Players agreeing to split a prize


“Mark, can you come over here and help Zach and I divide up this huge pile of cash”

  • Said no Sharpe brother ever


So would you say in your 4th position the chop had zero impact on your pressure to perform? Or is it now you are guaranteed better money, you are more loose and able to just focus on the playing?

My opinion is based on the potential ramifications on the event - not my personal projection of what any one player would do or not.

The stakes are used to hype or lure attention to the event/match. The stakes are part of the tension. Removing that tension alters the event and your ability to draw people to it. Besides the topic of “we are just a bunch of people playing with friends” - I don’t see how people think pinball is different here than any other event/match.


Ergo the wink


Based on @mhs response, guess we’ll have to play to win the cash next time :smile:


In Magic: The Gathering splitting is so common that there’s an entire section on it in the rule book. Intentionally drawing is also common in situations where both players would advance if they draw, and from my reading of this thread that is illegal under IFPA rules. Neither are frowned upon at all in MTG.

I wish I had a link to this, but there was at least one case where both players wanted to concede in order to secure a more favorable matchup in the subsequent round since they were both advancing anyway. They actually had to play a game where the winner of the match got the right to be officially marked as the loser of that set of games. MTG often has a rock, paper, scissors nature to it and the winner of the match would be playing a player with a ‘scissors’ deck, whereas the loser would play a ‘rock’ deck, and both players that wished to concede were playing ‘paper’. This was all ordained by the judges of the match.

It’s not 1/1 relatable to pinball, but here’s a link illustrating what is and is not permissable from a judges forum.

Or Google MTG tournament splitting drawing for more reading.

I’m aware of at least one split at a major tournament in pinball that was sanctioned by the tournament director. I don’t feel it impacted play at all. I once took a split in a weekly, and I was playing the TD in the finals. We still played our best. I lost, so it was very much to my benefit.


I did once. Buddy and I were playing in a Friday night tournament. He made the finals, I did not. He ran out of loonies (Cdn $1 coins) needed that he needed to pay for his finals games so I gave him a bunch of mine, and told him that if he won I got 50% of the pot.

He lost.

…come to think of it, I had to leave early and didn’t actually see the final results. :thinking: :slightly_smiling_face:


I guess this means that, for PAPA events, players will have to set up splits privately then.

I have yet to see any evidence that splitting is bad for the tournament, or the outcome, or the spectators, or anything else. In the absence of evidence, a rule to prevent splitting is merely a solution in search of a problem.

Where is the problem? I can’t find it, beyond assertions that there might be a problem.


Agreed. I’m sure mhs would also agree that what players do with their prize money after the event is entirely up to them though. So the ruling seems to be that players must organize the split between themselves and without involving the organizers.

And as an aside, that reminds me of this UK gameshow where the finalists have to make this decision to split the pot or not. In this particular episode things didn’t go quite to plan, but the reality is… you’ve got no control of what players do with their money once they’ve left the event.


MTG is an interesting comparison. It has this ‘new gaming’ aspect to it, it has tournament coverage, and also has very large prize events (along with a tour to go with it). It is interesting to compare the attitudes around what is sportsmanship/etc in there.


I made it to C finals at Pinburgh, prizes ranged 700-2000. Splitting the pool never even occurred to me, and it was never brought up by any of my opponents. Had someone suggested it, I’m not sure how I would have responded. I wound up 4th so a split would have helped me. Like I said earlier though, winning my first trophy from a major tournament was more important.


The prisoner’s dilemma is well known in game theory. The rational choice is to defect (steal, in Golden Balls terms) because that ensures the maximum on-average payoff. The Golden Balls episode you linked to has become quite famous; there is a Radiolab episode that interviewed both participants. It’s fun to listen to.


Honestly it would never have occurred to me either, but the other players had already agreed and were eagerly hoping I would as well. The guaranteed higher payout was very appealing to me that tournament and I agreed.


I probably would have went with it as well had someone proposed the idea, but I can say for a fact it wouldn’t have caused me to play with any less intensity. Hell, removing the money from the equation gives one less thing to be thinking about and would probably help me concentrate on trying to win.


Might need to clarify and codify that. It would certainly set up an interesting meta game for the final four. Start some discussion about splitting the pot, then rat out the other three players and scoop the top spot when they get ejected? :joy:


It’s also notable that no one who doesn’t play Magic watches any of the streaming events or gives a damn about the outcome. I’ve seen a lot of people say things along the lines of “if only we had $100k pots for the winner of SCS, then ESPN / The New York Times / the general public / my grandmother would start to care about professional pinball”.

I don’t believe it for a second. While that may have worked for poker, pinball is much more like Magic in terms of the complexity and appeal to the general public. If we collectively want to grow it as a sport, it will be done at the bar tournament level. ESPN capitalized on the expansion of poker’s popularity once nearly every state had a casino within a few hours drive. More events, more local sponsorships, more beginner friendly tournaments, more ladies only play, more leagues. I see that as the path forward. Stern Army I understand provides some prize support for events. I don’t mean giving away machines, but perhaps some swag would be nice. Add A Ball in Seattle routinely draws 50 odd players to weeklies and they’ve never so much as offered us a translite. MTG does have the advantage of their products being much cheaper to produce than Stern’s, but a little more support from the major player would be great. Still, most people got into pinball because a friend was into it. Myself included. He unfortunately passed on, but I stuck around partly because the Seattle community does a fantastic job at grassroots organizing and setting up events and tournaments for every kind of player and skill level.

Ultimately the game itself is addicting. Get someone who’s never touched a flipper to play fifty games over three months and 50% of them will still be playing a year later. Same with MTG. It’s getting them to play those 50 games that seems to be the hard part.


I’m having a hard time with that reasoning too. It smells of Cargo Cult:

A cargo cult is a millenarian movement first described in Melanesia which encompasses a range of practices and occurs in the wake of contact with more technologically advanced societies. The name derives from the belief which began among Melanesians in the late 19th and early 20th century that various ritualistic acts such as the building of an airplane runway will result in the appearance of material wealth, particularly highly desirable Western goods (i.e., “cargo”), via Western airplanes.

My belief is that increasing prize money will do little to attract more media attention or sponsors. But I expect it to create lots of extra problems. In particular, the more money is involved, the larger the motivation to engage in collusion, match fixing, sandbagging, etc. Given the extreme difficulty of actually proving such behavior, my expectation is that more money will make competitive pinball worse, not better.


There are written rules in pinball and there are unwritten rules. The most obvious unwritten rule is to not stand too close to someone who is currently playing. You don’t need to add that rule to your tourney or league, but you may occasionally have to ask a noob to take a step or two back.

Discussion of a split should only be discussed among the folks doing the split IMO. In the good old days, any talk about money was mostly off limits. Even today, asking somone how much they get paid from their job is rude. Publically discussing a split at the event is double rude. You’ve already placed in the top 4 AND you’re talking about the money you will collect? Not good.

I’m fine with splits but would prefer not to hear about them at the event or here afterward. You won, you got paid, we get it. I don’t mind hearing about it privately (assuming you’re a friend), but not here or at the event please. Unwritten rule number 2.


As someone that’s been both a Judge and a TO (TD for pinball) in MTG, I actually know the rules for splitting in MTG. They go like this:

  1. When there are 2 players left (one match), the players can agree to do whatever they want with the prizes, including the trophies/tournament points/whatever. You can agree that the other guy gets the trophy but you get the WPPRs, or whatever makes you both happy. You can agree that first gets X and 2nd Y, or that I get X and you Y, both are totally legal.
  2. You can agree to a prize split with your opponent in any round, but this cannot be in exchange for anything. It’s not uncommon for people fairly deep in the tournament to split 10% stakes in each other as a hedge, for instance.
  3. Players in the single-elimination rounds of a tournament offering only cash, store credit, prize tickets, and/or unopened product as prizes may, with the permission of the Tournament Organizer, agree to split the prizes evenly. The players may end the tournament at that point or continue to play. All players still in the tournament must agree to the arrangement.

A. All other prize splitting arrangements are No Good. In Pinball, this would be a prize structure rearrangement with multiple groups still live, for instance.
B. All match results must be due to playing magic, one player conceding of their own free will, or an intentional draw. Nothing can be offered to your opponent to induce them to agree to a match result, nor can any method (such as rolling dice) be used to determine the outcome. They realised a long time ago that trying to prevent players from colluding to produce a draw wouldn’t work, so they gave up/made it legal; they also arrange the tournaments in such a way as to reduce the impact of IDs. In some sense, your reward for doing well early is byes/IDs late.

Players complain about them being restrictive all the time, and it’s by far the largest source of DQs in magic; this is especially true with players new to the scene when a draw is bad for both players. Judges try real hard to not let kids get themselves DQed, but there is zero tolerance for violations. The reason is simple: lawyers. Hasbro’s lawyers wrote this section of the tournament rules, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

Given how risk-averse Hasbro is, and that these rules have to work worldwide for MtG, I’d be surprised if something very close couldn’t work for pinball. The biggest concern to me is actually the group play at the end, when players’ lives are no longer in their own hands. Owning a piece of another player in the final could lead to perverse incentives, plus generally kingmaking sucks. It makes me much happier from that perspective to see a final 2 rather than a final 4.


This is where the production aspect comes in. Companies go to great lengths to “create” that attention and nurture an interest in the sport - even if the audience themselves never participates in the sport itself. There are many tools and aspects to this and certainly it doesn’t always work. But I think most players are shortsighted in that they think it is all about the game itself.

Something like professional wrestling is a great way to illustrate the tools it because it’s so extreme and that makes the actions so much more visible to be pointed out. Such as the idea of creating a character that people can have emotions about. You have to have the audience have an INTEREST in some way what happens to these people. People form beliefs and emotions around these characters. Those emotions can be as simple as hate… or they can be as complex as compassion. They also have to make the match/event mean something. The more at stake, the more compelling the event is for people to watch. Ultimately they try to hook the audience into following these characters… and you start to get your motivation to tune into the next event. And you can start hyping and promoting that event, hooking the viewers, etc.

And this isn’t limited to pure fiction either. The Olympics is a great example of how production is used to generate interest that otherwise would not be as sticky. For the Olympics we don’t just see the competition, we have all these segments giving us background on the competitors, we learn about their struggles, their work, their past efforts, etc. All this is to help hook viewers into actually having an interest in the outcome beyond knowing who the #1 giant slalom skier is in the world… because the majority of the viewership could care less about giant slalom world rankings. But people will watch to see how ‘their’ competitors they have association with do. We play on nationalities… but we also play largely on the ‘heros’ or ‘significant players’ that production has introduced the audience to. (and also why people largely don’t care about the other competitors who aren’t showcased). And the ‘match having significance’ plays out in why people really don’t want to see the warm up or elimination runs… people want to see the FINALS… because that’s where the big climax and payoff (or failure) is built up to be.

You mention poker and it’s blow up. Poker has this as well where production builds up certain recurring people to the point where the audience has people they love or hate or follow… all purely from what they learned from watching the TV show. And we don’t dedicate TV time to the early rounds… we see highlights, but where is all the big time put? In the final table… because that’s where the payoff and climax is.

The point of all of this is to highlight that successful broadcast coverage can transcend individual interest in the sport by manufacturing and curating interest and attachment in the audience. It goes along with the actual production value of covering the event itself…

Success here is obviously more of an art than a science… but there are common tools producers use to try to create that perfect alignment that results in viewers getting hooked. Success is a mix of the different elements. Of course it really helps if your activity is actually exciting to watch and experience… and doesn’t necessarily have a huge barrier to grasp. Alas some things just have poor pacing, excitement, etc. No amount of intrigue or compassion is enough to overcome the event’s attributes. But at the same time, you really need both pieces to make it work. How the actual competition is broken into TV coverage is a huge part of that in how to make it interesting to follow.

My personal opinion… MTG is hindered by the pure table aspect and high complexity (from its variety). It’s more a mental challenge than anything physical or challenging where people may struggle or find success. Pinball at least has the physical aspect going for it… and has interesting bits like people can actually see and relate how player skill varies… and not just right/wrong choices. The complexity in pinball strategy can be boiled down somewhat… but the competition is fast… there are physical skills demonstrated… there is success and failure… and there is stuff to watch.

As to if the pots will bring the rest of the pieces along… It’s a tough call. So much comes from the sponsors and this idea of hitting a critical mass to get to the next level. I don’t have an answer on what I think will do it, but I don’t think I can argue with the success in building bigger profile events the Raw Thrills team has demonstrated. So if they have a formula they think works… it’s better than the idea I have :slight_smile:


Thats actually the ONLY thing pretty much everyone that I have been in a split pot final with have ever cared about - 1st. Everyone tries their hardest to win.

Also note that usually split pots are NOT even money for 1st, usually its just a more equitable distribution, or “less shafting of 4th”. Say instead of an event being $10, $3.50, $2.50, $1, the split might be $8, $3, $3, $3.

…And, I’ve asked for winner takes all at papa, but no one will go for it. :smiley: