Driving the bus on the third game

Strategy question:

You are the high seed and driving the bus in a PAPA style finals. The first two games go well enough that it doesn’t matter what you play in the third game, you are guaranteed to advance to the next round. However, what you choose may have a great impact on who else gets through. What’s your strategy?

Do you defer game choice and choose position?
Do you play a game that you need more practice on?
Do you choose a game that plays to a specific strength or weakness of a player in order to try and influence who gets to the next round?

I haven’t run into this scenario a whole lot (yet), but I was curious to know how others handle it. :slight_smile:


If you’re likely to be a bus driver in the following round I would get practice on the game you want to play.

If you’re likely to NOT be a bus driver in the following round I would take a guess at what games the potential bus driver would pick and get some practice on that.

If none of that matters, there’s nothing better than the 1st place, 1st place, “I choose to go first” walk off :slight_smile:


Choose the oddball game in the bank nobody has been picking just to provide some variety for the viewers at home


I’ll partially combine the last two posts: I agree 100% with Josh on practicing where you feel a benefit from it, particularly if the playoffs involve machines you didn’t play on in qualifying. I concur with gearing that towards who you think will be driving the bus next round; you can often tell based on results-to-date in the other groups who may go through from them, and you can see what any higher-than-you seeds have picked so far. If it doesn’t matter, i.e. you’re already comfortable on whichever games you or the new bus driver is likely to play, then I often do go with the rarer game just for the viewers, which usually also means going first anyway. On occasion, if a buddy of my is the #2 seed in my group and I want them to take their best shot to go through, I would then choose to go first and let them choose game. I will still play well [maybe not 100% intensity] and make them earn it, though. I’ve been on the losing end of bus drivers who “choose” how well to play in game three to affect who else goes through [names omitted, it’s their option for playing well in games 1 and 2], and it’s not fun for whomever doesn’t. But yes, you sometimes can strategize about who else from your group you’d like to go through [or not] and gear your pick and your play that way. I have seen people gear game 3 to knock out top-10 players in their group who were vulnerable.

Since I don’t have my Pinball E licence, I am not usually allowed to drive the bus. As passenger, I don’t really like when the driver doesn’t play to wn the third game. If there is a skill imbalance, between the driver and the other players, it makes the final game worth more than the first 2. If I beat the other players in 2 out of 3 games and don’t advance because the first 2 games are worth only 2, but the last game is worth 4, I get frustrated.

That being said, the solution is play better. It really doesn’t matter which player advances from this group, the driver will beat them next round.

What is the etiquette when after games 1 and 2 you are mathematically eliminated? Often times a player will need you to play well in order to have a chance to move on - what should you do then? Choose a game? Go last? Go first?

Depends on if you’re a Lefkoff and your son is in your group or not :wink:

Usually even if you are mathematically eliminated there is self interest to finish as high as you can among the eliminated players (whether it be for Circuit WPPR’s, Normal WPPR’s, or just Pride WPPR’s).


Walk off wpprs. Have it your way!

I think by deferring game choice you could also swing the group. You have a few options …

  • Think about which other person in your group you’d like to see advance, and pick a game that favors them
  • Pick the game you want to play in the next round (this is what I would generally do here)
  • Defer choice, knowing this favors the 2nd seed in the group

In any case I think playing first and getting out of the way is good. But still try to play well – by tanking you swing the results of the group (such as 8-4-2-0, your tanking makes it impossible for the 0 player to have a chance). Tanking should never be done, even if that means helping Elwin get through to the finals :wink:

I’ve seen a TKO’d player choose to go first, and did so at PAPA 19 when my group was already decided through two games. I think in both situations, respect for what the player decides to do, but you also don’t want to see any situation where someone advances because a third party isn’t playing 100%.

I was in this exact situation two years ago at Pinvasion II, and I’m pretty sure I made the wrong choice. TAF was the game I had the least qualifying time on and I should have picked it to get some practice for later rounds. Instead I picked Fathom to help out Scott K because he was struggling and he always crushes that game. Sure enough he won on Fathom, advancing and eventually finishing 2nd. Likewise, I did have to play TAF in the next round and bombed, finishing 6th overall.

Yes, even if you have no chance to make it through to the next round, there are situations where you can still certainly influence the outcome of your group with your play in Game 3. Just as you have a myriad of options how to play when you have 8-after-2, so too can you “tuck in” a result in game 3 to cause a playoff or not for other players, or “just get out of the way of your brother, who is better than you now”, or whatever. I love, love PAPA style finals for all the different scenarios you can face in those 3 games, but it’s not perfect with respect to situations where you will not always be incentivized to play your “best” at all times.

Here’s a “funny” hypothetical we came up with recently. You’re 8-after-2 and your buddy is in the 3-2-1 of the leftovers. You choose to go first in game 3 to “get out of the way”, but put up a big score on your first two balls, and now your buddy has to pass your score in order to avoid a playoff, so you “accidently” walk up and play his 3rd ball “out of order” which (a) gives you a score of “0” for the game, thus erasing your big score, (b) gives your buddy a consolation ball at the end, so he can play “last”. Now obviously, a player who did this “intentionally” should absolutely be kicked out of the tournament and saddled with a lifetime of bad karma from the Pinball Gods, but sometimes its very difficult to gauge intent (assuming the player didn’t announce his decision ahead of time, and tell everyone in his group that he was going to do that). This is sort of fringe stuff that’s caused when you have a system that doesn’t incentivize you to try your best at all times, but I have never heard of a decent solution for this with respect to the PAPA-style finals, and as I said at the beginning, I love, love this format and hope it never changes!

1 Like

You like it better than the Pinburgh 4 game 3210 scoring?

4 game, 3-2-1-0, “Pinburgh Style” is another great format, but a totally different beast how it plays out. It’s nice that you always have a chance, even if you have 0 wins after two games, but at the same time, there is no “bonus” point for a win in Pinburgh-Style whereas in PAPA-style, the win (vs. second place) has a higher value, and I like that extra incentive (and bonus) for the win. Which do you prefer, @sk8ball ?

Shhh… Don’t say bonus point. Cayle might be listening.:wink:

I believe cAyle has issue with bonus points which are uncorrelated with winning a game by beating all of your opponents. Me too. I don’t think he has any problem with the bonus point built into the PAPA-Style scoring system for taking first place.

It was a joke, hence the winkie face…

Had this situation in PAPA C this year. Round 2 after the bye I got to drive the bus, and thanks to a win on X-Men and AFM I got to sit on a guaranteed pass. I decided to take it to Indiana Jones, after hearing the A division horror stories during qualifying, watching a bit of it to be sure. I started to dial in the mode scoop and went hard for it, and took a 2nd/3rd. Next round, I get called on it (no more driving) to get in the finals. I saw Raven Bar lit and saw that the multiball strategy was rough on anyone who took it, so I went in, shot some bad guys, played another mode, and squeezed into the finals!

After doing my best Bowen walk-off as P4 on Target Pool (“there is no God, only Target Pool,” I quibbled before this game - I hadn’t played before), Indy comes up again. Off a super high, Indy gets called again, and this time the scoop flows nicely and I mode my way into a cushy final game!

So I’m a big proponent of picking something you might see on the future and need to work on. I know I wouldn’t have had nearly as good of a story (and the honor of finally playing @PAPA_Doug 's baby) f I didn’t play Indiana Jones with my last pick.

1 Like

I prefer pinburgh style!

1 Like