One way to enjoy croquet is to play in tournaments. You'll meet new players from other places, learn new techniques and strategies, and enjoy the thrill of victory.
Start by playing in an event at your local croquet club. Then enter a state or regional tournament sanctioned by the USCA. Broaden your horizons by competing in other states. Finally, enter an international competition in another country.
The way in which players are paired up against each other is call the format of the tournament. There are many different formats. They may confuse you at first, but you can read about them here, or ask the tournament director.
Clubs usually have an on-going tournament in a format (like Ladder) that allows continuous play among, and ranking of, all the members of the club.
Large tournaments are often divided into flights, with each flight containing a reasonable number of players of approximately the same ability.
Large flights are often held in three phases: blocks, knockout, and plate.
All the players are divided into several equal-sized blocks. Each block plays a format (like Round Robin) that ranks the players. High ranking players advance to the knockout, and low ranking players enter the plate. The block is like a qualifier.
Advancing players from all the blocks enter a single knockout. The knockout plays a format (like Single Elimination) that determines the winning player. Losing players sometimes enter the plate.
Players eliminated from the blocks and the knockout may enter the plate competition. The plate plays a format (like Egyptian) that determines a winner from any number of players. The plate is like a consolation prize.
The USCA has published regulations for running tournaments, and for selecting players for team and individual events. You may need to get the Adobe Acrobat Reader, or Microsoft Word Viewer, to open them.