Incorrect rulings.

Our league has lately had an issue with incorrect rulings. Two in as many weeks have come at the worst times imaginable (one during semi finals of league, the other on a deciding final game of a match play tourney). During both cases the rulings were heavily protested but ignored. In both cases, the ruling TD has later apoligized to the effected player, but in my eyes the results of both of these events are blemished. Not really sure where I’m going with this, just seeing if yall have any anecdotes about this type of thing. Is there ever a point in which results can be protested? How egregious does an incorrect ruling need to be to warrant one of these protests? What can be done if incorrect rulings are made? What can be done to prevent them in the future?

I know all the jammers will be in here shortly giving their take on what happened, but I’d like to keep this about the broader issue, and not these specific incidents. Thanks in advance yall!!!

Is the TD part of the Pinball Tournament Directors Slack channel? That’s been very helpful for those who need help making rulings in real time.

Hopefully it stays civil. Seems like this could be opening the door to some messy stuff.


No mess. All effected individuals have had their private convos. I put that disclaimer in so that if someone does drift into specifics of our league or personal relationships therein, it can be labeled as sidetracking.

Not sure on the slack thing. In my opinion, both cases did not need a slack chat, a rulebook or anything besides a willingness to listen to effected players. If these were brain busters I would have said so. These were both just wrong in every way from the get go.

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I’m in the Slack channel. I don’t find it useful for real time answers but it’s great for discussion.

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What has the issue been with real time answers? Too slow? Mixed opinions?

Yes, too slow compared to discussing with other referees on site. I typically rule within a minute or so. Pulling out my phone, unlocking it, opening Slack, typing the question would at least triple the wait time even if there was an instant answer.

I hear you, and I prefer to get rulings done quickly to keep things moving as well. Especially if you have other officials on site you can discuss with.

For TDs who are flying solo, especially those with less experience, I think a 5 minute delay for ruling backup on Slack is much better than making a quicker decision that could be wrong.


This is in my opinion, the core reason for our leagues recent woes.

Can you elaborate a little bit on what the issue was, what ruling was made, and what ruling you think should have been made?

As for the whole Slack channel thing, I love it and use it often. I’m new to TD’ing (just finished up my first year and I have run a total of 8-9 events), and the last thing I want to do is to make the wrong ruling. I would rather wait 5-8 minutes for the Slack group to respond, versus making a judgment call and being wrong. I’ve never had issues with Slack, usually within 2-3 minutes multiple people are chiming in, so thank you Slack team!

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As long as humans are the ones making the call, there will always be incorrect rulings. It happens in every sport. Every World Cup there are blown calls or bad rulings that have catastrophic effect, and I can’t imagine a larger or more “important” sporting event.

Obviously, we want to reduce the number of bad calls as much as possible. The fact that the TD recognized the call was wrong after the fact is good. It means they are reflective, and probably won’t make that mistake again.

Having second opinions and extra TDs helps, but the possibility for human error is always there. As a player, I try and view these the same as I view a bad bounce or a ball flying of the ramp. Part of the game, don’t let it get in your head.


@alwysmooth , made this nice guide that can aid with making rulings quick and accurate:


I printed out a few of those and laminated them for the officials in my league. Very handy for covering a lot of common situations without digging through the entire rule set.

Good suggestion!

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One was a ball stuck on the right in/outlane post being freed and placed on the right flipper. The other was a disqualification for a slam tilt on a game that has a known issue of phantom tilting and remaining stuck in tilt till the game is reset ( it was removed from play the week prior for this same issue, but this time around was ruled a slam tilt)

Issue #1- Fish Tales- Ball became ‘stuck’ on the post between the right inlane/outlane, did not dislodge when nudged. I ruled stuck ball. placed on flipper if possible or compensation ball if flippers died when coin door opened.

Correct ruling should have been ball is placed above right outlane and drained.

Issue #2- Lost World- Player tilts, machine resets. Ruled a player-caused reset, DQ for that player, replay for other players.

Correct ruling should have been catastrophic malfunction for all players as the resetting is a known issue on this particular Lost World.

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Checking the rule book - or consulting the Slack channel - would certainly have helped here.

If a TD has any doubt about the correctness of a ruling, it’s prudent to seek advice.

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Yeah, mistakes happen but it’s good that you admit the error and learn from it.

Just curious though, in the situation of the ball on the inlane/outlane post, how would you have reacted if a player pulled up that section of the rules on their phone for reference? I generally don’t like ruling protests, but I know if I was an opponent in that situation I would have that that section of the rules ready to point to as the ruling was being discussed.


I think the challenge is actually more around consistency between the TD’s than it is the rulings themselves. For instance, I know which person I could go to in order to get the ruling I wanted. I don’t practice this as it would feel like cheating and loose integrity in the event but it’s my opinion. We generally have 3 TD’s at these events which goes like this:

  • One TD is pretty new to competitive pinball. This person will generally rule based of feelings of what occurred vs the IFPA rules.
  • One TD understands a large volume of the rules and is still learning. This person, when on the border, will rule on the players behalf more times than not.
  • One TD knows the rules very well and generally will provide the ruling you would expect in a major tournament.

I think the main disconnect is the more competitive players are expecting PAPA type ruling where most of the time they are not nearly as strict with the rulings.

As for examples - I think gorgarsupperlip is avoiding those to prevent finger pointing with the TD’s in question as they are offering up their time and do this for the love of pinball. Pretty sure he’s not trying to go down that path which feels like the right thing. He is hitting on a good point though, if a ruling is made in error, what is the players path for appeal especially in a situation for which it can make the difference between advancing or what play you get in finals.

For instance - Is it acceptable to ask for the other TD’s opinion? I’ve personally done this once before and it caused some pretty bad blood at the time between myself and the TD that made the ruling as well as the other TD as they felt I was playing “mom against Dad”. The ruling in question knocked me out of finals and (to me) was a pretty obvious miss in accordance to IFPA standards.

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I know, one of my prompts for this thread is how it should be handled if a player knows an incorrect ruling is being made and the TD still makes the wrong call. It’s not just that these calls were wrong, it’s that in both cases the TD made incorrect rulings despite objections being made.

Good grief, that game strikes again :frowning:

Looks like it took me to long to type so the example part above is worthless :slight_smile:

Whatever helps me make a correct ruling. The protest at the time was, “It’s not a stuck ball,” which did not strike me in the moment as helpful although the statement was/is correct.