Issue #3, April 2013

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** What is the STAR Tournaments all About?  **
      (interview with Pete Nelson, Star Board Member conducted by the Wolfman)

(Notes from the Wolfman: As our members no doubt know by now, SOM Baseball Tournaments is
a personal passion.  As you will read in the April column about the 1974 National Convention which a group of us setup - bring gamers together via tournaments is a key part of the history of SOM Baseball.  Since 1986, there have been a group of dedicated Strat-o-matic Baseball fanatics who have carried this torch offering tournaments all over the U.S. called the STAR Tournaments and now with their sister group SOM Tours, who we will discuss in May, are beginning to offer in Canada.  Its possible these tournaments could be defining who are some of the best SOM Baseball gamers on the planet.  Plus recently STAR has begun to offer on-line tournaments utilizing Netplay and Skype plus is going to support our initiative for a weekend line of tournaments in September of this year - see the newsletters main page for other details. We are lucky to have Pete Nelson, who is one of five STAR Board Members to speak with us to learn more about the STAR Tournaments. Also Pete has had his share of winning a few tournaments as well and has won the WORLDS tournament which is the championship tournament held each year.  Thanks Pete for being open to share with our members. )

The STAR Tournament Logo along with Board Member Pete Nelson showing his Seattle roots

Wolfman:  Pete, I have participated in the Star Tournaments in Chicago twice before and I can tell you that it brings the very best SOM Baseball gamers on the planet together in one place. I didn't have much luck in the face-to-face tournaments as I am use to playing the computer game but I did  learn some new startegies that helped me in my computer league from my involvement in your tournaments. I have to say that the competition at the tournaments is fierce but its a great way to learn the game. Thank you Pete for allowing our readers to gain more insights into the STAR tournaments and taking time to answer my questions.

So Pete, how did the Star Tournaments start, when is the first year it was offered?

PeteStar Tournaments started in 1996. Prior to Star, there was an organization called the Table Baseball Association which ran tournaments nation-wide. It became clear that the TBA was not going to be around any more and a group of us got together to form Star to keep tournament play going.

Wolfman's Note - I met in Chicago John Kreuz through our assistant Larry Braus who was the founder of the TBA which began in 1986.  The idea of the WORLD tournaments which is to find the Champion for each year was started in 1986 and the TBA winners of the WORLDs along with the STAR champions starting in 1996 are shown on the STAR tournament website.)

I am one of five Star Board members, a Tournament Director (TD) for Portland, Treasurer and a half-dozen other roles including taking care of our website. Stan Suderman is the president of our Board.

Wolfman:  Now when I participated in the STAR tournaments in Chicago I met Hank Smith who I had an email correspondence with and even had a chance to play Hank in the tournament. My understanding is Hank was one of the originators of the STAR Tournaments. Can you share with our members exactly what role Hank Smith played with the tournaments? I also would like to acknowledge Hank for his outstanding efforts to keep alive the SOM Baseball Tournaments and all the time he spent to do so as unfortunately he recently passed away which is a great lost to our community. 

PeteHank Smith was one of the early leaders within Star and was our first Commissioner. In fact, Hank was the person who named Star. Hank was a good friend of mine and was the greatest ambassador for our hobby that we've ever had (or likely will ever have!). We'll miss him. Hank is 4th all-time in tournament games played but only played in one event last year as his health prevented him from playing as much as he had in the past. We occasionally have elections in Star and Hank served as our official vote-counter.
Wolfman:  What is the goal for holding these Tournaments? How are the tournaments setup?
You hold the tournaments in many cities I see, how is this accomplished?

PeteThe goal for these tournaments is to have fun. We love the competition and the camaraderie. Tournaments have various formats. For our Face-To-Face (FTF) events, we usually draft our teams on Friday night or Saturday morning. Then, we play a schedule of games with the top teams qualifying for the playoffs. A tournament champion is crowned on Sunday night. We also have an Internet Division where games are played using the SOM computer game and scheduled when people are available to play.

Just this year, we've added a third option (PureStrat). The cards are used just like with FTF but the games are played from your own home with an internet dice roller and Skype for communication. What makes this all work are the volunteers in the various cities who are willing to give their time to organize and run these events. Star provides publicity for these events with our website and Message Board plus a flyer that is included in the card sets. Star also provides the structure and in-game rules plus Star runs the National Championship every year (which we call the Worlds). Star also keeps track of the records for all players and provides useful draft information (including an average pick sheet from all tournaments) and a draft simulator (DSIM) to help people prepare for the draft and some use DSIM during the draft.

Wolfman's Note - Again from my experiences in Chicago, the DSIM is a computer program that helps a person draft their team at the tournament as all the elligible players who can be drafted are included as well as the statistics from prior drafts which players were picked in which position in the draft. If nothing else and you visit the STAR website and download their DSIM program, it can help you rank the quality of the players in the current SOM Baseball set for your own leagues or tournaments!)
Wolfman, PureStrat is the name given by it's inventor (Bryan Albin) for the tournament format that allows people to play tournament games from home using an Internet dice roller and Skype for communications. It is also the new name for the West Region of Star (with Bryan as the Region Director). In the PureStrat Region, we have both FTF tournaments and PureStrat tournaments. (Wolfman's Note - so the PureStrat Region offers both face-to-face and on-line tournaments.)

Additionally for our tournaments, we use Super Advanced rules but have made a few changes to those over time. We have a Rules Committee that looks at ways we can improve the tournament experience.
Wolfman:  Pete can you go into more detail from start to finish, what the experience would be like to participate in a star tournament so our readers will have a better idea off what it is like to be in a STAR Tournament?

Pete (Ref #1) Different tournaments have different formats but all tournaments start with a draft where each entrant selects 25 players and a ballpark. If you have 15 or more entrants, you will have multiple divisions of between 8 and 14 players. All divisions have to be the same size so, if you had multiple divisions, one or more DSIM teams (teams drafted by computer using Stan Suderman's DSIM program) would be added to balance out the divisions. Some people use DSIM to draft their team but most people have their own system (which may or may not use a computer). For most FTF tournaments, the draft is held at the tournament site. After the draft, you play the number of series that the format calls for. Usually, 4-game series.

After the regular season, the teams with the best records advance to the play-offs. Depending on the number of entrants, you might have 1, 2 or even 3 rounds of play-offs (again, depending upon the format for that tournament). For the FTF weekend tournaments, the winner can expect to play 35-40 games. For the Skype tournaments (where you use the cards like in FTF but play from home using Skype for communication and the web for a dice roller), you'll play slightly more games but they're spread out over an entire month. Same for the NetPlay tournaments (that use the SOM computer game).
(Wolfman's Note: So in STAR for their on-line tournaments, some use SOM Netplay program to do their tournaments and others use Skype where you are playing your opponent live through skype each viewing the cards of both teams.)

Wolfman:  How is a champion for a specific tournament decided - is it based on record or is there some elimination process you use?

PeteRecords are used to determine who makes the play-offs and the play-offs are used to determine the tournament champ.  (Wolfman's Note - so its the collective won-lost record of the participants after all tournament play is done which determines who makes the playoffs.)

Wolfman:  Can you give an example from this year of a team's roster that were selected to create a champion team that won one of your tournaments? What role does the pick of the stadium or ballpark serve?

PeteYou can go to the star website ( ) and click on APS, Drafts, Eligible Players link (left margin). From there click on the Draft Summaries link (second column of links). Then click on Los Angeles March B. You'll see the entire draft and note the records for each player and you'll also see that Sean Riley won drafting Votto with the second pick overall. The stadium plays a very important role as you want to draft a stadium that fits your team. If you have a lot of power on your team, you want to be in a hitter's park. If you don't have a lot of power or your pitchers give up a lot of bombs, you want to be in a pitcher's park.
Wolfman:  What is the normal schedule of a tournament - do people come in on a Friday or Saturday - how many games should a person expect to play on the weekend? How is the draft orientated - how many people in a group can you have max?

Pete(See Ref #1 above.) Some FTF tournaments have a Friday night draft while other FTF events have the draft on Saturday morning. There are even a few FTF tournaments which hold the draft via Skype or the Internet and then gather in one place to play the games.
Wolfman:  What type of teams do you personally like to draft (like defensive, pitching, power hitters, on base, etc )? Do you switch the team from tournament to tournament?

PeteI personally like to draft a good defensive team. Other than that, I have no particular strategy. I just take what the draft gives me a build a versatile team that can be successful in multiple situations. You're always going to be weak somewhere though.

Now I noticed in the Chicago Tournament, that the winner received a cash prize and the participants had an option to just play for fun or to pay a higher fee if they wish to compete for the ultimate cash prize. When we did our tournaments at the National Coventions we awared our winners with trophies. Can you discuss how the cash prize evolved within STAR and how this works exactly?

PeteStar is not involved in prize money. Many events offer a play-for-fun option where the entrant pays only their share of the costs. Prize money is up to the tournament host. Star collects $50/tournament to cover the costs associated with running our non-profit corporation  (Star Tournament Association). We will not sanction any tournaments where anyone involved takes a cut for themselves. These costs include the conference room at the Worlds, the cost of putting a flyer in every card set, web hosting costs etc. No one in Star has ever made a dime for themselves and in fact most of us have contributed significant funds toward this enterprise.

(Wolfman's Note: - there are various regions which make up STAR, each city has a Tournament Director and various cities are part of one of the regions.  Each region decides independently what the fee to play for fun or if they wish to offer a cash prize.  One aspect discussed with me by Bryan from Purestrat is that the expense for a person to attend a STAR tournament who is not local is getting hiring for the plane expense and hotel.  So for a person to win a tournament helps to recoup these costs.  As Pete is explaining the STAR Tournament Association is the glue that keeps all the tournaments linked together and is collecting the statistics of what happens at each tournament.)

There are other expenses that a tournament will have (for example, the conference room) so each tournament must collect enough from each entrant to cover their expenses. Prize money is entirely up to the tournament - Star has nothing to do with that. We're not for it or against it. The only thing we insist on is that, if prize money is collected, it must all be distributed back to the entrants (so much for first, second, third etc.). How they do that is entirely up to them.

So, in your Chicago example, I assume that the expenses were $25/person. Anything collected above that would have gone into the prize money pool.
Wolfman:  What has been some of the most exciting moments in the Star's History - either unusual game play - or play in championship series? Can you explain what the Worlds are?

PeteThere have been many exciting moments over the years. Anyone who has ever played could talk for hours about all the crazy stuff that has happened. My most memorable game was in the 2004 Worlds where I was playing Mark VanKlaveren in the play-offs. It was game 7 with the loser out and the winner going onto the semi-finals. Mark had run out of pitching and was using the hitter's pitching card. For some reason, I could not touch that guy as he shut me out for several innings before getting the win and going on to win the championship. I remember getting a guy on first only to have him picked off trying to steal off the +9 hold. The Worlds is the biggest (and final) tournament of the season and is open to anyone. The winner of that event is considered our champion. Willy Dominguez won it this past January (Wolfman's Note - to see our interview with Willy for this issue, click here).
Wolfman:  Let's talk about the on-line tournaments that you are offering now. Is there a stronger interest in an on-line tournament verse face-to-face? 

PeteThere is still more interest in FTF but participation in our Internet Division and PureStrat play is growing.
Wolfman:  For the on-line tournaments you are holding - via either Netplay or Skype - do you also do a draft - is there a different strategy to play in these? What is an electronic dice roller and how does this work?

Yes, the draft is the same for all three kinds of tournaments (FTF, NetPlay and Skype). The only significant strategic difference is with the bullpen usage. With FTF, the bullpen usage caries over from series to series. With NetPlay and Skype, the bullpen re-sets after each 4-game series. Thus, you can see unusual pen usage in game 4 because there is no reason to save someone for the next game. This is a necessary accommodation which allows the 4-game series to be played in any order for the NetPlay and Skype tournaments. The dice roller is a web application provided by a special SOM group on the internet. When you're ready to roll, you just click on the roll button. You can check it out at: (it's free).

Wolfman:  What are some of the key strategies that you recommend Pete should any of our readers decide to participate in a future Star Tournament for the first time? What should they know to prepare for the tournament to see success in their play? Is there any tournaments being offered that are not using the latest set of baseball cards released by Strat-o-matic?

PeteThe main thing I tell new players is to not try and do too much during their first event. People have won tournaments drafting a team off the Average Pick Sheet (This is a document that shows the player who is selected on the highest average of each pick of the draft). Just come and have fun and layer in additional complexity as you learn from others about what works and what doesn't. There is no one way to do this. There are many different philosophies out there and people have success using many different styles. For example, I'm known for drafting good defensive teams. Lots of people think I'm nuts but this style has worked pretty well for me over the years. The main thing is just come and play. You will learn more from a weekend of playing than you would from many months of preparation.

SOMT offers tournaments using cards from past years (called Throwback). There was one in February and another is scheduled for September 7th in Pittsburgh of this year. (Wolfman's Note - SOMT {SOM Tours} is the sister group offering tournaments, see my comments below.)

Wolfman:  How does one apply to participate in a tournament?

PeteEasy. You go to our website and click on the schedule link (middle, toward the top). Find the tournament you're interested in and click on the link. You'll find the contact person who you can call or e-mail to get details for the event. This information is also in our flyer that came with your cards. Or, you can just show up but I strongly suggest you get in touch with the tournament host (or tournament director) prior to the event so you know what to expect.

Wolfman:  What is the best way for interested people to contact you?

Petee-mail me at
Wolfman:  Do you have support in any way from the Game Company? Do they have any say or rules you must follow to offer your tournaments sanctioned by the Game Company?

PeteWe are not sanctioned by the game company but have an unofficial relationship with them. I guess you could say they support us as they agree to put our flyer in the card sets every year. SOM does not have any say in how we run our tournaments or what rules we use. Our rules do not differ that much from the SOM Super-advanced rules.
Wolfman:  Is there anything else that is important to share with our readers that was not asked in prior questions that you believe would be of value for our readers to know about the Star Tournaments?

PeteSome people are intimidated by tournament play. Then, they come and have a great time and realize that it's just Strat and not that much different from what they're used to playing. And, we have some alternatives now (PureStrat and the Internet Region) for those that can't dedicate a whole weekend or can't travel.

Wolfman:  Do you have any plans for new tournaments or new activities in the future - how many tournaments are you holding  each year - where would you like to see Star go?

As of now, we aren't planning any new activities. We have Internet tournaments once per month and Skype tournaments once per month. Plus, we have a full slate of 42 FTF weekend events that are held all across North America (this is a combination of tournaments coordinated by STAR and SOMT). The schedule is included in the card sets that come from the game company plus you can see the schedule on our website ( ) by clicking on the 2013 Schedule and Results link (middle, toward the top).

As for the future, I would like to see more Strat players give tournament play a shot. The only way to find out if it's for you is to give it a try.

Pete, thank you again for allowing us this opportunity to speak to you and learn more about the Star Tournaments, which many consider the premier Baseball tournament that now are being offered.
We also wish to acknowledge your support for our newsletter by allowing us to share it with your members. We hope in the future  there are ways we may be able to work together on joint projects with you.

(Final Notes from the Wolfman:  As you have seen on our main page, one of the section of the April newsletter is about the idea of creating a weekend in September where various baseball tournaments will be offered on-line.  As we state on this page, Pete has been sharing with us various advice and we look forward to working with STAR to join us in this great adventure. This is part of the reason why this month we have interviewed Pete and Willy, so our readers have an idea of the tournaments currently being held.  Next month, in our May issue we will introduce you to SOMT or SOM Tours. Pretty much both groups, SOMT and STAR are holding similar tournaments and are sister organizations but each has their own geographical area where the tournaments are held. STAR is doing the Western, Midwest {sharing} and South of the U.S. and SOMT has the East Coast, Midwest {sharing} and did a tournament in Toronto, Canada. We also will speak to Bryan Albin of Purestraat, the Western region of STAR who came up with the Skype Internet based tournaments. We hope you are enjoying learning about the current and past tournaments and meeting the key individuals involved.)


Contained inside this exciting issue of Ultimate Strat Baseball Newsletter:
(to view the various interviews, articles, columns and special sections click on the links {underlined}
and this will take you to the appropriate webpage)


  INTERVIEW with JEFF POLMAN, Writer, SOM Website Columnist, Replay Expert.

  INTERVIEW with JIM CALLIS and KEN DAVIDOFF, Jim is Executive Editor of Baseball America and Ken is a baseball columnist for the NY Post

"The Ultimate Strat Newsletter" and 2012 CBA Champion. Wolfman takes us back in
this article to the third national Strat-o-matic Convention in 1974 held in Champaign-Urbana, IL, at the University of Illinois as the Wolfman and his buddies organize their first convention. Wolfman will be our guide through the first nine conventions going through 1980 of which he was present at each one. We now begin the era from 1974-1980 when the conventions moved to Illinois. We will continue to share one new convention in each future issue till all of these early ones are published.

  INTERVIEW with WILLY DOMINQUEZ, January 2013 STAR Worlds Champion

  INTERVIEW with TERRY BARTELME, SOM Gamer, Discusses his experiences with the Negro and Japanese Players working with private developers.

  INTERVIEW with BILLY SAMPLE, Ex-MLB Player (TEX,NYY,ATL), Sportscaster

  COMMISSIONER's CORNER with MARC WASSERMAN -- commissioner of the Cyber Baseball Association (CBA) continues his column about what it is like to be a League Commissioner. In this article he discusses the early development of a League's Constitution, League Themes and Economics.

  SOM BASEBALL CARDS QUIZ - our test of your knowledge of the SOM Baseball Cards, questions and answers provided by Marc Wasserman. In this issue we give the answers to Quiz #2, explain our new format for this column, introduce some early SOM Baseball cards from the 1960 and 1961 seasons thanks to Tom Nahigian who is also interviewed in this issue in his own section.

  INTERVIEW with TOM NAHIGIAN -- SOM Gamer, Baseball Card Collector

  RECOMMEND ON-LINE SOM RESOURCES -- On-line Strat-o-matic and Baseball related websites that offer amazing information, special tools and products to improve your game play that we strongly recommend. In most cases, we have had personal contact with these sources who agree with the principle to work together and help promote each other.

  BOOKS TO DIE FOR and Become a BASEBALL GURU -- This page is a new page we are adding for the newsletter that is specifically about special books we are finding that either will expand your insights about the game of Baseball, help you in the creation of your current league teams or with your replays and learn more about the Strat-o-matic Base Game and Game Company's history.  At the time of the release of this newsletter we have a special arrangement with Acta Sports to offer our members a 10% discount. We hope to add more books in the future.


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