TruSpot™ Ranking System

A ranking/handicap system for players of all skill levels

What is TruSpot™

TruSpot™ was developed in 1989 by Bruce Erickson, with the idea that there had to be a better way to rank/handicap pool players/pocket billiard players where each player has a fair and equal chance to win the match regardless of their skill level. This is done by calculating a "spot" the lesser-skilled player receives from the higher-skilled player in order to win the match. This idea is very similar to handicaps in golf where golfers give/get strokes or bowling where bowlers give/get pins.

TruSpot™ computes pocket-billiard player ratings called IBA Ratings that rate player skill levels from an amateur to professional players worldwide. Coupling match result data across local leagues, regions and tournaments from around the world to insure players everywhere are rated on the same scale and premise.

IBA Ratings are useful for handicapping a small-town league as much as they are in determining top players by state or country. When leagues, tournaments and players participate in the IBA Network, players from around the world are connected by TruSpot™. IBA has created a suite of online tools which include IBA's League Management System (LMS) and IBA's Tournament Management System called Bracketon™.

How Handicaps Are Determined

A mathematical formula is applied to the results of every match played and applies to all matches equally. Unlike some ranking systems, TruSpot™ uses more than just games won/lost to calculate a players skill level. This provides a more accurate representation of a players actual skill level compared to tracking just won/lost. This foundation of fairness is what TruSpot™ has been built on since 1989 and is proven to be accurate based on the fact that in its 35+ year history, millions of matches have been played with a vast majority of these matches being decided with the final rack being "hill-hill". This means the player winning the final rack wins the match.

Getting Started

New players do not have an established skill level so all new players will play to a temporally assigned skill level for 3 matches used in determining the new players skill level. If a league operator or tournament director determines that rating a new player at the starter rating is insufficient because of the player's "known ability", they have the authorization to assign a skill level to a player. League operators and tournament directors can accomplish this task by using IBA's Rating Calculator and entering a players known ability and selecting the organization the player played for and the calculator will calculate the player's initial temporary IBA starter rating. Once a player's skill level has been established and they match up against other established skill levels, players will understand the value and benefits as to why our leagues and tournaments are so competitive and fair.

TruSpot™ rates pool players worldwide on the same scale based on matches won and lost against opponents of a known rating. Since pool players/pocket billiards players have no absolute measure of performance, a player's skill at pool is determined a lot like a player's skill at chess and must be based on relative performance. That performance is measured on who beats who and how that individual player performed in the match.

In a match the rating difference between two players determines what the race will be for the match. Players earn 1 point for each ball pocketed and 8 points for the 8 Ball, totaling 15 points for a rack won. Players continue to play racks until one or both of the players reach or exceed their rating. If both players earn enough points to exceed their rating, then the player who wins the final rack of the match is the winner.

A 0-point spread leads to a rack win ratio of approximately 1:1
A 30-point spread leads to a rack win ratio of approximately 1:2
A 60-point spread leads to a rack win ratio of approximately 1:3
A 90-point spread leads to a rack win ratio of approximately 1:4
If two players with an 18-point spread play in a match, like a 60 and a 78, the rack win ratio is approximately 4:6.

Since IBA Ratings are defined by performance, they do take on a relative meaning. Once players become accustom to IBA Ratings, the rating becomes the focal point of discussions about a player's ability.

IBA Ratings have the following correspondence:

0 - 29
Beginner level player who is typically not capable of running a table.
30 - 59
Beginner level player that is capable of running a table maybe once a league season.
60 - 89
A common league level player who is capable of running a table approximately 5% of the time.
90 - 119
A good local player who is capable of running two or three tables in a row.
120 - 149
A good regional player who has run three or four tables in a row multiple times.
150 - 179
A top regional player who is capable of competing and placing at a national level. These players would be considered a men’s masters or a women's grand masters player.
180 - 209
These are top national players who are capable of playing in pro events. Players at this level would be considered men's grand master or a women's pro player.
210 - 269
These players are capable of consistently playing on a pro tour. Top end national level players.
270+
These are top end world-class players

An IBA starter rating is a rating assigned to a new player who doesn't have an existing IBA rating and doesn't have a known ability. It's a preliminary rating that the new player plays 3 matches with to provide a measure of the players skill level in reference to the players they competed against. After the 3rd match the new player will have a calculated rating.

The TruSpot™ system calculates a performance rating based on match results during the preliminary period. A player is considered to be in the preliminary period when they have less than 32 calculated scores in their history. Once a player has 33 or more calculated scores in their history, the player is considered established and the starter ratings are ignored. From that point forward, a player's rating is calculated solely off their calculated scores.

Robustness is a measure of the reliability of a player's IBA Rating. This is simply the number of matches played in a player's history that contribute to his or her rating. A robustness of 33 is the minimum number of scores needed in a player's history to be considered as having an established IBA Rating. In general, a rating is more reliable not only by being based on more matches in a player's history, but also by more of those recent matches being played against opponents with an established rating. Players with a robustness under 33, i.e., those with an unestablished rating, has a rating that is influenced by a starter rating.

Most handicapping systems or rating systems can be manipulated. And such manipulation is a serious problem. A small number of unscrupulous players begin trying to cheat any new system. While tens of thousands of people play 8-ball every week, there is another group for which 8-ball is only one of the games they’re playing. A secret rating algorithm that depends prominently on inning counts, and a player capable of running out against a weaker opponent is also capable bunting balls around for a couple innings like a cat plays with a mouse, padding the inning count while still winning the game. Making the secret, proprietary formula more complex to try to stem this problem is tempting, but it just fuels the game and the true gamers. This problem is one that IBA takes seriously and has a few safeguards in place to attempt to thwart such behavior. One thing the TruSpot™ system does is flag suspicious match results. With millions of matches played in the TruSpot™ system, there is a vast amount of match result history in the system which the system uses to compare newly submitted results against. If the submitted result falls outside the standard deviation of what’s expected for the two players involved in a match, the system flags the match for further investigation. This notifies someone on the IBA staff to look at the match a bit closer to decide if the match results are acceptable. If the match results are deemned unacceptable, the match results are rejected and not recorded in the players match history. These players are then flagged in the system and any future match results submitted for players on the flagged list are scrutinized more vigorously by an IBA staff member.

Another tool the TruSpot™ system uses to try and combat sandbagging is not allowing a player's rating to fall more than 10 points below their highest recorded rating. This helps guard against players "tanking", but the biggest deterrent though, is the consequence of players believing in the system and after 35+ years of existence, players certainly do. It's clear after using the system for so long, the vast majority of players strive for a higher rating. Nearly every 50 wants to be a 60 and nearly every 85 wants to be a 100.

The best way to deal with this problem is to devise a system that is open, transparent, and naturally resistant to manipulation. While the possibility of manipulating the system can never completely be eliminated, the fact that every single match against every opponent contributes to a player’s rating makes that manipulation much more difficult. Also, there are a number of features of the system described here that mitigate the problem. A player generally cannot get intentional losses in the system without paying for them. For example, to enter a double-elimination tournament with the intent of losing two matches comes at the expense of the tournament entry fee. Furthermore, if a player does this three tournaments in a row, he or she has squandered three tournament entry fees only to find all that nefarious effort thwarted by a single good tournament, where the player plays six or eight matches rather than the two in the losing tournaments.

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