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Tournament Operations » Post: Article: Running on-demand events at a GP

Article: Running on-demand events at a GP

Nov. 20, 2015 04:36:39 AM

Anniek Van der Peijl
Judge (Level 3 (Judge Academy))

BeNeLux

Article: Running on-demand events at a GP

EDIT: THIS ARTICLE IS OUTDATED. A reworked version has now appeared here: https://apps.magicjudges.org/forum/topic/41432

Running on-demand events at a GP

Quickly play a few rounds of Modern? Or do you prefer Chaos draft? Maybe you want to play in a 2HG draft with your friend. The possibilities are endless, all you have to do is register and hope that 7 other people want to do the same. Welcome to the world of on-demand events!

For players, on-demands (or 8-player events) are an all-you-can-play bonanza. For judges, being in charge of this circus at a big event can be quite a challenge. The number of players who will show up is hard to predict. It can be very quiet or a crazy flurry of events firing, and everything in between. The number of judge staff and space available is often equally unpredictable.

I’ve been running on-demands for a couple of European GPs now, and I’d like to share my experiences and some of the systems and preferences I’ve developed, so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. This article is written from the perspective of the on-demand lead*, the person in charge of running these events, as they will be the one deciding on the system. But that doesn't mean there isn't useful information in here if you are on floor duty, so keep reading.

First, let’s look at the basics of what needs to happen:

1. Players can register for an event.
2. Players need to be able to find each other and play somewhere.
3. Players need to be able to collect prizes they win.
4. The results need to be entered in reporter so they can be uploaded.

There are lots of ways to achieve this, but I personally have a preference for doing it in ways that reduce the workload for judges (aka get the players to do the work for you), and are fool proof enough to handle a couple of inevitable errors as well as rush hour madness. I will break the system down into tasks and describe some modes of operation that you can choose depending on how busy it gets.

Assumptions made:
The TO takes care of registration and scorekeeping, so your job begins when brackets roll out of the printer.
Players are given buzzers/pagers when they register that are used to notify them when their event is ready to start. (If not, microphone announcements will have to do.)

Runners

Runners are responsible for starting events when they are ready. They will receive a bracket that shows the pairings as well as any necessary product from the prize station (detailed below) when an event fires. They gather up the players, give the buzzers back to the registration area, and escort players to their table. The players are seated** and given the bracket so they can run the rest of the event by themselves. Inform players that they need to show their bracket to the prize station in order to receive prizes ***. It’s also recommended that runners give the players some information on how the format works, where to find basic land, etc.
- Runner mode: “Buzzer”
Give some spare buzzers to the runners on your team so they can venture out and be notified when they are needed.
- Runner mode: “Station”
During busy times, instruct runners to just hang out near the prize station until they receive a bracket to start an event. This saves time because they don’t have to come back from the floor, and gives the prize station a good overview of how many runners are available.

When things get really busy, you could add a ‘runner assistant’ judge who helps smooth out the process by:
- Putting the correct players together. When multiple events fire at roughly the same time, the gathering point will have a mix of players waiting. Separate them out into their respective events so the runners don't have to shout all over the place to find ‘their’ players.
- Helping to collect and return buzzers. It saves the runners a short trip to the registration station and back, which allows them to get the event away from the gathering point (de-cluttering this area) and towards actually playing just a bit sooner (yay!).
- Helping to solve problems. This includes: microphone announcements for missing players, clarifying barely legible DCI numbers, etc.

Prize station

The prize station is not just where players pick up their prizes, it’s mission control. Please put it as close as possible to the registration area so you have a short line of communication with the scorekeepers. Another advantage is that you can keep product for starting events and product for prizes in roughly the same place.
The prize station handles a lot of things, described below in roughly chronological order.

The shop – Set up an area where you make and store ‘event kits’: sets of product + prizes for specific types of events, e.g. 24 boosters + some prize tickets and a playmat for a draft. Having these ready to grab when an event starts saves time and prevents errors.

Starting events – When 8 players have signed up, the scorekeeper will print two identical brackets. Put one of them aside for now, in a place where it won’t go missing. This is one will be known as the ‘prize station bracket’. Take the appropriate product out of the ‘shop’ and separate the prizes from the product. Give the product and the other bracket (henceforth the ‘player bracket’) to a runner so they can get going. Take the prizes and label them with their event number.

Giving out prizes – When a player shows up with a bracket to collect their prizes, find the bundle of prizes matching that event (it should be labeled if the previous step was executed correctly). Give the players their winnings and cross off their name on the player bracket to show that they’ve received their stuff. If the event is not yet finished, ask them to take the bracket back to the remaining players. If the event is finished, collect the bracket and put it somewhere where it will not go missing.
Note: It’s slightly more reliable to mark prize collection on the prize station bracket because it’s clear that whatever is marked on it was done by staff. However I prefer marking on the player bracket because it saves time spent looking for the right piece of paper and space for laying out all the brackets. If you are worried, use a different colored pen.

Reporting results – At some point the scorekeeper will want to start entering results. Grab a finished player bracket, find the matching prize station bracket, and copy the results in the way indicated by the scorekeeper (at many European GPs this means marking crosses to represent who wins, again, ask your scorekeeper how this works). Done.

The prize station operates pretty much the same way all day, regardless of how busy it gets. Just add judges.
Notes to save yourself headaches at the prize station:
- Use only the number printed on the bracket to identify an event. The numbering of the events on the brackets is usually continuous. That is to say you will have Draft 1, Draft 2, Legacy 3, Modern 4, Draft 5, etc. While ‘Draft 5’ is not the 5th draft but the 3rd, and likewise ‘Legacy 3’ is the first Legacy, please do NOT renumber them to 3 and 1 respectively when you label the prizes. The players are going to come back with a bracket that says ‘Draft 5’ and you cannot expect all of the prize staff to memorize that 5 really means 3.
- If you are really busy and don’t have time to label prizes right away, it’s okay to make a pile of ‘waiting’ brackets to prepare the prizes for later. Nobody will want to pick up their prizes for the first 2-3 hours of their event anyway.
- I suggest that the person in charge handles the ‘shop’, and stays at the station. Seeing the brackets go out means you can keep a very close eye on how busy it is and whether events are actually being started. Being at the station also makes sure you can spot problems like missing players that runners are having trouble with. You handle the product because having it ready is crucial, and doing an accurate job here saves a lot of confusion down the line.

Managing Space

You will have a limited range of tables where you can seat the events, as other tables are needed for other things. (Except if you are running on-demands at a Modern Masters 2015 GP in Utrecht on Friday or Sunday, in which case you will have an entire convention hall to yourself. My weekend was made when I walked in that friday morning and the side events lead told me all other events would be in the other hall. It was a dream come true.)

-Space mode: “Don’t care”
It’s quiet and you have lots of space. Give runners a note with the table numbers they are allowed to use and let them seat their events wherever they want within that area.
-Space mode: “Map”
Draw a map of the area you are allowed to use, and mark which event is playing where. When an event fires, show the runner where to seat the event they are about to start.
I usually skip this mode and go straight for the next one, the floor manager.
-Space mode: “Floor manager”
A dedicated judge is a live, walking, talking, intelligent map of the available space (and may or may not be carrying a paper map too). He/she walks around the area to monitor where there is space available, and to guide incoming runners to these tables. This judge warns the person in charge if space is about to run out. Be sure to inform runners that they need to find this person when seating an event.

I understand that many people have gotten used to using a map to manage on demand events and that throwing it out is a bit controversial. Here are my reasons for favoring a floor manager over a map:

Accuracy – Keeping a map up to date with reality requires effort and is not without error. Players will move onto nearby chairs, judges will misremember their table assignment, you will forget to write something down during a busy crunch. The floor itself is always up to date.
Space - Most maps revolve around having boxes that represent 8 chairs that serve as a slot you can put an event in. But after round 1, 4 of those chairs will be empty. Sometimes you can't afford to keep them empty because you're low on space. A floor manager will immediately see the opportunities to squeeze events together and free up another set of 8.
Scale – In my experience, as the map gets larger it becomes exponentially more difficult to keep. You have a stream of new events to place and finished events to remove, and as it gets busy the ‘adding’ stream will take precedence over the ‘removing’ stream. It's nearly impossible to keep a map at very large events (GP Utrecht comes to mind) or other rush situations where multiple scorekeeper stations are firing events at the same time.
Information needed – Both a map and a floor manager can tell you whether spots are taken, but a floor manager can also give you a forecast of space that is about to free up. The map has the benefit of knowing what event is playing where, but realistically you very rarely need this information (maybe once a weekend). If you do need to locate an event without a map, find the table that has the right bracket, or use the PA system.
Additional perks – The floor manager is not just coordinating incoming events. They are also present on the floor for questions, keeping the area clean, sending casual players out when space is needed, keeping an eye on the land station, etc.

A common way to create more space when you are running low is to start a ‘finals row’. This will be a row of tables where all events will move once they reach the finals. This frees up a play area (set of 8 chairs) a bit earlier than usual. The difficult part is to get players to actually do it. Instruct runners to tell players about the finals tables when they start the event, but also make sure the floor manager is on the lookout for semifinals finishing and ensuring the players don't forget to move.

Floor judges

Floor judges are there to take judge calls and help players. This role is pretty straightforward and doesn't have modes, though usually these judges will be pulled off the floor to be runners instead if things get unexpectedly busy.

When to do what?

The preferred modes of operation for on demand events can change depending on how busy it gets. Take a step back and think about what you need, and the easiest way to achieve it.
The chart below indicates what modes I usually use at different levels of traffic:



How many judges do you need?

It depends a lot on how many events are firing at a time. A couple of rules of thumb:
- One floor judge for every 15-20 events currently playing.
- Assume a runner takes 10 minutes to start an event. So if you are firing 6 events an hour, 1 runner, 12 events - 2 runners, etc. It seems that a single scorekeeper is capped at a little over 20 events an hour, so 4 runners per scorekeeper should be enough even for rush times.
- One prize station judge for every 25 events currently playing.

I hope this helps you to run a smooth day of on-demands! If you have any experiences or advice you'd like to share with me, don't hesitate to contact me through judge apps. I love hearing about this stuff.

Bonus Cheat Sheet
Because sometimes you get extra judges added to your team in a rush, you might not have time to explain everything, or you have to explain so quickly that judges are likely to forget some of what you said. For this occasion, I've created some ‘cheat sheets’ for what to do at the prize station or as a runner. Download here.

Footnotes
* In my experience, this should be someone other than the general side events lead. Both positions are busy jobs, that are too much for one person.
** Cross-pairing a draft bracket: Write the numbers 1-5-3-7-2-6-4-8 top to bottom next to the player names on the bracket. These are the seat numbers for the draft. If this confuses you, seat randomly.
*** People who lose in the semifinals can show the bracket to the prize station to collect their winnings, and then have to take the bracket back to the people who are still playing.


22 nov 2016 EDIT: Multiple edits to remove references to happy hour (it is no longer a thing) and add some details on OMG WTF operations.

Edited Anniek Van der Peijl (Feb. 10, 2018 11:38:10 AM)

Nov. 20, 2015 04:50:53 AM

Mark Mc Govern
Judge (Level 2 (Judge Academy)), TLC

United Kingdom, Ireland, and South Africa

Article: Running on-demand events at a GP

Having worked ODEs a handful of times, I think I'll be saving this particular article to my phone. I'll need it!

Nov. 20, 2015 07:13:15 AM

Jurgen Baert
Judge (Level 3 (Judge Academy)), Grand Prix Head Judge, L3 Panel Lead, Scorekeeper, Tournament Organizer

BeNeLux

Article: Running on-demand events at a GP

Thanks, Anniek! Great article :-)

For anyone wondering if this is worth a read: I have the utmost respect for
the way in which Anniek is running ODE at European GPs, and can only advise
people to take some time to absorb her wisdom!

Jurgen

Nov. 20, 2015 12:41:51 PM

Jonas Drieghe
Judge (Level 2 (Judge Academy))

BeNeLux

Article: Running on-demand events at a GP

Why is this not front page on the magic judges blog?

That said, I've done a couple of GPs with Anniek on ODE and she knows exactly what she's doing. This information is golden and should probably be taken into consideration by every ODE team, everywhere!

Nov. 20, 2015 01:10:06 PM

Addison Miller
Judge (Uncertified)

USA - Midatlantic

Article: Running on-demand events at a GP

As a judge that was on map duty at GP: Atlanta, I can agree that a floor manager seems like a good idea. With tons of events coming back in, it could be 15-60 minutes before you get an update that event X is done and that table is open.

We had space for 84 simultaneous 8-man events. There were times when the map was dangerously full. Having someone on the floor that sees those openings and even those events that are in the finals and are only taking up two seats would be very beneficial. Not only that, having an extra judge that is on sudo floor duty is always a plus.

Nov. 20, 2015 01:53:00 PM

Ernst Jan Plugge
Judge (Uncertified)

BeNeLux

Article: Running on-demand events at a GP

Target article gets +1/+1 until end of time.

I did some work on ODEs at Brussels, and want to do more of it. So I'll print this out and put it under my pillow.

I have one trick to add that can help the runners if it fits in the registration workflow. It may or may not fit depending on how registration is handled at your specific event.

In Brussels, when the runner received the brackets and product for the event, he/she knew that the event is “Booster Draft #42”, but the players did not. Usually, the players just know the type of event and the number on their pagers/buzzers. But that information (the pager number) is lost by the time the brackets roll out of the printer. When it's busy, it can save time if the runner also knows the pager/buzzer number. Andy Heckt, Florian Horn and I came up with a simple hack to keep that information from getting lost. It worked really well while we were preparing for Happy Hour, although it never got so busy that we really needed it. It also doesn't involve the scorekeeper so it doesn't impact the SK workflow.

When the last person for an ODE registers and the registration desk passes the event on to the scorekeeper, registration gives the pager number to someone standing near the printer who coordinates the runners. For example, “Now firing Draft #6” meaning a booster draft with pager number 6 has just finished registration. That number is written down, and the coordinator writes “6” on the next brackets for a draft that roll out of the printer. Then the runner can directly look for the group with pager number 6.

Your mileage may vary depending on how the stage is set up, yadda yadda yadda, but it worked pretty well for us.

Nov. 21, 2015 12:34:20 AM

Emilien Wild
Forum Moderator
Judge (Level 3 (Judge Academy)), Grand Prix Head Judge

BeNeLux

Article: Running on-demand events at a GP

Article put in favourite. This will now become what I link to anybody I put in charge of ODEs in a Grand Prix.

A feedback I'd make it that some parts of the system are specific to some TOs, as buzzers are unfortunately not used at every events (let's hope this change, as they change players and staff life in a tremendous way - waiting for an event to start without being to leave an area is frustrating, as well as having to wait for someone whom don't listen or understand microphone calls), and some software used in addition of WER to help handling ODEs only print one bracket. Nothing severe though, let's say Anniek described the optimum process both on TO and judge side, and judges will have to adapt a bit if one of the tools she describe is missing.

And a comment as public events lead: please, if you need more judges because the number of events fired increase and you need to keep up with Anniek's prescription, ask for them before you actually need them, when you see the line forming and the flow of events firing going more intense.
Bringing you judges can take some time, as they are not idle somewhere else, but working on some other tasks that need to be properly handed over, waiting for another judge to come back from break, etc. You will also need to properly brief them, which is easier if you can spare 5 minutes with them and not have to send them right now putting out fires.
So please, ask your extra judges about 20 minutes before you need them.

Finally, I'm joining Jurgen's praise - Anniek is one of the European experts on ODEs, and she far too modest when she describes the number of events she led that team as “couple”.

- Emilien

Nov. 21, 2015 05:34:40 AM

Juan Francisco Montiel Aragon
Judge (Level 2 (Judge Academy)), Scorekeeper, Tournament Organizer

Iberia

Article: Running on-demand events at a GP

I´ll like to add about to take a look at the land station some time, before it was too late and forests are run out.

Good article.

Edited Juan Francisco Montiel Aragon (Nov. 21, 2015 05:35:05 AM)

Nov. 21, 2015 10:48:36 AM

John Brian McCarthy
Forum Moderator
Judge (Level 3 (Judge Academy)), Grand Prix Head Judge

USA - Midatlantic

Article: Running on-demand events at a GP

Originally posted by Emilien Wild:

A feedback I'd make it that some parts of the system are specific to some TOs

Emilien makes a really good point here. I think that most of the customs described here work well for European events, but TOs, players and judges in other regions might be used to things working differently, and perhaps better for those regions. For example, I was surprised at GP Copenhagen to see this:

Anniek Van der Peijl
Giving out prizes – When a player shows up with a bracket to collect their prizes, find the bundle of prizes matching that event (it should be labeled if the previous step was executed correctly). Give the players their winnings and cross off their name on the player bracket to show that they’ve received their stuff. If the event is not yet finished, ask them to take the bracket back to the remaining players

I was really surprised that it worked over there, and no brackets went missing, when I expected the result to be that as soon as a player received his or her tickets, he or she would crumble up the bracket and stuff it in the nearest table tent instead of bringing it back to the table. We sometimes leave brackets at tables when only the winner receives a prize (so they have incentive to bring it in, and no other players ever need to bring it anywhere - this was more common in the pre-prize wall era), but at most of our GPs, players are expected to stop by the ODE stage to report results, pick up prizes, or find their next opponent. This has the additional benefit of letting us know what stage each event is on.

Nov. 22, 2015 01:30:07 AM

Richard Drijvers
Judge (Uncertified)

BeNeLux

Article: Running on-demand events at a GP

The downside of your method is that you don't know which event is where,
without a map. And even then, you could be wrong; Players could've (been)
moved.
When you leave a copy of the bracket with the players, you can always find
out which event their playing in, without having to go back to the stage to
look at the map.

Also, you know exactly which stage the event is in, based on the number of
prize tickets still in your possession.

-R.

2015-11-21 17:49 GMT+01:00 John Brian McCarthy <

Nov. 22, 2015 01:38:04 AM

Emilien Wild
Forum Moderator
Judge (Level 3 (Judge Academy)), Grand Prix Head Judge

BeNeLux

Article: Running on-demand events at a GP

At least in Europe, players indeed bring back their bracket even when they are out of contention.

In general, when directly asked for help, players are happy to provide, especially if it makes immediate sense to them. What they don't like are things that seem pointless, nonsense, generic responsibilities (“someone else is gonna take care of that”), or being bossed around. Anniek's system avoid all this pitfalls.

- Emilien

Nov. 22, 2015 04:26:20 PM

Anniek Van der Peijl
Judge (Level 3 (Judge Academy))

BeNeLux

Article: Running on-demand events at a GP

Originally posted by John Brian McCarthy:

I was really surprised that it worked over there, and no brackets went missing, when I expected the result to be that as soon as a player received his or her tickets, he or she would crumble up the bracket and stuff it in the nearest table tent instead of bringing it back to the table.
Pretty much what Emilien said. I've found players to be really helpful about this, and pretty much never lose a bracket this way (maybe one every other GP). To be perfectly honest, the times when I've lost and then found a bracket were always because a poorly instructed / tired judge threw it out!
I always make sure to explain to the players that they need to show the bracket to receive prizes, and urge them to therefore take good care of it.
We sometimes leave brackets at tables when only the winner receives a prize (so they have incentive to bring it in, and no other players ever need to bring it anywhere - this was more common in the pre-prize wall era), but at most of our GPs, players are expected to stop by the ODE stage to report results, pick up prizes, or find their next opponent. This has the additional benefit of letting us know what stage each event is on.
What Richard said. You can tell what stage an event is in because you know how many prizes you've given out. When stuff gets a bit more quiet (i.e. after we stop firing new events) I usually get someone to make a run through the room to count the number of brackets out there on tables, and compare it with what I've got laid out on the prize table to verify that no events have disappeared (or that we've forgotten to prep prizes for one).

The downside of not knowing which event is where is rarely a downside in my mind: Usually the reason you want to know where an event is playing is because you started it ages ago and they still haven't come back with results. The odds of them still being in the place where you originally seated them are quite small at that point, so you will have lost them, map or no map.

Addison Miller
We had space for 84 simultaneous 8-man events.

I am extremely jealous. We rarely get that amount of space.

Nov. 23, 2015 10:07:40 AM

Florian Horn
Judge (Level 3 (Judge Academy)), Grand Prix Head Judge, Scorekeeper

France

Article: Running on-demand events at a GP

I think that an important feature of Anniek's system regarding the player's bracket is that things do not utterly fall apart even if there is an indelicate player now and then: the prize station still has its copy and knows what prizes have been given out. If players come to us saying that they never got the bracket back, we can check their claims in a satisfactory way. Using this “safety net” costs time, but as Anniek and Emilien say, it is rarely needed.

Originally posted by Ernst Jan Plugge:

Andy Heckt, Florian Horn and I came up with a simple hack to keep that information from getting lost. It worked really well while we were preparing for Happy Hour, although it never got so busy that we really needed it. It also doesn't involve the scorekeeper so it doesn't impact the SK workflow.

When the last person for an ODE registers and the registration desk passes the event on to the scorekeeper, registration gives the pager number to someone standing near the printer who coordinates the runners. For example, “Now firing Draft #6” meaning a booster draft with pager number 6 has just finished registration. That number is written down, and the coordinator writes “6” on the next brackets for a draft that roll out of the printer. Then the runner can directly look for the group with pager number 6.

Your mileage may vary depending on how the stage is set up, yadda yadda yadda, but it worked pretty well for us.

This hack worked reasonably well, but it is way too fragile to be implemented with any regularity: it requires someone who knows about it to be there at all times, something that cannot be guaranteed either during the omg wtf times -the coordinator might need to jump in and start an event or three-, nor in the quiet times -there are not enough runners to justify having a Judge doing nothing but coordination.

I think the solution must come from the T.O. side, with a way to preserve this information from the registration to the printer, while not taxing the scorekeeper.

Nov. 24, 2015 11:09:40 AM

Mikaël Rabie
Judge (Level 3 (Judge Academy)), Scorekeeper

France

Article: Running on-demand events at a GP

Originally posted by Florian Horn:

This hack worked reasonably well, but it is way too fragile to be implemented with any regularity: it requires someone who knows about it to be there at all times, something that cannot be guaranteed either during the omg wtf times -the coordinator might need to jump in and start an event or three-, nor in the quiet times -there are not enough runners to justify having a Judge doing nothing but coordination.

I think the solution must come from the T.O. side, with a way to preserve this information from the registration to the printer, while not taxing the scorekeeper.
Is there a way to get stacks of 9 pagers instead of 8? It would permit to hand the 9th pager to the judge as soon as the 8th player registered.
When a lot of ODE fire one after another, we just need to stack the extra pagers. When a judge looks for its pager number, he just needs to take the bottom pager of the stack, and he directly knows which number he is looking for.

Dec. 7, 2015 12:43:40 PM

Michael Warme
Judge (Level 1 (Judge Academy))

USA - Midatlantic

Article: Running on-demand events at a GP

this was informative; when/if I get the chance to staff a GP, my first pick would likely be on demand/side events (unless it's the elusive legacy GP).