Confusion over what it means to defer game choice and instead choose order

Hi All,

One area of confusion that I’ve seen come up repeatedly is how choice of order should work in cases where a player defers game choice and instead chooses order. Specifically, there is confusion about WHEN the the top seed has to declare their choice of order.

In all the circuit events and other major tournaments I’ve participated in, if the top seed chooses to defer, they simply say “Order”. They don’t have to actually pick which position they’ll play until after the under-seed selects the game.

For example,…

  1. Top seed defers game choice and instead picks “Order”
  2. Second seed chooses the game
  3. Top seed then decides which position she/he wants to play
  4. Third seed chooses order from the remaining positions
  5. Fourth seed chooses order from the remaining positions
  6. Second seed is assigned the remaining position
    [This example assumes the second choice picks the game and does not continue to defer to the third seed. But if that were to happen, the logic is the same: higher seeded players get choice of position before lower seeded players unless they themselves choose the game.]

In some cases, I’ve seen TDs and/or players think that #2 and #3 should be reversed, ie, the Top Seed has to declare their specific position choice (player 4, for example) before they know what game they will be playing.

This distinction is very important because there are a substantial minority of games where playing as player 1 may be advantageous over another position. You would want to know what game you are playing before picking your position. Some examples…

  • Twilight Zone if the Powerball is the next ball in the Gumball Machine
  • Many modern Sterns (eg, Game of Thrones) if virtual locks aren’t enabled
  • Many System 11 games (eg, Taxi) if a progressive jackpot is high and resets after the first player collects it
  • Many EMs (eg, Big Valley) and some SSs (Jokerz!) which retain locked balls between games
  • Many EMs (eg, Trio) and some SSs (eg, Rollergames) which retain state between games

My assertion is that if the Top Seed defers game choice, they should have the option of choosing to be player 1 on a particular game if such an advantage exists, but should have the option of choosing to be player 4 on another game which has no such advantage. Thus, they should be allowed to choose their position after the under-seed chooses the game.

The IFPA/PAPA ruleset is silent on this topic, as is the Pinburgh ruleset. And even if this was explicitly stated in the rules, Tournament Directors always have the discretion to set whatever rules they wish for their tournaments. But my hope is that we can at least agree on a standard procedure.

Please note: It can be difficult to convey tone in a post. I’d like to make it very clear that in no way am I faulting any TDs who have taken the contrary position. TDs do a tremendous amount of work and I am sure I speak for all of us in expressing my appreciation to them. I’m writing this post only in the hopes of raising broader awareness of this issue and of generating consensus for a standard for the future.


I’m glad you posted this, I was going to do the same after we talked about this saturday but hadn’t yet got around to it. I think it’s an interesting discussion.

The pertinent info you’re looking for is outlined not in the IFPAPA ruleset but on the PAPA website directors guide, relevant section quoted:

The highest-seeded player within each group may choose either the machine to be played, or the order of play. If the highest-seeded player chooses order of play, the remaining players may choose their order, in descending order of seeding, and choice of machine then goes to the next highest-seeded player in the group. Conversely, if the highest-seeded player chooses the machine to be played, then the next highest-seeded player chooses the order of play, with the remaining players choosing order of play in decreasing order of seeding.

Note that the original seeding of players when entering the final rounds from qualifying is used in every round. At no time does a player’s seeding change from round to round; therefore the advantage of qualifying in first place can be significant.

After asking around a bit yesterday, it seems like the common interpretation of these rules is, high seed gets choice of game, first, second, third or fourth. The next highest seed gets choice of what’s left and so on. Unfortunately, this isn’t worded very well. One of our fellow competitors from the weekend who writes contracts for a living (not sure if he’s a tiltforums member) says he would interpret this “legalese” to mean the following:

…highest seed chooses position then each other player chooses position based on seed order. After all positions are chosen, the second seed chooses game.

I imagine if anyone ran their tournament like that they’d be drawn and quartered so it seems the guidelines could be much more clear about how this is actually supposed to work, according to PAPA at least.

Karl made it clear this is not how he does it. So I don’t think all circuit events do it this way. But of course this doesn’t preclude you or anyone else running an event from doing what they think makes the most sense or appeals most to their community.

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I think it’s great to hammer this home. I’ve definitely done this wrong. 90% of the time top seed chooses game and when they don’t I feel they say 4th or some other position. I’ll make sure and remind finalists of how this works from now on.

The above interpretation of “order” is curious. I see what you are saying, but I disagree with the intent of choosing “order.”

In another interpretation “order” could mean the entire order of the group. Maybe it is better to say “choice of their playing position”.

Back to the discussion.

The group’s driver can completely decide what games to play, but will almost always pay the toll of having to play first.

By deferring game choice, the driver runs the risk of getting saddled with a game they might not have chosen. The trade off is the driver usually plays 4th to gather game feed or tilt information, or decide what to do based on what others did.

I would say by deferring game choice, the driver has made a strategic assumption that the ultimate chooser among the opponents will probably pick a game that the higher seed would have picked anyway. Another possibility if the driver does not want to burn a game choice.

Now if there was a disadvantage to going first on a game, the choice for the bus driver would be clear: a) don’t pick the game or b) defer and immediately choose a position other than first if the driver thinks someone in the group will pick that game.

Under the above “make your specific position choice later” interpretation, the top seed gets another piece of information to reassess their decision. In essence “Now that I know the game, I’ll choose N position” (which might not be 4th).

By the driver knowing the game AND having the ability to choose position is in essence what the 2nd highest seeded player in the group is doing assuming the top seed chooses game. The second seed knows the game, now has free range to decide. The disadvantage for the 2nd seed is that it might not be a game they would have chosen.

So the driver should pick a game they are comfortable with and do not mind playing in first position.

If all 4 players say “order”, without specifying (which would have to be allowed) then what should happen is the game gets picked at random by the TD and now decisions have to be made for real on a game nobody might have chosen.

But what should happen is by the time the lowest seed’s decision time is reached, and the other 3 have chosen “order” that typically means there is only one position left and the lowest seed now picks the game. This might happen when there are no game choices left and the game choice is forced.

Lots of other iterations.

Bottom line: I feel each player has to make a specific decision of game or the exact position when they are asked.

that is not how i interpreted that rule, if top seed chose not to select a machine, we have always requested them to chose position of play before the next seed get his choice of what is left (machine or remaining position).

If top seed chooses position instead of game they choose their playing position after the game choice is announced at the events I’ve run.

I treat it as if the seed with game choice is now top seed. Choice of position proceeds in seed order after the game has been chosen.


This is straight up crazy town.








Everyone, don’t look too far into this, the rule is just poorly worded in the current iteration. @pinwizj will fix it soon I’m sure :wink:

Top seed has inital choice of game or specific position. Next highest seed has choice from remaining available selections, and so on. Finally, if no game has been selected a randomly chosen game from the available games is assigned. Simple as that, and I can’t recall ever going to a major event where it was operated any other way apart from possibly giving high seed both initial game and position choice.

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Honestly, I don’t understand why your response has to be so emotional, Cayle. I wouldn’t have raised it in the first place had I not seen it interpreted both ways plenty of times.

The reason I floated the issue was that I wanted to solicit people’s opinions to resolve the inconsistency, not to get beat up for raising it.


Sorry forgot to add an appropriate meme to give my post the right touch of humor.

Adding now:


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Personally, I’ve always thought order-choosing should always happen after game selection no matter who picks it. Everyone else normally gets to choose order after game selection.

We’ve gotten an emotional response as to why p1 should have to pick specific order, now how about a logical one?


Players choosing order should be able to do so based on the state of the game. Not only does this mean waiting until the game is chosen, but I would say this means waiting until the game is about to be played.

In Classics Finals at Expo, my opponent chose Car Hop. We wrote our name on the list and had to wait for three groups ahead of us. Shouldn’t I be allowed to wait to see the state of the game before choosing position? If it’s 1 letter from spelling CAR HOP with a sizeable carryover bonus, then I might choose to go first.

Same with Fireball. If there are balls locked, I’ll go first…but I might not know that at the time of choosing if others are currently playing the machine.


In practice in my 20+ years of organizing events, I’ve never seen a player defer machine choice and not say, “I’ll go last”.

I know in certain games where status of the machine is important to position selection, we’ll deal with this “offline” with the group in question. For example at our tournaments we have 30 seconds of practice. On games where that status can change greatly (Twilight Zone, Fireball, CarHop, etc), we will certainly let players figure out that order once the actual game is ready to be started.


I agree. That portion that is now only in the “Director’s Guide” (??) is poorly written, and the interpretation suggested by your contract-savvy fellow competitor is spot-on.

Speaking of which, whatever happened to the fully spelled-out rules for PAPA-style finals, which used to be part of the PAPA World Championship (RIP) ruleset? I can’t find it anywhere on the website.

We have a version in the NWPC rules which was cleaned up from the papa rules:

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Considering that Expo tournament let the other player select the same machine previously chosen by your opponent in the same round… It is pretty different than any other PAPA group finals style.

So if I’m reading this right, there appears to be difference in opinion.

Based on comments here and prior experience with TDs, Jay, Jeff, Germain, Cayle, Karl and Colin seem to be on the side of “pick before you know the game”. I, YeOldPinPlayer, Ryan, Keefer, Josh and Bowen seem to be on the side of “pick after you know the game”. (Some also say “after you know the game state”.)

So it looks like the right answer for now is “ask the TD”. That’s usually the safe bet, anyway.


Nah, you only get one choice - you can pick either game or playing position on the unknown game. You don’t get two choices. That’s the practice I’ve used and explained in our league.

I can see how you might want to do it differently as a reward for high seed. But usually in our league it’s just whoever was picked first randomly in the group (or it’s the loser of the previous game).

Based on this, order is after game choice then?

No matter what other people are saying, maybe that’s how they run it… But what you stated lends itself to order after game.

Is this definitive?

Edit not that I like it… But what @pinwizj said - no one can choose their actual order until game is chosen. It can’t be one way in certain games and a different way on others… But as a TD I you might have to state position must be determined upfront :disappointed:

use modded roms to the fix the retain state between games / and progressive jackpots. Nor if can use them power reset can work as well.