Quoted from Xerico:
A large number of exhibitors load in their games on Thursday. Showing up on Thursday to help people load is a great way to get to know other pinball collectors as well as get an opportunity to play some games in a calmer environment.
And the tournaments typically open earlier on Friday than the normal show.
Lots of perks for showing up on Thursday.
Quoted from Ed_in_Texas:
The advantage to showing up Thursday for Exhibitors and Vendors is getting your games and booth set up early and having a evening to relax and hang with friends before the show opens on Friday. If you are just buying a weekend pass, there is really no benefit to showing up Thursday unless you are one of the few volunteers needed for Thursday set-up. We really need to try to restrict the set up area to exhibitors, vendors, and volunteers. Of course if you do show up Thursday and are staying in the hotel, you can still take advantage of the free happy hour and visit with friends
So if you put these two posts together, you can see the best way to attend TPF is to bring games and show up on Thursday! That's what I did and it was great. Friday was really relaxing and I was able to visit wth other exhibitors and offer a hand to people that needed it. Win-win.