Pinburgh conundrum


Then I guess the question goes to @bkerins on this one . . .

For me, my only goal is to WIN THE TOURNAMENT. If winning an individual game puts me into a position that makes it harder for me to achieve my goal, I’m not sure why I would make my road to climb any more difficult.


Am I allowed to tank a game in order to lock a player out during the semi-finals? Say, if I had 7 points going in to the final game, player Y had 6 points and you had 3 points. Is it okay for me to just tilt through on ball 1 and leave you unable to do anything to continue? I am not being difficult, I am asking if it’s okay? Because I would never do that, and I would hope nobody else would do it to me.


I’m all about players doing whatever they want to benefit themselves, with respect to the micro-level strategy versus macro-level strategy of tournament play. Back when seedings would change after each round, I was always on top of reviewing every groups scoresheet, figuring out who was likely to go where, and determining my best path for success. I imagine other players did the same.

The FPF example was posted before, but years ago Brian Dominy and I were in a tiebreaker in the quarterfinals. Everyone else was in the clubhouse, and the groups were all set except for the two of us.

The winner of our tiebreaker would be getting placed in the far more challenging semifinal group. The loser of tiebreaker would be getting placed in the far less challenging semifinal group.

My response was . . . “I would like to DQ myself from the tiebreaker match”. Brian’s response shortly after he realized what was going on was that he would also like to DQ himself from the tiebreaker match to not be declared the winner.


I find it disingenuous that the tournament directors choose their advertising tag line to be, “over $100,000 in prizes!” and then turn around and be absolutely aghast that someone might pursue a strategy that would maximize their winnings for that format.

It’s simple. If you don’t want people choosing a strategy that returns maximum money, don’t offer money as a prize, and certainly don’t advertise money as the prize.

I look at Pinburgh as the one chance I have to bet on myself. I might win, I might not, but at least I’m betting on a horse I know and like. Taking money out of B through D and adding it to A would do far more to damage Pinburgh than would fix it. IMO if that were done you might as well print up a banner that reads, “Pinburgh, where A gets paid and thanks to everyone else for the donations!”. It’d likely drop me from an every-other-year entrant to an every-five-year entrant if I’m just lighting the money on fire with no realistic chance at all.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a ton of fun at Pinburgh and have enjoyed it thoroughly both times I’ve attended despite not doing particularly well. But I also have a lot of fun doing pinball wherever I do pinball; in that regard Pinburgh doesn’t hold an exclusivity card.

What Pinburgh does do exclusively (and is really why I make the trip) is the format. Guaranteed at least two full days of pinball before any eliminations are made (clearly I need this!), and it’s not a pump & dump. The combination of both of those are unique to Pinburgh, and what draw me to it vs. other competitions I can attend easier.


IMO . . . you betcha!

If by you losing the final game, you guarantee that I’m eliminated from advancing while you still can, I can’t argue that’s a solid strategy towards giving yourself a better chance at winning the tournament (if you really felt I was a more challenging opponent compared to the other player that would be advancing).

That’s on me to PLAY BETTER, and not leave myself vulnerable enough to be eliminated through the strategic play of other players.


Straying away from the money aspect here-
What if players had to play out for their final rankings?
For example, if you didn’t make top 40 in your division after day 2, what about playing on day 3 for you final spot?
I really like the idea of being able to play for your final spot instead of it just being a number given to you after day 2.


The rules specifically say you can’t try and lock-out another player.

However, depending on your interpretation of the sentence structure of that rule, it only applies to more than 1 player conspiring to lock out another player. (this seems to be the way its written to me, thus what you describe would be allowed.).

Either way, that whole paragraph of the rules need to be re-written to be more clear. Its unclear weather it applies to groups of players, individuals or both, and “best competitive effort” is pretty hand-wavy too as well as being tucked into the middle of another type of situation.


It may be against “sportsmanship” to execute that strategy, but it’s a legitimate goal someone may decide to go for. The problem isn’t what a player chooses (fame or riches), or why. The problem is that, the way the payouts and tiers work right now, players can pursue fame, or players can pursue riches (or both, if they are good enough to make it to the final four in A division), and some of those pursuits can put players in conflict with the rules.

A rule that requires a player to play his/her “best” at all times is silly, IMO. I don’t play my best all the time. I’m human, so that’s impossible. Moreover, someone who tries to show that I’m not doing my best when I should have is in a losing position from the get go, because it is impossible to prove that I didn’t do my best. (My word against yours…)

So, step 1, delete the rule about always playing at one’s best. It’s meaningless. (The rule about collusion should stay, of course. That’s match fixing, and no-one wants that.) A rule that requires an individual player to always exhibit the same behavior (to play at his/her best), regardless of circumstances, is not only silly, it is counter-productive, because it disempowers the player. (As you showed with your family finals example, such a rule would essentially require you to prefer Keith Elwin over your own wife. I’m sure you like Keith, but I’m also sure that you like your own wife just a little bit more than Keith. And guess what? You are actually entitled to like your wife more than Keith…)

Step 2, make a decision once and for all as to what a tournament is about. Is it about fame, or is it about money? If it is about fame, get rid of payouts. If it is about money, face reality and accept that, once money is involved, notions of “sportsmanship”, “fairness”, “spirit of competition”, “doing one’s best”, and similar go out the window. Also accept that, the more money is involved, the faster those notions will take to the open air. And, please, be real and accept that a pinball tournament with large payouts is mostly about the money.

Step 3: After having decided on the answer to step 2, take the consequences and remove either the incentive for not playing at one’s best (that is, remove the tiers), or accept reality and that, if money or fame are involved, players will come up with strategies that some part of the community finds distasteful.

I think that is a meaningless question, in the sense that it is impossible to discern the motivation of players who enter Pinburgh. It is reasonable to enter with that goal to some, and unreasonable to others. Pinburgh cannot look into players’ heads (thankfully so).


I guess it all comes down to how you want to win. Are you just happy winning and don’t really care if you are actually better than the competition, then sure go for these strategic moves, but if you really want to say you are the best I don’t see how you can implement these strategies and truly say you were better than the rest. In my opinion, you want to say you were the best you play the best and beat them.


To me, if I have the opportunity (without colluding with anyone else) to lock out another player, I’d be an idiot not to take it. Isn’t that what competition is all about? People normally call that “strategy”.

Commentator: “By taking this particular action, player X showed great foresight and strategic thinking because it gave him a chance to avoid a potentially lethal meeting with player Y in round Z, with a good chance that player Y will be eliminated by someone else. Excellent strategic play!”

I hear this sort of thing in sports all the time. And I hear it being lauded all the time too. One person’s crime is another person’s clever move…


It depends on the player. To some people, all that matter is the cup or the belt. To others, all that matters is the money. Either group can legitimately declare the other group to be misguided: “Look at those silly boys, all they got is a cup and no money” and “Look at those miscreants. All they care about is money. They don’t understand pinball at all.”


I would be just fine with that :wink:


The best way to solve this is simply to tighten up the division restrictions further. Someone ranked #51-#100 in IFPA really shouldn’t be playing in B. And someone ranked #201 shouldn’t be playing in C. And maybe you could extend the division restrictions to top 8 (or even top 16) instead of a top 4 finish for prior years. If you finish top 8 in C you should really be a good enough player to be restricted to B the following year. Yes, there is no way to eliminate sandbagging completely but if you tighten up restrictions you can make it difficult for people to game the system for more than one year anyway.

If I were making up the restrictions In addition to the current restrictions I would change the following:
A Division: top 100 or top 8 finish in B prior year
B Division: top 400 or top 8 finish in C prior year
C Division: top 800 or top 8 finish in D prior year

There really shouldn’t be anyone ranked in the top #800 playing in D. D should really be for amateurs and players just starting out with competitive pinball.


Something similar happened at the 2012 Olympics.

In the doubles of the badminton the last match of the group stages was played between two pairs which had already qualified for the knockout stages.
Because the majority of other games had already been played it was known that the winner of the tie would end up playing the overwhelming favourites for the Gold in the semi finals, thus BOTH pairs decided to try and lose the match. The problem being it was so obvious what they were doing it made the whole thing a farce.
The end result was that BOTH pairs were disqualified altogether from the competition.

Edit:There were also another 2 pairs disqualified at the same time

It also used to happen in the FIFA (An organisation not unaware of corruption and bribery) World Cup group matches when the last match was played it was often already known what was required to qualify. Be that goal difference, goals scored, both teams a draw. It produced so many matches that were clearly ‘fixed’ to give the optimum result for both teams playing - to the detriment of another team that the format was changed so that the last 2 games of the group are now played simultaneously.

I have NEVER heard in ANY sport a commentator praise a team, or competitor for effectively throwing a match.

I have had it happen to me a League final just 2 months ago. Going in to the final round of matches, All Player 4 had to do was not finish last to guarantee him the overall win. Player 3 needed to come first to bump him up to 2nd place, I needed to come first or 2nd and hope Player 4 came last.
As it happens I put up over 100mil on MM - Player 3 did not feel himself capable of beating that score and tanked his last ball, as he approached Player 4s score ensuring Player 4 the overall win without even having to play his last ball.
The fact that I heard them discussing this while I was playing my ball just made me even more angry. Maybe I should have set Player 3 a lower target to tempt him to try and pass me, and hope he failed? But that’s just not the way I play. Even when playing against my 4 year old nephew - I try and crush him :slight_smile:
Mention it to the TD? I was the TD. How bad would it look if I disqualified a person without concrete evidence which would have promoted me into first?


In fairness, this is probably a good reason to not play in tournaments that you also are TD on :wink:
(Or at the very least you need a fairly impartial 2nd TD to offer an opinion).


The only problem being if I didn’t run the tournament there would be no tournament for to play in.


This is NOT the same case IMO.

Player 3’s sandbagging was done not to benefit himself, but to benefit another player. To me that’s where the line is drawn.

If I was TD, I would ask Player 3 if he intentionally tanked his last ball to ensure Player 4’s victory. If he said yes, I would eject him from the tournament and suspend him from the next one, full stop.


I was the other person that mentioned it. To me, as the rule is written, it only applies to group collusion and while there are other rules to point to, if having the rule clearly defined were to discourage even one self serving meathead to rethink how they approached the tournament, it’s worth adding. So I’m still of the opinion that should be addressed at some point.


I made D finals and there were spectators that were openly discussing that players in D had sandbagged to get in. As it was my first finals I was super excited to have made it in and it really sucked to hear accusations like that being thrown around. It’s sad to read that player’s may have openly sandbagged as it gives credence to accusations and puts in doubt anyone that was in D finals.

It was cool to win prize money, but the experience of trying to qualify for finals during day 2 was really the highlight for me and I would happily have received nothing for the experience.


My proposal for pinburgh 2.0 - 10 rounds. All random pairings. Top 40-50 at the end of round 10 play in A finals, next 40-50 in B and so on. Everyone who makes finals gets at least $200 same as now, But B-D money would be greatly reduced. Maybe $1000 for winning B. But $500 for making A finals.

Wouldn’t that solve all the problems?

I always find it strange someone that finishes 600th place gets more cash than someone that finishes 41st. I don’t think it would keep many people from entering. I wasn’t there expecting to win $. I’d play if there was no prize money.

I guess people could complain about their random pairings. So maybe in each group pick one person from the top 25% one from the second 25% and so on. So each group would have a mix of skill levels.