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Eliminator Competition Format

How the Eliminator Format Determines a Champion


Osku Palermaa

Osku Palermaa

Photo courtesy of PBA LLC

The eliminator format is a favorite of many PBA bowlers and fans alike. The bowlers like it because, as opposed to the stepladder format, all the bowlers get to compete from the beginning, rather than the high seeds having to sit by and wait. Also, the eliminator format creates an interesting tension as, at least in the early rounds, bowlers are competing to avoid being the worst. A bowler doesn't have to be the best until the final round. Hang around long enough, and you just might win.

How it Works

In the eliminator format, all competitors bowl one game on the same pair of lanes. After the game, the bowler with the lowest score is eliminated. The remaining bowlers bowl another game, and once again the bowler with the lowest score is eliminated. This process continues until only one bowler is remaining. That bowler is the winner.

A common way to do this involves four bowlers. All four bowl a game, and the low score is eliminated. Then three bowl, and again the low score is eliminated. The final two bowlers compete for the title. However, the eliminator format can theoretically accommodate any number of bowlers, and can even eliminate more than one bowler at a time. For instance, you could have 10 bowlers competing, then eliminate the two lowest scores. The remaining eight would then bowl, and you could eliminate another two.

There are no hard rules as to how many people can be involved in or eliminated from a tournament using the eliminator format, but it seems to work best with a relatively small number of bowlers.

You could also run an eliminator format with a different number of games. For instance, you could say everyone will bowl three games, and the low score will be eliminated after those three.

Practical Example

For this example, we'll use the Don Carter Division finals from the 2011-2012 PBA World Championship. These four bowlers were attempting to advance past the division finals and into the championship round. It was contested in the eliminator format.

The Bowlers:

  • Stuart Williams
  • Osku Palermaa
  • Dom Barrett
  • Jack Jurek

All four bowlers competed in the first game on the same pair of lanes. Barrett threw the high score of 257, followed by Williams' 215 and Palermaa's 187. Jack Jurek bowled the low score of 179, which eliminated him from the competition.

Barrett, Williams and Palermaa moved on to bowl a second game, this time without Jurek. Barrett again had the high score, this time 201, followed by 188 from Palermaa and 170 from Williams. Since Williams had the low score of this game, he was eliminated.

One more round to go. Barrett and Palermaa were the two surviving bowlers and were thus competing to see who would be the winner and move on to the PBA World Championship finals. Palermaa's 223 defeated Barrett's 188, making Palermaa the winner.

In this example, Palermaa came out the winner despite narrowly avoiding elimination twice. He had the third best score of four in the first round, and the second best score of three in the second. However, he bowled well enough to stay in the game and capitalized in the final round.

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