TO 101: A Guide to Online Tournaments

It’s been over two months now since the community has been forced to move to online events to compete in tournaments, and we’ve seen an exponential increase in entrants since then. Nowadays, it’s not uncommon at all to find 2,000-8,000 man events happening almost every weekend, and 1,000+ man events also being a regular occurrence. Because of this, offline TOs have been forced to move to a brand new environment, and learn all the intricacies of online events on the fly so they can provide the best experience possible for players. Unfortunately, this has not been a smooth process at all, and we’ve seen ups and down all over the place when it comes to efficiency and optimization.

The guide you are about to read is an amalgam of multiple things: not only is it an analysis of the way events have been handled since the beginning of the pandemic, but it also offers plenty of insight that online TOs have amassed over the years and are here to present for everyone to use. If you are new to running events online, or would like a refresher on some things, this is a great place to start.

As a declaimer: I would like to note that I am not aiming to discredit anyone’s method of running online events, nor am I looking to force anyone to adhere to these methods. This is simply a summary of everything I’ve learned, as well as a way to teach others how to improve and potentially innovate as well. If you have any comments, feedback, or suggestions on this guide, I am more than open to hearing your thoughts.

This is quite a lengthy blog, so I recommend bookmarking it to reference it later if needed – should any major information be fixed, removed, or added, I will make sure to mark it appropriately in a changelog.

Without further ado, let’s begin!


– The Online Community
– Planning an Online Event
     – Date of the Event
     – Homepage
     – Timeframe
     – Registration
     – Price
     – Caps
– Tournament Format
     – Ruleset
     – Event Check-in Timer
     – Bracket Setup
     – Seeding
     – Scheduling
– Running the Bracket
     – Round Settings
     – Times
     – Settings
     – Timers
     – Starting Bracket
     – Match Dashboard
     – Stream
     – Lagtests
– Tools to Improve Your Online Event
     – Discord
     – Staff
– Conclusion

The Online Community

Before I even begin approaching online events, I need to talk about the dedicated online community for Ultimate. There’s a lot of misconceptions and rumors about online players, so I figured I would clear the waters a little bit.

First and foremost, and I think this should come to no surprise to anyone: not every online player competes offline regularly, if at all. A lot of these people are either very young, live in areas without a local scene, or can’t travel much, so online is their only option. A lot of times, the offline community will make tweets asking who these online warriors are, why they’re seeded so high, where they’re from, etc. Truth be told, there’s a larger divide between the offline and online community than people realize, and it’s important to keep in mind when interacting with them. They don’t necessarily look at things the same way we do, or have the same culture when it comes to events, so you’ll often see confusion or tension happen simply due to “cultural” differences.

While on the topic of age, the online community, on average, is MUCH younger than the offline community. Typically, offline players are in the 18-25 age range, with some extreme variables obviously. But for online, a large amount of them are in the 12-18 age range, which can explain a lot of their behavior and reactions. Recently, there’s been a big surge in “13 year old prodigy” videos on Twitter – it’s because, as I said earlier, they’re very young and can’t go to events much, so you don’t hear about them as often. A lot of slept on talent lies online, so never sleep on anyone you face, even R1s.

As far as TOs and such goes, there are many figureheads that have been active in the online scene since the release of Ultimate, and many of them have been around since Smash 4 as well. Some of them go to offline events, but some don’t – just because online events work differently than offline events doesn’t mean they’re “inferior” to offline TOs. These guys put a lot of work into their community, and it’s important to respect and value their work as well. There’s also an active ranking for the global online community called the WWR (Wi-Fi Warrior Ranking), which is a Top 50 ranking of the best players online. They have seasons, a TTS, you name it – so as much as you like to clown on them whenever it’s released, remember that these guys are competitors just like you.

Lastly, and I think this is obvious to everyone as well, but remember that Ultimate online is a completely different metagame than offline. Character MUs and stage picks play a much different role online, which is why you see many characters like Sonic, Samus, ROB, etc. be much more popular and powerful online than offline. This heavily impacts gameplay, viewership, seeding, etc., so you can’t go in with the same mentality that you would at your local, regional, or even major. But again we’ll go over all of that more in-depth as we go on.

Planning an Online Event

So, you want to plan your first big online event, potentially a major one – great!

However, just because it’s an online event doesn’t mean you can just ignore all the traditional steps that you take for offline events as well.

This includes registration deadlines, releasing pools, the homepage, budget, hiring staff, etc. Yes, an online event is easier to organize than an offline one, but there are still a lot of things you need to watch out for in order to put out a good tournament.


When picking the actual day of the event, for the love of god, please do your research to make sure you aren’t conflicting with another online event. Again, just because there’s no travelling involved doesn’t mean you can simply schedule your tournament over someone else’s. I can’t tell you how many times I had to work behind the scenes to prevent regionals and majors from conflicting over one another. I know this is a problem offline as well, and that people can play in multiple tournaments at once (which we’ll get into as well), but you should still be mindful of what’s going on and do your research before locking down on a date.

I would highly recommend utilizing the Wi-Fi Event Calendar – this tool will allow you to keep up with every online event out there, as well as submit your own! You can check it out here:

Once you have a date in mind, do not wait until the last minute to announce your event. While this is generally not the case with major events like The Box or Pound Online, I’ve seen this happen often with mid-sized events who announce it the week of, and then get surprised when they don’t get as many entrants as expected. You still need to give yourself time to advertise the event, as well as players to properly prepare for the bracket and plan around it, so don’t procrastinate just because it’s online. Again, not a huge issue, but one still worth mentioning.


This is often overlooked by many organizers, but please make sure that your tournament’s homepage is complete and full of the information needed for all competitors. Make it readable, easy to understand, and appealing to the eye. Remember there’s a lot of people who rarely or never compete in online events, and don’t know how smashgg works, so they need instructions on how to get around the site. Same goes for rulesets, timeframes and such – make sure to clearly note everything as you would for an offline event. Don’t slouch on the presentation, it’s never a good look.


Unlike offline events where everyone is present in-person, everyone here is playing from home, meaning not everyone is operating on the same time zone as you are. When outlining the bracket’s start time, or when pools start, make sure to always precise what time zone you are in, so that everyone can convert to their local time zone. Additionally, be mindful of other time zones when starting your event – you might be inclined to make Wave A pools at 10AM EST, but that means western folks will have to play at 7AM PST, which isn’t exactly desirable either. The most common sweetspot found was starting events at 3PM EST, which is a good middle ground for all time zones from what I’ve gathered. You can play around with this depending on the size of the event and the bracket structure of course, but just don’t make people wake up too early for bracket.


Typically for offline events, the registration deadline will vary depending on the type of event – locals and monthlies will allow in-person registration until a few moments before bracket starts, regionals will close registration a week or two before the event, and majors will sometimes go as far as closing signups a month before the tournament. It depends for everyone obviously, but that’s generally been the go-to.

For online events however, many organizers have decided to leave registration open until the day before, due to the ease of access for players, and the low commitment they have to make in order to actually play in the tournament. While it may seem good on paper, I would highly advise to close registration at least a day before the event itself. This is specifically for major events that have over 1,000+ entrants, but if your event is smaller than that, they you can simply close it a day before.

While this may seem counter-intuitive at first, again due to how easy it is to play, remember that you also have to plan and seed the event in question. If you suddenly jump from 400 to 900 attendees the day before, or have a big surge of top players enter last second, it’s going to throw off a lot of what you have planned, and now you have to redo everything you’ve prepared at 3AM the day before. Players also need ample time to practice for said tournaments, or submit feedback for their brackets (should there be any issues), and they can’t do that if you wait until the day of to release everything. Again, standards for offline events should carry to online events as well, especially given the major prize pots that are being put into place nowadays.


Speaking of registration, you may have considered at some point to charge a fee for running your event (often referred to as a venue fee for offline events), or even a bracket fee to add to the pot. This has become a big topic at the start of the pandemic, so let’s quickly go over why:

Offline brackets typically have a lot of costs going into them – transportation, paying for the space, equipment, time, staff, etc., so its understandable that organizers charge players at the door. Additionally, providing a pot on top of it is challenging, so charging players also allows you to have a reward for placing Top 3/8, as well as making sure people commit/take it seriously.

Unfortunately, a lot of these factors are not present with online events – there’s significantly less costs needed to run an online event (sometimes none), and the culture around online events has been that they should be free to enter no matter what. Not only is the in-person experience not there, but players are already paying for internet/Nintendo Online, so they may not be inclined to pay for a tournament as well (many of them are also young and don’t have the money). Additionally, Ultimate’s netcode is notorious for being subpar, and many players have a distaste for the idea of paying to play in a poor environment, so they don’t want to put any money down.

Given the state of events due to the pandemic, many TOs are in the red financially, and are looking to make some money back through online events. But because of what I’ve explained above, they’re unable to charge anything for it. Many TOs also consider running events a job/career, and it’s understandable that they want to get paid for their time and efforts. Sustainability is a big deal – it’s hard to put together free to enter events with $10k pots forever, making revenue solely from stream ads and such. I’m not looking to sway anyone in either direction, just describing what the scene and community is like at the moment.

Many events have also been found to have an extremely large amount of DQs, mainly due to the free entry aspect and little commitment needed from players to actually signup and play. Some folks have suggested asking even just $1 to enter online events to help bring down the number of DQs, but again as explained above, folks are not as willing to put money down for these, and I personally hope that people’s mentality on this changes sometime soon so that we can better support organizers and TOs around the world. The best alternative so far is to host a Twitch subscriber only event, but only those with an already large sub-count were able to really pull this off. Either way, always make sure to be very clear with players as to when the bracket is starting, and make sure to always keep everyone up-to-date, that way you can minimize DQs as much as possible.


Oftentimes for offline events, caps are determined by how many people the venue itself can actually hold, so this is usually a straightforward decision from the organizer. However, for online, there’s obviously no physical space, so you could theoretically let loose.

That does not mean you shouldn’t be putting one in the first place – as described earlier, the format of an event can heavily change depending on the number of entrants, so it’s important to set a cap when you announce the event so you know the scale of event you are going for.

On average, online events up to ~2,000 entrants can be done in a day. Anything past that should be expanded to 2 days, or possibly 3 days if you’re looking to reach the scale of The Box. Keep in mind that obviously, the more entrants, the more preparation your event will need. There will also be heavy traffic on smashgg itself, so be mindful of that as well next time you plan to host a major event. While it may be tempting to attempt to break The Box’s record of 8k+ entrants, keep in mind this is NOT recommended whatsoever, and that your event will require immense planning the bigger you try to make it. Keep it realistic, and don’t try to bite more than you can chew. Staying at a reasonable number is much smarter than trying to impress people and fail miserably.

Tournament Format

This is usually one of the more fun part for organizers – choosing how your tournament is going to be run, what rules are gonna be in place, etc. While there’s a lot of freedom with offline events, there’s actually a lot of restrictions and things to note when doing online tournaments. A lot of TOs have fallen into these traps, so please keep these in mind next time to host an event of your own.


When creating the event itself on smashgg, you’ll be prompted to choose a ruleset for your tournament. For offline, this doesn’t really matter, as you can simply have a piece of paper or something in-person for players to look at for the event. However, for online events, this is absolutely crucial for how your tournament will play out.

When competing in online events, players go through a series of steps to chose their characters, stages, etc. before starting a match. Unlike offline where you can customize your stagelist at will, you have to choose the correct pre-determined ruleset when creating your event. Do NOT simply just choose “Custom Ruleset” and move on – not only does smashgg not allow you to customize the stagelist, but it will actually cause mass confusion for your players as to what stages are legal, or sometimes, will even show every legal stage known to man, making your players think there’s more options than actually intended.


It is beyond frustrating to either find out smashgg has not correctly updated a pre-determined ruleset, or that the organizer chose the wrong/random ruleset when creating the event, and that it ends up being vastly different from the actual intended ruleset. Keep in mind that the ruleset you choose also includes DSR rulings, which is CRUCIAL for players. You also cannot switch the integrated ruleset afterwards unless you contact smashgg support, so PLEASE be careful and don’t skip over this step. I consistently ask organizers to double check to make sure they’ve setup the correct ruleset, and have been extensively in contact with smashgg myself for them to update all the rulesets necessary. Again, I’m not looking to blame anyone specific, but this has been repeatedly talked about by players on social media, and I would like it to be resolved ASAP. I believe smashgg should absolutely give you the ability to customize your own ruleset, and I’m sure they’re well aware of it, but for now, please keep this in mind when hosting your own event. I am tired of having to repeat this to everyone every time I’m hired to run an event.

You can find all the information regarding integrated smashgg rulesets right here (shoutouts to Swanner for keeping this up to date):


Players are used to checking in for each of their individual matches. However, there is an additional option that many TOs have been using called the event check-in timer.

Essentially, this allows players to check-in before the event even starts, and lets the TO know how many players are actually present before the bracket begins. While this may be a useful feature at first glance (and trust me, I’ve seen a lot of people use this), I would highly advise not to use this feature.

The reason for this is that while they check-in for the event as a whole, they still have to check-in for their Winners Round 1 match regardless, which makes it redundant on the players’ end. Additionally, there has been many cases of players checking into the event and NOT their Winners Round 1 match, which causes unnecessary DQs or confusion all around. Lastly, there’s been multiple cases of people not being able to use the event check-in option properly, and it’s become frustrating for TOs to have to keep track of hundreds of messages at once about players asking to be manually checked in. Again, I would highly advise to avoid this feature if you can.

If you do decide to use it however, keep in mind the following details: when the event check-in timer period has ended, you will be prompted with two options when starting bracket: removing players not checked in entirely, or DQ’ing them from bracket – these do NOT do the same thing.

Removing the players entirely straight up deletes them from the bracket, and causes smashgg to shift seeding accordingly, which as we all know, will mess up your tournament altogether (it can also affect how many rounds there are, which then affect round timers, which is another topic we’ll address soon). If you choose to DQ them from the bracket, it will do as it implies, but remember that they’ll be DQ’d anyways from not checking in for Winners Round 1, so again, the feature is redundant in my opinion.

You can find more information on this here (smashgg claims you can start bracket without doing anything mentioned above, but I have not been able to do this in my experience – also heard reports of not being able to adjust seeding at all unless you reset everything and remove the event check-in timer entirely):


Now don’t worry, online events all use Double Elimination like offline events as well, that’s not what I’m about to go into. The point I’m about to make here is pools specifically.

Given that with online events, every player IS a setup, you’re technically not restricted by how many players you can have at once in a pool, which is why you’ll often see events have 50-70 man pools for their events. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with doing so, I would strongly advise TOs NOT to do this for major events specifically, and to instead have 32 players per pool. Not only will this make your brackets much cleaner, but it will also take much less time for them to complete. Remember that online matches on average take longer than offline (average of 15 minutes instead of 10 minutes), as players have to account for all the smashgg setups, creating an arena, connecting to each other, etc. Smashgg can handle starting matches for up to ~1,024 players at once, so I highly recommend to go with this number when setting up waves/pools for a major event that has multiple thousand entrants, otherwise you’re going to be breaking the site, and no one wants that.

There is no exact # of pools you should be running, as it heavily depends on how many entrants you have in your tournament, but always aim to have a number of pools that is a multiple of 4 – 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, etc. This will make progressions much cleaner and easier to manage overall. It’s the same principle as offline events, so if you’re used to that already, then you already know the drill. I recommend keeping pools at a maximum of 32 players per pool to keep it efficient. A good reference is the following:

128 Entrants – 4 pools of 32 players
256 Entrants – 8 pools of 32 players
512 Entrants – 16 pools of 32 players
1,024 Entrants – 32 pools of 32 players
2,048 Entrants – 64 pools of 32 players


Oh boy, this one’s a doozy.

Seeding has been historically a point of debate for TOs and players alike, and there’s been countless videos, blogs, and arguments over how things should be handled. Things are no different for online events, however there’s a few key differences to keep in mind for this. I’m not going to talk about how to seed in general, but moreso the specifics to lookout for when seeding online events specifically.

First of all, I highly recommend NOT using the Seed Generator. While it can be useful as a reference, do not actually use the generator itself to seed your event, as it’s known to be very glitchy and can cause a whole slew of issues. Past 500 entrants, you may not even be able to load up the page properly, so it’s best to avoid this feature entirely unless your event is small enough and you’re just looking to get data on which players should generally be seeded higher than others.

A very handy dandy website that is heavily used for seeding is This site allows you to browse every player’s smashgg results – placements, wins and losses – and also shows you Head 2 Head data if you’d like. It’s become a must for many seeders/TOs, so I would highly advise you keep this one tabbed as well while you work on your event.

Now, for the seeding itself – typically, pools for regionals and majors are released 1-2 weeks prior to the event itself, sometimes more. This allows players to practice MUs, submit feedback, blablabla you get the idea. However, many online events have been releasing pools the day before the event, or only giving players 24 hours to submit any feedback.

Let me be very clear: just because this is an online event doesn’t mean you can wait until the last minute to release pools. It’s still a competition at the end of the day, and the same standards as offline should be applied here. I understand that seeding can take a long time (and trust me, I know, I helped seed many of these events myself), but there should be ample time given to everyone to handle this task. Instead of waiting until registration is closed/capped, I would advise starting seeding overtime, that way you won’t have to handle thousands of players at once with very little time to spare. You should also have a dedicated team of seeders ready so that you don’t freak out and panic while looking around on social media for people to take care of it for you.

In terms of the platform used for seeding, most events typically just do it through the Pools & Seeding tab itself, which is understandable. However, the tab becomes increasingly difficult/frustrating to use as you get more entrants, and even causes major slowdowns once you reach above 500 entrants, as there is a lot of data to load at once, and the UI is not built to handle events with a massive amount of entrants.

However, we now have a new tool at our disposal – thanks to the efforts of L4st and John Amin, there is now a website that allows you to sort all your attendees by winrates (found on SmashData), so you can be sure to not miss any of the top players registered for your event. This has become a must for all online TOs out there, and I highly recommend using this at all times:

If you’ve used the tool described in the paragraph above, then it’ll generate a spreadsheet for you. If you’re seeding directly through the smashgg, the method most commonly used for this is exporting all attendees to a Google Spreadsheet, and seeding manually there instead. From there, TOs can use a convenient tool to directly upload their seeding to the event automatically without having to input everything yourself by hand. The way to use this tool is as follows:

1. Under the “Pools and Seeding” tab, click the “Export Results” button at the top right of the page
2. Upload the .csv to Google Sheets, and remove all tabs except the “Seed ID”, “Player GamerTag”, and “Player Name” tabs
3. Seed your event as you see fit, either rating player from 1-10 and ordering them afterwards, or manually dragging each row in order
4. Once completed, head to the tool below and follow the instructions to upload it

Additionally, many players have expressed confusion or negativity towards their seeds at online events, which is understandable. While I don’t want to undermine anyone’s feelings, I do want to say from a TO’s perspective that we are literally seeding thousands of players. We are bound to miss names here and there, as we are humans and make errors, so please understand that and try not to get too mad at us or call us out on social media. Always remember to use the bracket feedback option on smashgg when pools are released so you can make an inquiry about your seed – please avoid directly messaging us about it unless you cannot submit bracket feedback or it is an absolute emergency. Lastly, as mentioned previously in this blog, the online environment for Ultimate is different than offline – that means meta, players, results, etc. Your offline seed does NOT reflect or guarantee your seed online, and are often treated as two completely separate entities. It is also much more complicated to keep track of every single players’ results for every single bracket they’ve been to, so please don’t take it personally if we happen to underseed or forget to seed you entirely – we’re just doing the best we can. I could make an entire blog dedicated to seeding, but this will have to suffice for now.

If you want a quick video demonstration example of seeding through smashgg with large events, here you go, enjoy this:


This was a major issue at first when the pandemic started, but has since calmed down since smashgg made a lot of improvements on their end, and TOs have better adapted to this situation.

Again, previously for offline events, you would create a schedule based on timeframe, # of players, and more specifically, how many setups you had. Well for online, things work a bit differently.

First of all, you biggest obstacle before anything is smashgg itself – the website can handle starting matches for ~1,024 players at once, after which you will run into the likely chance of crashing the whole website (trust me, this has happened far too many times). Please be careful when scheduling waves/pools, and stay below this limitation so you can avoid issues and have a mental breakdown.

Additionally, since every player is a setup, remember that you technically don’t have to wait for a certain number of pools to be done before proceeding with the the next wave. A 32 man pool typically takes ~2 hours on average, but you don’t HAVE to wait the full two hours before starting the next wave – some events have chosen to continue with the Winners Side of bracket while losers catches us in the meantime, but remember that if you do this, players who lose in a later portion of bracket may have to wait a very long time before playing their next match, so always make sure things are balanced while running your event. While smashgg has also made a lot of progress regarding the workload they can handle, I still highly recommend keeping waves 2 hours apart to ensure things run properly. A standard Top Cut of 32-64 players typically takes ~2 hours, while Top 96 takes ~3 hours (assuming you are conservative with stream matches). If your pools don’t have more than ~20 entrants in each of them, or if you’re not planning on streaming many matches during Top Cut, then you can get away with scheduling it for 1h30.

Again, please also be mindful of different time zones when creating waves, and make sure they match your desired schedule.

Running the Bracket

Now comes the actual fun part: running the tournament itself!

I’m not going to start judging the difficulty of it, nor am I here to criticize anyone – I understand that there is a general stigma that running online events is easier than running offline events, but I believe that to be false. I’m not going to claim that it is harder than offline events, but it has its own set of difficulties that need to be accounted for, and it’s not something anyone can do on a whim. That being said, it is easier to pickup, and can be a good gateway for people to get into TO’ing.

Unlike offline events where you essentially dictate the pace of the bracket, online TOs act more as moderators that oversee the tournament and make sure everything runs accordingly and smoothly. Instead of calling every match individually, it’s up to the players themselves to actually check-in for everything, report scores, etc. Even though TOs are much more hands-off this time around, there’s still a few steps that you have to take to make sure everything goes well.


At the top of the bracket, under each round title, you’ll see a button named “Edit Round Settings” – this is where you’ll find information on how to setup the bracket specifically.


The first thing you’ll see is the Start Time and Duration of the Round – this indicates when that portion of bracket will be starting, and when smashgg will actually be enabling check-in for players. Many TOs do not set this up properly, so let me help you out:

If you are running a regular bracket, simply set the Start Time for Winners Round 1 as the start of your event.

If you are running pools, set the Start Time for Winners Round 1 as the start of that wave specifically (please make sure to assign waves to your pools BEFORE doing this step through the Pools & Seeding tab).

Make sure to have the “Update All Groups in Wave” box checked when doing this so it applies it to every pool within that wave.

For the duration, ALWAYS set your duration to 1 min, and have the “Update Subsequent Rounds by Duration” box checked so that it applies it to every other round as well (make sure to setup DQ timers as well, otherwise you’ll have automatic DQs without giving players a chance to check-in in the first place). If you set it to 5 mins, but have players starting in Winners Round 2, they won’t be able to check-in until that time, so be mindful of that.

Remember that it’ll only apply these settings to the Winners Side of bracket, so make sure to do the same thing for the Losers Side of bracket. Make sure to repeat these steps for each wave as well.


After that, you’ll see a tab called Settings, where you can set whether a round is Best of 3 or Best of 5. Again, make sure to set the correct format, and have both the “Update All Groups in Wave” and “Update Subsequent Rounds” box checked when doing this. Make sure to repeat it for Losers Side, as well as as every other wave as well.


Lastly, you’ll see a tab called Timers, which is the CORE of your entire bracket, so PLEASE pay attention to this section.

The DQ Timer is how much time you are allotting for them to check-in – once that time passes, they will be automatically DQ’d into losers.


Many online events are plagued with long wait times for DQs, which not only makes things last much longer, but also affect the atmosphere of the event as well. Even if this isn’t offline, and there’s no check-in line, bathroom breaks, etc., you still want to be strict about DQs. It’s best to let smashgg handle it automatically than having to go through every name manually.

I’m aware that every TO has their own philosophy when it comes to DQ timers, but this is the one I recommend for events:

Winners Round 1: 7 minutes
Winners Round 2: 7 minutes (ONLY IF YOU HAVE BYES, OTHERWISE 5 MINUTES).
Winners Round 3+: 5 minutes
Losers Round 1+: 5 minutes

Anything over 7 minutes is simply too much time, and WILL slow down your bracket.

My personal philosophy for Winners Round 1 is that it should be 5 minutes as well, and I have been considering the idea of lowering every other round’s check-in timer to 3 minutes. I think this allows for the bracket to run much faster, and holds the players themselves more responsible for checking in on time. Again, they are not constrained by in-person factors, and should have plenty of time to check-in properly through the website. The key here is not to make the earlier rounds’ timers too long, otherwise it will heavily slow down your bracket. While events typically have a more lax timer set for Top Cut, given the players should be already here, I would still recommend keeping it strict and making sure players show up on time. If someone were to show up right after they’ve been automatically DQ’d, it is up to the TO to make a decision as to whether or not they should be un-DQ’d, and this should depend on where the player is in bracket. There’s obviously a difference between showing up late for your Losers Round 2 match and your Top Cut set. I’m happy to discuss things with players and TOs alike to see what the best sweetspot is.

The Minimum and Maximum Verify Timers are there for smashgg to automatically confirm a score that was inputted by one of the players in-case the other one fails to verify it themselves – this should ALWAYS be set to 1 min no matter what. Anything more adds unnecessary downtime that WILL slow down your bracket. Should there be a dispute or error in the score, the players can always call a moderator via the request moderator button, and they can fix the score themselves afterwards.

After you’ve setup those settings, make sure the “Update All Groups in Wave” and “Update Subsequent Rounds” boxes are checked, and make sure to repeat the process for losers and other waves. When setting up different DQ timers between rounds in winners, only change the DQ timer itself and hit save. It’ll only change it for that round and the ones after, not any of the ones before or in losers.


Once you have everything correctly setup and your event is about to start, you can hit the blue “Start Bracket” button at the top right of the screen. This will boot up everything and start the actual tournament.

Make sure to click that button a few minutes before the designated start time for your bracket/wave, that way it will give ample time for smashgg to work properly and update on every players’ browser.

This is especially important for major events, as smashgg takes a long time to process larger brackets, so you don’t want to run into those kinds of issues when you’re managing your very own online major.


This tab is your best friend as a TO.

Using the “Moderator Requested” filter, you can see every moderator request that was called for your bracket, and can handle everything from one screen instead of having to jump between pools or have to deal with pesky Google Chrome notifications. Always have this open as it is extremely handy. Once you’ve completed a moderator request, make sure to mark it as “Resolved” so it doesn’t stay on your screen forever.

Trust me, it’s going to save your life.


As with every major event out there, you’re going to be planning on streaming your tournament, which is understandable. However, a stream has a much bigger impact on online events than it does offline, so let me go over it real quick.

First of all, keep in mind that stream matches take longer on average than any other set, simply due to the fact that you have to coordinate the players to join a stream arena, setup names, commentators, etc. And if that match ends up taking a long time, it will eventually hold up the rest of the bracket, and can slow down the event overall. The key here is to be as conservative as possible with stream matches – typically, you’ll see tournaments hold a certain portion of bracket entirely to stream, like Top 16, Top 32, Top 64, etc. I highly advise NOT to do this for online events, as you will slow things down significantly and end up taking much longer than needed.

When queueing up matches for stream, you should have one actively playing, and one waiting to go up next. Have the arena code & password on hand so you can give it to the next players when it’s their turn to play. If you see a match coming up that you think could be interesting to broadcast, keep an eye on it and see if you can queue it up before anything else. Don’t try to queue it up before players are even assigned, just go with the flow of bracket and pick out matches as you see them being available. The only section of bracket where you can safely stream the entirety of it is Top 8, but keep in mind a fully streamed BO5 Top 8 takes minimum 4 hours! It is rare to go below that unless your matches go by very quickly.

Lastly, when streaming an event, there should only be the players themselves and the person streaming in the spectator stands. Adding more players to the arena affects the connection during the match, which can hinder the players’ experience. If you are the streamer in-question, share your screen to your commentators via Discord’s video feature, and have the commentators use that instead of joining the arena themselves. Do not have them join the arena itself, as mentioned earlier.


You saw this coming, didn’t you?

Fortunately, I have written a full guide on how to handle these situations, which you can read here:

Tools to Improve Your Online Event

Outside the smashgg page and the actual bracket itself, there’s a couple things you can/should do as an organizer that’ll greatly improve your event as a whole, and will make the experience much more enjoyable for players and staff alike.


If you are planning an online event of any size, it is imperative that you create a Discord server for said event. Not only will it keep all of your players in one spot, making it much easier for them to communicate with the TOs, but it will also greatly help you with event updates, as well as during the tournament itself. Whether it’s announcing which wave is starting, DQs, lagtest, etc., having everyone in one place will make everything so much easier. Obviously, players will still be coordinating their matches via the smashgg chat for each match, but the Discord is a great tool to go along with it in case they need any help. It will also help avoid situations where players go to Twitter instead of directly to you. There’s also been a clear difference in DQs between events that have a dedicated active discord vs. those that do not.

Remember to make the Discord server a requirement to join when you register for the event. You can set this up in the Registration Settings under “Require Social Connections”. After inputting the correct information, make sure to check the “Require Discord connection to register” so they don’t just gloss over it as well. Many events have tried setting up a Discord server a long time after the registration page went up, which means a lot of players don’t have an efficient way to contact the organizers. Do not forget this step if you can!


Having the right person for the job can make the world’s difference for your event, so it’s important that you have qualified people to run your events. Depending on experience, some TOs can handle more entrants at once than others can, so while your local TO may be able to handle up to 64 entrants comfortably, someone else might be able to handle 256+ by themselves. Of course, I’m not saying to disregard anyone entirely, but keep this in mind when you might be attempting to run your first big event alone, or when assigning roles to everyone.  It’s crucial to have a structure when planning your event, otherwise you can very easily get disorganized with what tasks need to be done, or have a “too many cooks in the kitchen” situation, where no one has a clear role on what they should be doing.

Typically for major events, roles will be divided as such:

Organizer: The person in charge of the event, handling finances, etc.
Head TO: The person in charge of the tournament (oftentimes also the organizer). In charge of handling volunteers, overseeing bracket, handling big decisions, etc.
Volunteers: People in charge of managing pools. They have a very similar job to pool runners at majors – they make sure their bracket(s) are run properly, and are the first to respond to moderator requests. They also sometimes handle lagtests as well, although this varies from event to event.
Seeders: People in charge of seeding your event. As explained earlier in the blog, you’re going to need people that can accurately seed your event as best they can. Sometimes these people will also be TO’ing the event, but sometimes you might want to outsource seeding altogether so you don’t have to worry about it.
Lagtesters: People in charge of lagtests for your event. Typically the people in charge of the pools are the ones doing lagtests, but some recent tournaments like The Box and Collision Online have gotten a separate team of folks to handle these, which can make things more efficient and avoid slowing down the bracket. I would highly advise only assigning someone the lagtest role if their Switch is running on a LAN connection AND they have solid speeds, otherwise it can make the actual lagtesting inaccurate. 

There are also some other roles with major events such as a dedicated social media person, server moderators, graphic designers, etc., but those vary from event to event, and aren’t necessarily required. Depending on the size and scale of your event, I would recommend having dedicated people for those positions, but it’s not something you need to immediately think about.

If you are anxious at all about having the right staff for your event, or would like any help, I would be more than happy to assist you – for reference, I have worked essentially every major online event since the quarantine has started (The Quarantine Series, Pound Online, The Box, Collision Online, and many more), and have also been actively TO’ing and organizing events since 2015. I have a large network of qualified and experienced folks who can get the job done well, so if you ever need anything, feel free to reach out to me via Twitter below.


Hope this guide was useful to everyone! Again, this is a lot of information to take in at once, so feel free to go back to it every now and then if you need a refresher from time to time. If you have any thoughts, comments, or feedback, please let me know! I’m very open to everything and always open to learning new things. There’s still a lot of things I could’ve potentially gone over, but I feel this is a solid start to help everyone put together solid events for the community.

Big shoutouts to the following people for helping me fact-check a lot of this information – they’ve been a massive help recently with online events and do a ton of phenomenal work, make sure to check them out:

– Jamshyd (@jamshydposting)
– Tacos (@TacosBrick)
– Swanner (@SwannerSSB)

Thank you for reading!
Cyrus “Cagt” Gharakhanian (@Cagt3000)

1 thought on “TO 101: A Guide to Online Tournaments

  1. […] TO 101: A Guide to Online Tournaments […]

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