Reasons for choosing to play 2nd or 3rd in finals match?

I’ve been in some finals matches recently where the person who has all 4 slots available will pick 2nd or 3rd. I’m curious what could be reasons for picking 2nd or 3rd particularly if one would not know the order of any of the other players.

To me, choosing 1st makes sense for example, if the player does not want to wait to get started or the game has a special feature that does not reset and is ripe for the picking (which should not happen IMO), and 4th makes sense to gain as much information as possible.


I’m superstitious. So if I’ve lost every time I’ve played first or fourth in that tournament (and I will know that for sure), I will probably pick second or third to mix things up.


First and fourth are also much more pressure-filled positions, leading off or cleaning up. Going in the middle can be a way to calm the nerves of an anxious player.


I always choose to go 2nd if I can. I hate the pressure of going 1st, the ultimate disappointment of going 4th, and 3rd siblings are the worst siblings.

2nd all day.


I know people who sometimes avoid 4th because if one of the first 3 has a really good first ball, they feel under too much pressure to catch up to relax and play well. Playing 4th helps you know what you need, but it doesn’t make it any easier to achieve what you need. Playing 2nd or 3rd, under less stress, can help some players achieve better.


In games with lock stealing I like to choose second. I don’t know that it gives me any better chance of lock stealing, but in my head it does.

On 4 player EMs it can also be advantageous to be as early a player as possible since the scoring reels are used more often. I can’t be watching to make sure reels are scoring correctly while I am playing. I trust 1 most, 2 second most.


Until recently, my biggest issue when competing has been nerves. For that reason I like to go first, it sometimes helps me to block out the other players so I can focus on just playing, ‘just put up a score’, etc.

Also, my game knowlege isn’t very broad so when playing an unfamiliar game I will prefer to go first in that case as well, since I can’t exactly adjust my strategy if I barely have any idea what I’m doing on the game in the first place. People often say they learn a lot by watching what other players are doing but I’ve rarely found that to be feasible in a tournament setting unless there is a video feed or something.

If I am playing a game that I know well, and have been feeling comfortable and confident I will choose to go last or later. Usually default to first though. :slight_smile:


So one of the things I really dislike about going last is how long I have to wait sometimes. Especially long playing games or versus a group of skilled players, the wait can really cool me down or make me anxious to get the game over with. Third feels right for me most of the time, as I get to see P1/P2 play and observe how the game’s playing/what strategies people are using. Having 2 scores as a baseline gives me a decent idea of how I need to perform.

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I don’t really like going 4th on a one-player game, unless it’s a game I don’t know at all I want to learn on the fly watching people. I’ll usually go 2nd or 3rd given the choice.

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The title of this post refers to a “finals” match. I wouldn’t choose second or third position if a match is in the very final round of a tournament. But people often use the term “finals” when they really mean any of the “playoff” rounds.

In earlier playoff rounds, if the competition isn’t too fierce or if a game has only one strategy anyway, I often choose to go third to avoid the possibility of a walk-off.

Playing that third ball means 50% more play-time than you’d have with a walk-off. The extra experience on a machine can be valuable later in the tournament if there’s a possibility you might play the same machine again.


Agreed and understood on the difference between finals and playoff (even though the words quarterfinals and semifinals use the words “final” as part of the descriptors).

In any case I’ve seen it firsthand in playoffs and the very final match.

With respect to the walkoff comment, I don’t think there is a rule that one must plunge and walk away. So if a player has already won the game, but wants time to learn it is their prerogative to play. Most people probably plunge away as a courtesy to keep things moving and not rub it in. (Besides it’s fun).

Also if a player can plunge away after 2 balls, they probably have a decent handle on the game, unless it was a case of comparing stinky garbage to slightly less stinky garbage. :slight_smile:


I tend to avoid playing second. There isn’t any strategic advantage to playing second vs playing third or fourth: I don’t get much of a chance to learn from others on an unfamiliar game, and I don’t have enough information to settle on a strategy on a familiar game when I’m playing second.

Playing third is my second least-favourite choice. It’s only sometimes better than playing first: it does give me some information that might be valuable if the placings are tight, but it’s not as valuable as fourth.

Playing fourth gives me the most information, but also puts the most pressure on me. For games I understand well and where there are several choices of strategy depending on my scoring deficit, fourth is my preferred choice simply because it allows me to minimise risk, despite the pressure. I can adjust strategy depending on the scoring gap I need to close.

On games where there is not much of a choice of strategies (such as Flash Gordon, where ball time pretty much relates linearly to score because there are few “monster shots”), I often choose first. That’s because knowing what score the other players have achieved doesn’t give me much of a strategic advantage, but coming last when I’m behind just puts pressure on me. I might as well play first and do as well as I can. If that isn’t enough, it’s unlikely that playing last would have made much of a difference.

So, in order of preference for me:

Familiar game with strategic choices: 4th, 3rd, 1st, 2nd.

Familiar game without strategic choices: 1st, 4th, 3rd, 2nd.

Unfamiliar game: 4th, 3rd, 1st, 2nd.

This last one is possibly irrational; if I don’t know the game, preferring first over second may well be wrong because any information I can glean by watching my opponents play is potentially valuable. I guess I just don’t like second…

If you enjoy playing, picking fourth may result in a plunge off. Sometimes we just enjoy playing, and picking 3rd ensures a full three balls of play.

But more commonly there are some assumptions a player can make, that all players will tend to select the latest player slot available. If I’m playing a player with tendencies to very physical with a machine, I may select a position that allows that player to take a position behind me. Allowing the machine more time to settle between their ball and my own.

Aggressive player picks to go fourth, I’ll choose 3rd. If I have 2nd choice and Aggressive player picks directly after me- allow first choice to be fourth, I’ll pick 2nd, allowing Agressive player to select to go third. (I’m sure there is a more eloquent way to explain this, pardon)


Even on a game with few strategic choices, going last is so powerful… as that ball 3 is racing for the outlane, must you do everything to save it (risking a tilt) or is your bonus already enough to clinch a win or two? (Many games with limited strategic choices do tend to be bonus-heavy games.)


The situational awareness of how risky you must play to win should be incentive enough IMO - minus games with particular attributes that carry over player to player

I hear you on that. But, sometimes, especially when I’m playing against someone who is much better than me, having less pressure on me can be more important than playing fourth.

My confidence level also affects my choice. If I’m feeling I’m on a roll and I’m playing well, I’m much more likely to choose fourth. If I’m having a shaky day, adding pressure to my already shaky play tends to make me play worse.

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Ditto for me.

Of course that’s fine, if that works better for you, go for it. For me personally, it’s just the opposite: going first (or anything but last) is pressure filled, particularly on the last ball, because I’m always worrying “my opponents are strong players, they can throw down a monster ball at any time, so I need my last ball to be killer”. When I play last, I feel less pressure; I’m thinking: “OK, I have one win already in the bag, and only need a small number of points for the second win, no problem…”

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I played in the UK Finals and chose to play 2nd on the first game of 3. - I had 2nd choice, first player chose to play last.

The reason being that after the first game, each subsequent round the players rotated position. (2nd played 3rd, then 4th on the final game). It meant not only did I never have to go first, it meant that on the final game I would be playing last and know exactly what I had to do in that game and how it would have a bearing on the final standings.

I also chose to play first in the tie break on Fish Tales as I had earlier played it and was able to fast lock straight from the plunge - something that wouldn’t have been available if I had played 2nd and player 1 had locked a ball already.

Sometimes it just needs a little thought, rather than instantly defaulting to playing last.

Your first example is a bit different than the scenario I am asking about. If an initial decision forcibly affects subsequent decisions, then sure, figure out when you can play 4th on the game you want.

There was nothing like you described to follow in the next game to be played. It was the standard choose game or position method.