Ball saver and coaching

This may have been answered before, but I came up empty in my searches.

During Pinburgh (any many other tournaments), it happens time and time again that a player walks away after a drain, not knowing that a ball saver is still running or that the game will eject a held ball. Typically, the other competitors do the sportsman-like thing and shout “ball save.” It’s happened to me on more than one occasion, and I was grateful that people pulled me up (to their own potential disadvantage!)

But, looking at the rules, I find this:

Because the tournament divisions consist solely of singles play, coaching of any player during a game, in any round, is not allowed.

I’m uncertain here in two ways:

“Because the tournament divisions consist solely of singles play…” Which tournament divisions are being referred to here, and why would they consist only of singles play? That part of the sentence seems out of context?

Second, why would someone shouting “ball save” not considered to be coaching? The ball is technically still in play (e.g. bonus count-down has not started), and, to me, telling a player “you still have the ball” is coaching as much as telling him/her to “shoot the right orbit within the next 30 seconds.”

Please don’t get me wrong here. I totally agree that telling someone that a ball save is running is in the spirit of the game. But I can’t find anything in the rules to allow this, and the only words I can find seem to forbid it.

Am I missing some other section in the rules?

This was discussed briefly in the tournament etiquette thread: Tournament Unwritten Rules or Etiquette

The idea that nobody should alert the player seems pretty uncontested.

You probably won’t get dinged for coaching if you call it on a modern unless someone is taking offense to the extreme. Then again, there’s a reason why “don’t mention ball saves” is part of the usual pre-Pinburgh talk; it is by the books coaching and may be treated as such.

On classics you call that out all day - mostly because those games don’t have auto plungers and the player needs to return to interact with their ball for playing-in-turn reasons.

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It seemed rather contested over here: Tournament etiquette

This is meant to be a comparison to a doubles or team format.

Thanks for the pointer to the other thread!

Hmmm… This is hairy, isn’t it?

Hypothetical: Ball 3, I’m player 2, having just finished in the lead. Player 3 walks up, starts ball, drains before reaching my score, and walks away. Ball save is still running, and player 1 shouts “ball save”. Player 3 proceeds to surpass my score, costing me a point.

I’d feel not very happy either way. If I say nothing, I’ve done myself out of a point. If I go and rat on player 1, I’m the bad guy :frowning:

It’s even more uncertain if the “ball save” call is made during someone’s ball 1, where it won’t be known for another two balls if the outside help materially affected the outcome of the game.

To get a feel for existing practice, how is this currently being handled at various tournaments in the US? It happens a lot. Does everyone turn a blind eye?

Ah, thanks! It might be good to reword this. As it stands, I think it’s really confusing.

“Because the divisions of play…” The divisions of play doesn’t make sense because “divisions” are not previously mentioned at all. This passage is in fact the first time the word “divisions” appears in the document.

Also, are things different in a doubles or team format? Would it be OK for a team mate to tell me that a ball saver is running? Looking at the words about coaching, I would think not?

If so, mentioning divisions and/or singles vs doubles play seems irrelevant.

There’s another angle on this that I don’t think was covered in the prior thread, specifically the distinction between “novice” and “seasoned” players. The “etiquette” idea applies best to novices, i.e. I (we?) want them to play for as long as they can to encourage them along, and also to teach them about ball saves and to be aware of these. At the Vancouver show, I know of multiple cases where someone was told about a ball save after starting to walk away, usually a novice, and I don’t recall anyone being bothered by it. There’s kind of a different standard many people do or want to apply to the regulars, though, as in use it or lose it. That makes sense, because we should know better and take responsibility for such oversights. The problem then becomes having two different behavioral standards in place at the same time, especially if the person calling out “ball save” is a novice who’s just recently learned of them and would call it out to their fellow novices. There’s an added wrinkle on this now, too, from “last second button bashing,” where someone might call out “hit the button” on GotG, Deadpool, etc. to their friends who aren’t used to thinking about it.

To some extent, it’s a “flaw or feature” of modern pinball in that the game or ball used to be over as far as a player’s actions were concerned when the ball drained, but now we’ve added tech that “does stuff” after that and not everybody always remembers.

I can’t think of a really good non-pinball parallel to draw on, although the college football “whistle hasn’t blow the play dead yet, you can still run with it” comes close.


What is the penalty for ball save coaching? Is it warning the first time and then…?

Since learning this was against the rules I’ve, mostly, trained my mouth not to say anything, but, I’ve not had as much luck training my face and my arm and index finger the latter two are usually extended and in a slow drop when I realize they are involuntarily raised by the time my opponent turns away from a missed ball save.

Card for the coacher for sure. Potentially the coachee if they react to it.

I had to redirect 2 players in Clepin classics finals back to their games; one for a zero point Stingray ball, one for a Drain Shield on Solar Fire they walked away from. Don’t worry, old games can be strange too :smile:

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We had the “zero ball, go back and play in turn” in Vancouver, too, including a Mata Hari saucer rim-out center drain (fairly obvious), another on Counterforce, and one on Nitro Groundshaker of all games.

I would love to see the first player thrown out of a tournament for reacting to someone giving them some coaching tips at the wrong time. Might be the best way to eliminate KME these days :slight_smile:


It’s possible to construct nasty scenarios around this.

For example, group matchplay, ball 3. Player 1 and 2 have finished. Player 3 starts playing, and player 1 can advance only if player 3 catches player 2’s score. Player 3 drains early and walks away before reaching player 2’s score, and player 1 shouts “ball save”. Then player 3 continues with the saved ball, catches player 2, and player 1 gets to advance.

On balance, given the potential for manipulating the result of a round, it seems best not to say anything. On the other hand, I can just hear the remarks… “What, you stood there and saw him drain with the ball saver running, and you didn’t say anything? What sort of a sportsman are you?”

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Wasn’t a throw out, but a card happened during Replay weekend for taking a coaching tip.

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This seems pretty awful. Unless a player asks for a tip and receives one, I’d say keep that card in the pocket.


It’s more player intent after hearing the coaching. If they make an abrupt change (as was the situation at hand), the card is justified.

No way. What if the player saw the ball save just as the person said something? And when asked the player said they saw the animation as they turned away and came back?


I completely disagree with this. You can keep your opponent from using optimal strategies by telling them optimal strategies? If a player asks for help it’s one thing. If they don’t, let’s not punish them for someone else’s actions.

I don’t think I’ve ever played in a 4 player group where one of the competitors didn’t yell ‘Ball Save’ when it happened. If we want to start penalizing that ok. Now we’re gonna start giving penalties to the player that turns around and keeps playing?

I know things affect things and people get bad results. How can you be 100% sure they wouldn’t have thought of the ball save themself one second later?


I sure hope nobody yells “SHOOT THE LEFT ORBIT” at me while playing Theatre of Magic before I had a chance to show that it was my strategy all along. Not sure how I would play the game otherwise :slight_smile:


What about someone calling out “don’t tilt?”