The intent of these rules is to create a fair tournament that not only chooses an appropriate champion, but provides all participants with the greatest opportunity to play Icehouse against the widest field of opponents.
Medallions are awarded to the player voted "Cooler Than Ice" and the four finalists, with a second medallion for the champion. The champion also wins possession of the Scepter for one year. Some years, other prizes are donated and awarded according to the instructions of the donors.
The tournament has two phases. The first phase is the play-off (or Ice-Off) phase used to generate scores used for player rating. The second phase is a finals round between the four players with the highest ratings.
All games in the tournament are timer games. The length of the timer has varied over the history of the tournament, but the latest version was the "9+1d6" secret timer. That is, the referee rolls a six-sided die, adds the result to 9, and sets the timer to that number of minutes without telling anyone in the tournament how much time they have.
All games in the tournament are four-player games. In the Ice- Off phase of the tournament, players are seated at tables according to a schedule developed by Ryan McGuire. Players are assigned to spots in the schedule by random draw, and the schedule assures that each participant plays against the widest possible field of opponents.
The Ice-Offs consist of several rounds. The exact number varies depending on the number of participants, with the intent being to have each participant play four games. If the number of participants is a multiple of four, this works out to four rounds, but in some cases it can be as many as seven rounds with some participants sitting out some rounds, and others playing "extra" games to fill out the schedule. (Extra games do not contribute to a participant's rating.)
During each round, the referee wanders from table to table. Since there are typically fewer referees than tables, participants are asked to be largely self-policing, but at least one referee is necessary for each tournament to settle contentious issues like "floss" and "Icehouse" calls.
At the end of each round, the referee scores each game. Players in each game may watch the scoring process and make appeals, but the ruling of the referee regarding each player's score is final. Players should stand back from the table during scoring, to avoid disturbing the layout.
After the necessary number of Ice-Off rounds are completed, the participants are rated. The scores of all games are tabulated and each player's total score (the sum of that player's scores for the four games that counted) is multiplied by the number of games they won, plus one, to compute a rating for that player. The point for shared wins (tied games) is split evenly among the winning players. For player's who win no games, their rating and score sum are equal. The players with the four highest ratings progress to the finals.
I have a spreadsheet that keeps track of the participants' scores and wins, and calculates ratings automatically. This takes a lot of the tedium out of running the tournament, and lowers the chances of an error in calculation. If the number of rounds change from the default of 15, it is necessary to change the spreadsheet and modify some of the formulae. In any case, the ratings are not calculated until all the columns are filled, leaving some suspense.
While the ratings are being calculated, all participants cast three votes for "Cooler Than Ice". The intent is to reward the player who best exemplifies the spirit of "cool" during the tournament. The referee(s) also vote(s), and at no time does anybody but the head referee know the vote totals. The CTI medallion is awarded when the finalists are announced.
Typically, the finals occur following a short break. The length of this break varies depending on the finalists. The finals could occur the next day if the finalists prefer. They could also occur immediately.
Usually, there are only three finals games. There could be as many as five, but it's not really necessary. Finals games are played and scored identically to Ice-Off games, with the referee being able to pay full attention to the single game. After the finals games are finished, a finals rating is computed for each player, and the player with the highest rating wins. In the case of a tie, a "full tournament" rating is computed for the tied players.
The championship medallion is awarded, the Scepter is presented by the previous year's champion, and then everybody goes out for drinks.