PAPA Circuit Event: 2017 Vancouver Flip-Out


The tournament machines are all selected sight unseen. They belong to private collectors, and the first time any TD sees the machine, it is already setup in the tournament bank, and that’s in a room totally separate from the main expo hall. Swapping out machines is difficult and not something we have time for during the hectic setup.

While i can appreciate the monumental task that organizing this tournament must be, perhaps the root of the problem lies in the process described above?

More time up-front to vet the machines prior to tournament day would greatly improve the odds of a working machine and reduce the need to use the glo-balls. I’m not trying to be a jerk here, I really love this event, but last year it seemed like there were literally more tournament games in classics (and one in the main event?) using glo balls than not. With Flip-Out being added to the PAPA circuit this year, expectations of attendies will be high.

In any case, I’m looking forward to the show, and hoping for less glo ball action this year. :slight_smile:


The main’s, at least during qualifying last year, had Bounty Hunter and SF2 with glo balls. Personally, I’ll be steering clear of any machines with glo balls in them, as I ended up wasting tickets on these machines trying to get used to the abnormal behavior of the lighter balls.

It’s all good though. I totally understand how the TD’s hands are a bit tied regarding this issue.


It is simply not logistically possible to vet the machines prior to tournament day. The tournament directors who make the final call on playability of each machine live 3 hours away. The machines are dispersed over an area of a few hundred square miles, and only show up in one place on setup day. The owners of machines typically provide their assessment ahead of time, but as many know, tournament players (including the tournament directors) are much pickier than some machine owners and operators, and machines don’t always show up in the condition the owner thought, often because the machine was in storage for the past year.

Last year, only two of seven machines in Classics bank, and 2 or 13 machines in Modern bank, had the glo balls. Far from your statement that more used them than not. What is the difference between having steel balls and two machines where one has strong and the other weak flippers, or two machines with same strength flipper, one has steel ball the other glo ball? Either way, when you step up to a machine, you need to adjust to how that machine plays.

Ultimately, you don’t need to play any of the machines with glo balls during qualifying. If we use them, it will be a minority of machines. In the finals, one of those machines can end up being selected if you don’t have machine choice, but then that just proves someone else wants to play the machine with the glo balls. Just like with super-bands, rubbers on outlane posts and setting, ball savers, and so many other adjustments that can be made, it’s up to each one’s individual preference what they like and don’t like for setup. And like all those items, glo-balls is just one more tool in our arsenal that we will use if needed to create a better tournament experience for the majority of players.

One idea I had was for a machine we choose to use glo balls, have the glo balls in half-the-day, silverball in other half, but still combine all scores. Then we’ll really see if they have a positive or negative effect on scores, and let each individual choose if they want to play that game with a glo-ball or silver ball. Not doing that this year … but the thought has crossed my mind! I’d put my money that more people prefer the glo-balls on those machines where we chose to make that switch.

Oh, to keep things fair on Twilight Zone and powerball mania, we will replace all silverballs with glo-balls; powerball mania for everyone all the time. :wink:


Not to be too pedantic, but it was 3 of the 7 in classics (Vancouver Flip-Out Tournaments).

My point is that, in my opinion, classics should play like classics - no fancy lightweight balls, no super-bands or synthetic rubber, LEDs are questionable but tolerated.

As a data-point, I searched for “Glo Ball” on these forums and this and last year’s Vancouver FlipOut threads were the only 2 matches. I don’t see them as being equal to the other examples as tools in your tool chest.

However, I get that you can only do what you can do given the circumstances, and wish you nothing but the best with the tournament. I’m sure I’ll play the glo-balled games if necessary, but that doesn’t mean that I’ll like it. :disappointed:


When setting a game up for tournament play, the idea is to make the game harder by making the fewest changes possible. You want a player to walk in and say: ‘Sweet, SF2. I know that game’. Installing power balls or glow balls is a huge change. Are the balls colored? Even if they were colored steel balls, that’s a huge change. We once put a power ball in a Genie for a tourney, but it wasn’t because the flippers were too weak. It was to speed up the typically slow system 1 play.

I know it can be tough to find quality games for a tourney, but ‘fixing’ games with a power ball or colored ceramic balls (even worse) is not a fix. That’s bastardizing a game too far IMO. Yes, every game is different and we all need to make adjustments, but that’s too much. Perhaps asking the folks supplying the games how recently the flippers have been rebuilt would help. If they don’t know or aren’t sure, ask them nicely to rebuild the flippers. Kits are available for most all games. Power balls do not belong in a pinball toolbox.

Also, weak flippers on SS game can often be ‘fixed’ by cleaning or replacing dirty/ worn EOS switches. You guys should have lots of extra high power EOS switches on hand. An ohmmeter across the EOS switch will quickly tell you if the switch needs to be cleaned or replaced. Over 1 ohm of resistance, you have a problem.


That’s hardly a fact, since I know at least one other major tournament that has used glo-balls for the same reason for past few years. But your search didn’t reveal it, meaning there’s a statistical flaw in your analysis. Besides, my daughter asked me tonight how many glo balls I had, I said 8, she said “only? there’s not enough to put in all the machines”! :slight_smile: Some people really liked them. Apparently they were a hit in SFII especially.

Furthermore, just because other TDs are not doing something, I’ve never been the one to shy away from experimenting with ideas in tournaments to solve known issues or to make the event more fun for the majority. Any idea currently in use in any tournament or league was considered “new” at some point in time. Take the local league you play in, for example … what was the origin of that whacky scoring format, that’s now been around for 22 years?


Is that why tournament machines at top circuit events will have lightning flippers instead of regular flippers, no outlane posts, ball savers removed, and multiball or mode settings all set to “hard”? That seems like a lot more changes than simply changing the balls.

Secondly, and as stated previously, swapping the ball is to improve game play. You said it yourself, they were swapped in Genie to speed it up, because it was more fun that way. The Genie at Olaf’s in Seattle always has a powerball in it, not just for tournament play.

And Third, how many people can truly walk up to a custom-refurbished SFII in impeccable conidition … except that you couldn’t make the right ramp from left flipper, and say “I know that game” and find the use of glow balls being a huge change? Few people had ever even played SFII. And while it was different the first game you played, as with any other pinball machine, you quickly adapt to however fast or slow it plays.

As stated previously, the glo-balls at last year’s VFO were used to improve game play. To answer the original question, will there be glo-balls this year, I’m being honest when I say ‘maybe’. If we use them, it’s because we feel it will improve game play somehow. The weak flippers is an example; you mentioned a different example with Genie, same applies. If the game plays better with that alteration, we will consider it. However, I also expect that this would apply on a minority of machines, like perhaps one or two machines tops on either bank. We’ll only know after setup is complete on Thursday what that decision is. And as always and this applies to any tournament you’ll ever play in, if you don’t like the way it’s run or the way machines are setup, you always have the choice to not play in it.


Live standings will be available all weekend long at

Site is currently updated with list of players pre-registered for the main tournament.

Full rules are on the VFO tournament website:


Hear Hear! Keep experimenting or you’ll never know what great ideas you may be missing. Good luck with your tournament.


Thrilled to report the classics tourny games are all playing great! Great flipper strength, no glowballs. :smiley:

…if only I was playing as well as the games do. :wink: Having a blast at FlipOut!


Is there a link to the main finals anywhere? I don’t see it on the neverdrains link.


Seems a little early to expect it there. I would expect them to build the finals after checkin. Which I expect is later than 7am.


Appears to be the following for VFO Main Finals: Not populated as of yet. Open Main Finals (Link is live) Novice Main Finals


169 players? Daaaaaaaaang!


You can see a poor man’s stream of the Classics Finals with Robert Gagno, @Theguyoverthere, Raymond Chau, and @BMU on my Pinball Profile page on Facebook. (2 videos)


thanks for the support Jeff!


Amazing tournament! By far the most fun I have had at a tournament in recent memory. Great job! Take a bow.


It’s tough to get people to bring games for a tournament. Back when I was providing tech support for games at Allentown, often the games would arrive about 10 minutes before the show opened, and in the case of one provider, about 10 minutes after. So, of the 9 or so games used that year, 5 were perfect at open (because they were brought by myself and the tournament director), 3 were dirty and barely worked (arrived 10 minutes to show open) and 1 was clean, but was missing needed parts (tilt bob!!) - arrived 10 minutes after show opened. The people bringing them were not playing in the tournament, they were either vendors or regular people that were selling their games, and for them to put it in the tournament (meaning it had to stay the whole show or at least qualifying) impacted their chances of selling them (people want to buy and load right away).

Sure, again, time factor. Also, as a game owner, I’d be leery of having some random tech guy just come over and start replacing parts in my game(s). Not that they wouldn’t necessarily do a good job, but they’re almost certainly not going to use the parts that I “prefer”.

The tournament ran MUCH smoother the next year when we only used a couple games from outside people, and simply just brought our own games (the tournament director and mine) and used those instead.

The biggest missing resource is always TIME. Even people that maintain their machines reasonably well don’t always have something rebuilt that can take continuous 2-3 days of constant play. I played in a tournament recently where all the machines were immaculately maintained, yet still had lots of flipper problems and strange ball hang ups, or just random stuff that broke.