Pinburgh conundrum


I wouldn’t say $1000 is chump change, but if I wanted a sure bet on some easy money, I’d stay home and work a full week!




Grrrr, argh, photos? :slight_smile:


This is what I’m talking about though. If everyone were as pro-spirit-of-the-game and what-not that you are, we wouldn’t have the problem of sandbagging. Ignoring that money players exist isn’t going to solve it.

If we want to keep lower-division payouts, the wppr restrictions would have to be tightened up considerably and “punish” under-performing players. Declaring a division beforehand also seems reasonable.


create more divisions so everyone gets to play saturday… yes i know thats a tall order but thats why people are sand bagging. everyone wants to play saturday…

I was surprised to see players that I know that are much better than me in D and I made it to C. making it to C was like winning the tourney for me! I can’t imagine not trying my best!

So I’m not great at pinball but i tried to play my best did ok on thursday not so ok on friday (playing in my first big tourney really fried my brain) even though i was second to last in C on friday but in my view I still beat everyone in D!

in all seriousness though and having been a race director for motor racing no matter what you do you can’t and won’t please all of the people all of the time!

pinburgh was outstanding; period.



I feel a little differently. This was my first Pinburgh, and I was playing just to see how well I could play. I’m far, far, far from being an A division player. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself in C division after Day 1, and that surprise inspired me to (attempt to) play hard on Day 2. I failed at that attempt, but when I realized I could possibly make that C Division cut and qualify for a bit of cash, I was pretty thrilled. Not because it was a huge sum of money, but because it felt cool that I might possibly be able to say “Neat, the skills I’m building as a pinball player are paying back a little.” It’s not a source of income or even close to one. Rather, it’s like winning a free game. It makes me think “hey, I made this happen.” Still, had I played even better and ended up in B, I’d have been so pleasantly surprised that the money didn’t matter. I spent that money to attend and participate in this tournament and expected it gone. If I got some back, well, neat! It’s only recently that I first earned money in any kind of tournament, and that was a fourth-place tournament for a local pinball zine (Slap Save: Slap Save). I was tied for 4th with another player. We had an option of each taking $5 (our entry fee), or competing for 4th and 5th place and a $10 payout. We chose the latter, I won, and only wanted to play more pinball.

It’s kinda cool that each division gets some payouts, despite there being players in upper divisions seeded higher than finalists in lower ones. There’s less of a sense that the divisions are meaningless and I think it’s encouraging to those lower-skilled players to win a prize. The thought of sandbaggers who want to drop in to snipe that is absolutely discouraging. Yeah, hardware and WPPRs are cool, but how neat would it be to go home and say “I went to this fun pinball tournament, ended up qualifying for playoffs and took some cash home that I’m using to buy you this beer.”


I do this crap ALL the time, totally UNintentionally. I’m right-dominate and keep slamming games leftward that should be slammed rightward. I know this cost me at least a half dozen balls this past Pinburgh… hell I saw one bump off the tip of the left flipper. Wish to hell I could train myself to read the ball better and make the correct save!

Sorry for mini-rant, back to sandbagging :slight_smile:


Just to put in my little blurb :

Bowen and PAPA set up this tournament as a way to compete and mainly have fun. It has to be pretty disconcerting to them to see the rampant unprofessional attitude of some of the players.

We owe it to them and to ourselves to conduct ourselves as professional pinball players. Bending the rules to suit your own agenda is disrespectful to everyone and pathetic. It’s not a matter of being where you want to be at the division break ,but where you belong based on the BEST YOU CAN PLAY, PERIOD! (OR EXCLAMATION POINT)

Just another testament to the flaws of the human race.

Like Keith mentioned (in regards to not showing the points). We can’t even trust this sang-bagging subset of players to know where they are at because they can’t take the thought of not having their ideal experience.

Would a 4-2-1-0 point system alleviate any of this? A greater separation of points might lead to less bunching up of players and harder manipulation in the final rounds.

-EdZ was in B? SANDBAGGER!


I can absolutely relate to your enthusiasm, man; I’m pretty new to this hobby, too, and I’m absolutely in love with it. I actually haven’t -been- to a Pinburgh yet, as last year I’d gotten into pinball too late for registration, and this year, my wife and I have a newborn at home. However, when I get there next year (#2018LifeGoals!) I’ll be right there with you, trying to claw my way into C division, and loving every minute of it.

So, I certainly relate more to you, and others, who can’t fathom sandbagging, but the point I was trying to make was simply that it’s an application of behavioral economics that folks sandbag, given this tourney format. This tourney format is also AWESOME, so maybe a little sandbagging just comes with the territory?


Is losing a game on purpose or sandbagging specifically against the rules? I couldn’t find anything here or


Yes, it is. See the section on collusion and anticompetitive play.


Interesting discussion so far. I have a few thoughts on some things I’ve read.

If you see someone playing one-handed don’t get out the pitchforks unless you’ve seen them patting themselves on the back with the other arm. Maybe they have a bad arm? Personally I’d like to see a one-armed pinball phenom emerge…

Sandbag? Well, that’s douchey. I understand the motivation, I guess. I finished 11th in B last year and got some cash which was pretty cool but I’d gladly trade that $ for 1st place and no cash. I play to win, at least in my mind. This year I got boned by a few games and by some sloppy play on my part and I didn’t qualify. That’s pinball.

My goal is to be on that stage on Saturday playing in the A finals. Period. Sure the $ would be freakin awesome but my name on a banner hanging from the ceiling @ PAPA means more to me. I played in a round with Andrei. That dude wasn’t baggin’ he was schoolin’. Motivation.

As far as calling someone out for sandbagging that’s pretty tricky. I’ll call someone out if they get a beneficial malfunction during multiball but the other requires a tourney official. Statistical analysis of game scores weighted to a player’s ranking should help shake the tree I would think. If a particular game hosed everyone then it’s insignificant. If it only hosed a few people who finished in the “wrong” division…well, the numbers will be out there.

Personally I had a helluva time as I always do. Thanks again to all the PAPA peeps and everyone that travels far to attend.

I’ll win next year.


At baseball games they have phone numbers you can call or text to report bad behavior. You just tell them what seat they are in and what the problem is. Maybe they could implement something similar. Bank, machine, player number, etc.


What do you propose to do with this data? Punish players for finishing below where their IFPA rank suggests they should? Just because the data shows they “should have” finished higher, the reality of playing pinball rarely meshes perfectly with how things should shake out on paper. Especially for the vast undefined muddle of “good” players who by definition are not having consistent finishes in the first place.

I’m sure many people are already upset with themselves for not playing as well they want, nevermind the threat of possibly getting kicked out of a tournament for doing poorly.


Hmmm… That has an uncomfortable ring to it. I like to think of my co-competitors as mates, not as people who end up being part-time policemen.

What’s wrong with raising it with the player directly instead? If I see someone at a tournament doing something that is against the rules, I’m not shy about pointing it out. And this need not necessarily be confrontational. (Quite often, a violation isn’t intentional but due to inexperience, such as continuing multi-ball while a ball is stuck. In the heat of the moment, the player may not even notice.)

The real problem here is that it is near-enough impossible to prove sandbagging unless a player openly admits to it. If someone were to accuse me of sandbagging, my first question would be “how do you know I was sandbagging?” Any player can have one or two bad games out of the blue, no matter how skilled. How is a TD to know for sure that someone didn’t just have a run of bad luck?

The root cause of sandbagging is money. The more money is at stake, the worse the problem gets. I see only two ways to change this: take away the money altogether, or get rid of the payouts in B, C, and D.

There are loads of other sports that struggle with this problem. Tennis is one of them. With international betting, organised crime gets involved, and it’s downhill from there. An interesting report about this here:

There are ways to statistically identify players who do not play to the best of their ability, by monitoring match outcomes and correlating that with suspicious betting activity. But I don’t think this would work well with pinball.

What it boils down to is that people’s morals and ethics differ. While there is an incentive for sandbagging, some people will engage in it, period. Ergo, the best way to stomp this out is to remove the incentive.


There are two camps here.

Camp 1 - People are sandbagging because it improves their chance of making money.
Camp 2 - People are sandbagging because it improves their chance of playing on Day 3

Both camps seem very sure of their opinion and seem sure the other line of thinking is stupid.

Until you can figure out why people are sandbaggining, you aren’t going to come up with a solution. In general, I think trying to remove the incentive is the best way to deal with the issue.


I would think the consolation tournament (which is now the Intergalatic) addresses this… you now have something to compete in, even if you don’t make playoffs.


Stuff happens. 4 house balls in a row happen. I’m just saying that any thing funny would appear in the data. The tournament directors could take note and maybe put an asterisk next to that player next time. Then they’d have a historical precedent should they need to pull somebody aside.


Excuse me Bob… we’ve detected a funk and we want to ensure it’s valid…
Sorry Sirs… I blame the tacos!


When i went to work yesterday and folks asked me how I performed I was able to tell them i tried my hardest and was able to qualify in the highest division. I played not with the best players in the state, not the best players in the US but the best players in the world. That experience is priceless…