Entering Your First Paintball Tournament

So now you have a team or a few friends and want to play in a tournament.  Today I’ll give you some advice about entering and playing in your first paintball tournament.  If you don’t quite have a team yet, check out the Finding Your First Paintball Team article. I suggest gathering a few friends or players around your experience level to compete in an entry level tournament.  I would also be familiar with the basics of paintball like communication.

Competing in a paintball tournament is very fun and is quite a different experience than regular open play.  If you have a competitive personality and drive, then tournament paintball may be something you stick with for quite some time.

Find a Tournament

Knowing about the local tournaments and series is your first step in entering your first paintball event.  First look online for local or regional paintball resources and discussion boards. Often they will have upcoming tournaments and events posted.  Also look at local fields for tournaments that they may be running. One online resource could be a state-based website or local sub forums on PbNation.com.

If your a beginner and have never played an event before, you’re going to want to most likely enter a Division 5, or D5 tournament.  These division names may also be called rookie, beginner or young guns tournaments. Often the larger local tournament series will offer more than one division to compete in, catering to different skill levels and ranking classifications.

Tournaments are usually run one or two days on a weekend.  The structure of tournaments varies but most often teams play through prelims, semi-finals, and finals brackets.  The structure and amount of games depend on the series, how many teams are competing in your division and how many days the tournament runs.

Often it is easy to find a beginner 3-man team and tournament to enter.  You only need 3 players so more beginner teams can enter and play.


Signing Up

Once you found a tournament you want to enter, you need to sign up.  But first, you need to make sure your team can play. Here are some factors to go over with everyone on the team.


Factors in Planning

  1. Team commitment
  2. Entry fee
  3. Dates
  4. Location
  5. Paint costs – price per case
  6. Possible hotels


First, make sure everyone on the team can commit to playing the tournament.  Emphasize the date to everyone. Look at and discuss all the factors including the costs of entry and paint.  Entry fees are usually paid in advance when teams sign up. Make sure you can afford multiple cases of paint for each player.  How much paint you’ll shoot will depend on things such as your playing style, format (3man, 5man, ect.), number of games and how far your team makes it.

Always plan for playing the maximum amount of games through finals.  You definitely don’t want to make it past semi-finals only to realize your out of paint and can’t afford any more cases.  Also, plan on shooting more than you do in open play. I would generally plan on shooting 2 to 3 cases per player. If your shooting mechanical markers or otherwise slowly, your paint consumption should be less.

After looking at playing costs, discuss other factors.  Where is the event located? How will everyone get there?  Make sure to plan for unexpected changes such as broken down cars, paintball gun problems, injuries, etc.  For this reason, it’s often nice to roster a backup or extra player on your team. Similarly, it’s nice to have that extra set up equipment in case one of your markers goes down.

Make sure you consider whether its a 2-day tournament as well.  Will you need to pay for a hotel?


Splitting Paint

When discussing these topics, go over how you want to split paint.  Will everyone purchase their own or will you do team paint split evenly between everyone?  I usually recommend doing team paint, because back players generally shoot more than front players on the team.  However, you’re all working together to win.

If you do team paint, make sure you factor in if you have an extra player.  Is one person going to be sitting out more than the others? If this is the case, they should pay less than everyone else.  I’d suggest keeping track of how many games they play and how much paint they shoot. Have them pay a smaller portion if they don’t play as much do avoid resentment and problems.

Often it’s nice to rotate players so everyone plays, especially for a rookie tournament.  You’re not playing at a highly competitive level and everyone committed to the date and time, location and cost.  Especially among younger players, it’s nice to give everyone the playing experience so the team can grow and get better together.


Prepare for the Event

Preparing for the tournament is an important aspect.  Try to get everyone together to practice the weekends before the event.  Come up with standard names for bunkers and body counts for both your team and theirs.  Since this may be a newer team, get a feel for everyone’s playing style and communication.  Practice the fundamentals, communication and teamwork. If the field layout is released early, which is unusual for local events, take a look at the field layout.

The week before the event, make sure all your gear is in order.  Don’t mess with your paintball gun or loader the night before the tournament!  As much as you want to play with it and regrease it, you don’t want to mess something up so close to an important event.  Give yourself some time ( a week or so) between maintaining your marker and the tournament. I’d recommend cleaning all your gear at this point too.

Also, I would make sure you have a barrel swab to clean your barrel.

The night before having everything in order, packed up and ready to go.  Most paintball tournaments start in the morning, so you’ll probably be getting up pretty early.

Finally, try to relax and get some sleep!


Day of the Tournament

Get to the field early.  You don’t want to be rushing to get ready, especially for your first event.  I’d recommend getting there when the doors open for your bracket.

By getting to the field early, your team can most likely claim a table in a nice location and get situated.  You’ll also probably have to check in and sign waivers, so do that early as well.


Walk the Field

Once you get signed in and your gear on, take to the field once it opens up.  Usually about an hour before games start, tournaments open up the field to teams to walk the field.

This time is to look at the layout and come up with some strategies.  I’ll be writing another tips article specifically for walking the field, but try to get a general feel for how the field will play out.  Look at the primary bunkers such as the back center, middle and corner bunkers. Walk the entire field looking at secondary and 50 bunkers.  Look for and remember various angles and blind shots.

Also look for lanes and where you think other teams will send players off the break.  Finally, come up with two or three breakout plans for your team. This way, if your main one doesn’t work or teams adapt to your plan, you can change it up.

Game Time

Your first game is about to start.  Your pretty pumped and maybe even a little nervous.  Relax and remember, have fun! I’m sure you’ll have a blast at your first event, most players do and end up coming back for more.

At this point just play your game and watch what other teams do.  Remember the basics and communication. If you’re winning your matches and think the team is going to make it to semi’s or finals, you can scout other teams breakout plans and strategy.  Also, watch the other local teams and how they play, you can probably learn quite a few things.

You may end up losing a lot of your games at your first paintball tournament, but that’s okay!  Don’t worry too much about making mistakes, but learn from them. The way to improve at paintball is to play against better players, and making the step from rec-ball to rookie tournaments is the first step in learning more about competitive paintball.  If you have the drive to compete, learn from mistakes and practice, tournament paintball will be a blast.

Don’t get discouraged if you don’t make the cut to semi’s either!  Keep practicing and improving, and once you and your team finally make the cut to finals or win an event, it’ll be very rewarding.

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