Klaus 9th on SPiN’s League ladder. Roman has beaten The Denier before and Vivian, Gideon and the Aussie has taken him deep into matches. What gives?

A similar story can be seen with Div2:

Rank Div2 Player List Set Win %
1 Gord 85.2%
2 Kyle Robinson 81.6%
3 John B 79.5%
4 Adam B 75.5%
5 The Thunderbolt 74.4%
6 Emily Talbot 73.4%
7 Irmina 72.7%

At the time Gord ranked 6th, The ThunderBolt 13th, and Irmina 9th.

So how is it they lag in ranking points? 

In all cases, each of these players played a handful of weeks, ‘robbing’ them of precious points in the leaderboard race:

Player Number of wks played (of 8)
Gord 4 wks (50%)
Irmina 4 wks (50%)
The Thunderbolt 4 wks (50%)
Roman 3 wks (38%)
Vivian 3 wks (38%)
Craig M 3 wks (38%)
Klaus 2 wks (25%)

(it is worth mentioning that set win % does become the tie-breaker when players have an equal number of ranking points)

So what does this all mean? 

In some leagues, the Set Win % defines a player’s ranking. In some circles this is the best way to determine a higher ranked player –  there’s no question that set win % is a serious indicator of pong power.

But our goal was never to find the best player in the city. They have pro leagues for that. This format was designed for Joes… Joes that have busy schedules, things that come up, and other activities to conquer. That’s the beauty of a ‘pay-as-you-play’ League.

Traditional leagues punish everyday Joes but this format allows them to still participate, and if played enough, can still have a shot at winning (not to mention the opportunity to fill their trash bucket to dish some serious insults, brags, and boasting techniques)

For more info on the scoring system, read a previous post, ‘The Scoring system – the format that cares‘. I assure you that you’ll feel more loved after reading it.

A salute to the League Sheriffs

I can’t tell you how lucky I’ve been to be given the opportunity to work with the people behind the League.

The original League Sheriffs, Mark Buck, Lindsey and Mike Young, and most recently, Kate Demay in NY and Emma Greig for TO, are simply amazing to work with.

It’s never easy to run a league. You have to remember names. You gotta think on your feet when things go wrong (internet? music?  ah, dude, app? 🙂 And most of all, you need to add just a little spice to keep it fun and engaging.

The smoothest run events are a reflection of the staff behind it that put the hard work, thought, and commitment to make it look easy.

I am truly thankful for the organizers of the League. Without them – app or no app – we would be no where near the level of success we are today.

Persistence pays off. Playing more pays off more.

I’ve been eying the win trend since the League began. Let’s take a look at what could have been for Ivan the Terrible in SPiN Toronto’s Season 5 (I’m coining nicknames for everyone. I’ll blame Mark Buck, MoC for TO’s SPiN League, for the inspiration.

Ivan finished the season impressively in third place for division 2. His set win % was actually a league high 80+%. It’s pretty clear he was one of the – if not THE – player to beat in Division 2. So why did he finish in 3rd?

Looking at Ivan’s match history, the truth reveals itself. He played consistently but only over the course of the second half of the season. Let’s compare Gocho’s history (who placed 2nd) versus Ivan’s (who placed third):

[each vertical collection of circles represents a player’s standings points for a given League day]

Main observation? Gotta play to win.

The goal of the league was always about building a community of players who can call a place home for Sundays. Share a few laughs and revel about what could have been. The scoring system Smashscore devised was designed to reward participation with just enough competition to make it interesting. It’s a tough balance but I think we struck it.

I had the pleasure of playing Ivan. One of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet but boy was he a slippery rat that day. All 3 of our sets was decided within 2 points. If I’m a betting man Ivan will make a strong case for top spot.

The Denier Streaks again

The Denier has been absolutely dominating Toronto’s SPiN League Div1 competition. He is single-handedly setting SPiN League records including an eye-popping match win streak that spanned two Seasons of undefeated play.

[Denier, if you’re reading this, get an image avatar up please before I hack into your account and put up a picture of SailorMoon!]

Season 5 Standings

He was a perfect 72-0 in Season 5 and went – check that –  60-0 in Season 4. That’s a combined 132-0 consecutive win streak – AND COUNTING.

As ridiculous as this may seem, it’s worth noting that this doesn’t top Denier’s single-season record of 79 wins in Season 3 (although he was up-ended twice that year). But here’s the biggest eye-scratcher of them all: the Denier currently holds a ridiculous 59 set win streak. 59. If you extend that back to Season 4, add another 4. That’s an all-time record of 63 straight sets won.

Can anyone guess who snapped Denier’s set win streak this past season?

Here’s watching Season 6 as it unfolds in the fall. If he continues winning at a pace like this, I will be forced to recruit some ringers to disrupt his flow.

Introducing the SPiN League in NYC

In Feb of 2015, we welcomed our brethren, New York City’s finest, SPiN NYC to the League. It’s where it all began. The history. The idea. The story.


We couldn’t be more happy to bring the League concept across the border and begin building the type of community we have here in Toronto. After a test season in Feb, and a successful follow-on in April, the League format has translated nicely.

At the end of the day I’m really happy to see a regular community forming in NYC. It’s what we set out to do. It’s why we did what we did: give an opportunity for people to have a good time and meet new people – by doing something familiar. No more awkward pauses and meetups. Just pick up a paddle or whatever suits your fancy, and compete in a wicked atmosphere.

One day I hope to head down to NY and when I do, I’ll be sure to meet up with the regulars. You can count on that.

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

For tennis lovers the 2014 Australian finals was a special treat watching Stanislas Wawrinka win his first grand slam. Over the course of 7 years, Stan lost 14 straight times to his nemesis Novak Djokovic and 12 straight losses to his arch-nemesis Rafa Nadal.

Road to Success

Wawrinka had a goal: he worked harder and trained harder. As a permanent reminder, he tattooed Sam Beckett’s infamous quote on his forearm:

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. 
– Samuel Beckett


Not only did he finally beat Djokovic, he beat Nadal too, winning the 2014 Australian Open Championship. And to prove it wasn’t luck, Wawrinka did it again in the recent 2015 French Open final, beating Djokovic and this time Federer on his way to winning.

Failure is a tough beast. The smell of defeat can sting for a long, long time. But as we all know, perseverance is the key to success. The flash and dash of winning abstracts the hard work and sweat behind the scenes. The long hours of practice. The long road to improvement. If Wawrinka can thwart the odds of two nemeses in a single tourney, that’s motivation enough for anyone to apply it to their own daily challenges.

The Scoring system – the format that cares.

After every weekly event, your standings results gets posted and recorded as a base point reference for how much you stand to win or lose in the following weeks. It’s designed to handsomely reward upsets and reduce the amount of points the ‘favourites’ win in later weekly events (this also prevents leaders from winning too much against lower seeds).

Here’s a quick view into how the scoring works when a LOWER seeded opponent scores an upset (the ‘unexpected’ result):

Score System - Upset

The ‘point difference’ is the standings score difference between you and your opponent. If you score the upset, the ‘winner’ column represents the points you win; the ‘loser’ column represents the points your higher seeded opponent loses.

The system is loosely based on the official USTTA and TTCAN ranking system… and as everyone knows, it’s not perfect. That said, we found it worked really well for us, especially when each season starts anew.

Here are the points exchanged when the HIGHER seeded opponent wins (the ‘expected’ result):

Score System - Expected Result

So don’t give up if you’re (way) behind. The system is designed to lend you a hand, reward those that play more (and not necessarily the best players), and put the brakes on the leaders. I’d like to call it: a system that cares.

Now if only we can make our system trigger a care bear stare after every upset win. Now there’s an epic thought… and not completely inconceivable…