Tournament paintball is a small but exciting niche for very experienced paintball players. Most experienced paintball players in Houston have accumulated thousands of dollars of expensive high performance paintball equipment. Light weight tanks, smooth accurate markers, goggles with HD lenses and many other types of gear are all things that paintball players invest in to give them an edge over the competition. While you can spend a lot of money on paintball gear to get professional performance, many paintballers also put a premium on originality. Custom jerseys, goggle straps, and anodized paintball guns are all in short supply and go for a premium dollars.
While gear is a primary concern for any tournament paintball player, actually playing in events and getting experience and wins is the most important thing a paintballer can be doing to get better. Houston is home to several tournament leagues. While we do enjoy some fantastic paintball facilities to play tournaments at, not all events are created equal. Teams tend to gravitate towards those that are the most professionally run, have the best prizes, and stay relevant with the playing format.
The PSP (Premier Sport Promotions) League is the top nationally run paintball series that hosts 5 events per year, including one stop in Texas. In 2011-2012 the event was held in Galveston, but in 2013 it was held at Cousin’s Paintball in Dallas, Tx. The PSP is a professional league run in part by Dye Paintball and other partners. Most of the big teams, sometimes called factory teams, are actually sponsored and paid for by the big paintball equipment manufacturers. Playing in the PSP is expensive, but it has the best talent and best support of any series in the USA. If you can make it out to watch a PSP event, it’s worth the drive, and there are always great vendor booths to visit.
AXBL Southwest Tournament
The AXBL is probably the top tournament series in Texas. Paintball fields in Houston, Dallas, Temple, and San Antonio host players from as far away as Oklahoma, Louisiana and Mission, Texas. The AXBL has national sponsorship from GI Paintball, support from Social Paintball (the premier paintball news outlet) and vendors like Gangster Paintball.
The AXBL first rose from the ashes of the STARS league in 2012 and began hosting events based on the PSP rulebook. After getting some events under their belt in 2012 they’ve been able to expand the series and improve its standing. In 2013 the AXBL became a 2-day event hosting D4 3-man and pump-series events on Saturday and D3 5-man events on Sundays. It is run very professionally and is the place the best paintball players in Texas go to play.
Players that want to attend an AXBL Southwest event must register via the APPA website and be prepared to pay cash at the event. Unfortunately paying cash is the result of a few bad teams disputing their credit card bills after the fact. We are all suffering for the sins of a few. Hopefully this will change, as it is pretty ridiculous to expect teams to come out of pocket with so much cash after traveling around half of Texas. It’s a small issue, but an aggravating one, and there has to be a work-around that satisfies everyone.
The now basically defunct NPPL was originally the pride and joy of paintball. Fraught with internal struggles, format problems, and finally sponsorship problems, teams began jumping ship after the 2012 season. While the NPPL does not enjoy the prominence or support it once did, it is still a widely attended series on the west coast. The future of the NPPL is uncertain, but it will most likely continue to decline until it is a regional series with stops up and down the California coast and Las Vegas. It is unlikely that the NPPL will host large national events after 2013 or ever have an event in Texas.
The Houston Paintball League (HPL) is owned and operated by Pro Edge paintball and is geared towards 3-man teams with little or no experience. The HPL website, unfortunately, isn’t currently up to date, so the status of this league is a bit uncertain. With that said, the HPL is organized, has prizes and keeps sandbaggers out of the mix. Sandbaggers are players with a high level of skill who drop down to play against teams of inferior talent and experience. Like the HRL participation is sketchy compared to the AXBL Southwest.
The Houston Rookie League (HRL) has been running since 1999 and was originally operated by Tank’s Paintball in Katy, Texas but has since changed owners. The HRL is geared towards entry and intermediate level players on 3-man teams and has recently adopted the PSP D4 rulebook. Participation is sketchy compared to the AXBL Southwest and of the two smaller tournaments, the HPL has better support from local teams, has a more controlled environment and has better prizes for winners. Sandbagging can be a problem for any tournament, but it seems to be more of an issue at the HRL.