Ruling: How to Score Absent Players?

Dear Opinionated People,

I have a few hyper-specific questions on how to handle match scoring when players withdraw, are tardy or are otherwise absent from tournaments.

The IFPA/PAPA ruleset section that I’m trying to interpret is “III.5 Absences”. It reads…

During qualifying rounds, any player who is absent at the start of the game will have his or her name announced by the Scorekeeper three times. If the player in question remains absent at that time, the next player in the queue will be moved forward. During final rounds or any qualifying format that involves group play, if a player is absent when it is his or her turn to play, he or she will be awarded three minutes to return before the game in question will be recorded as a zero. A second three-minute absence by any player in the final rounds will result in their elimination from the tournament. Any player who has an emergency should notify a Tournament Official so that accommodations may be made. Should a player have to permanently leave the tournament for any reason prior to its conclusion, he or she will not be permitted to pre-play any games, and all scores for any remaining games will be recorded as zero points.

Note that an absence at the beginning of final rounds results in the player not being part of the final rounds at all.

Important Note: The frame of reference for this discussion is a league matchplay or qualifying round matchplay situation. If you think of this only in terms of playoff rounds, the answers will seem irrelevant, since the absent player will be eliminated from the playoffs anyway. But in open matchplay, the absent player could very well still qualify on the basis of their performance in past or future rounds.

#1. My friend and I are confused over what “the game in question will be recorded as a zero” means. Does zero mean zero machine points (ie, last place) or does it mean zero match points? Assuming 7-5-3-1 scoring, if a player does nothing on the machine (not even plunging a ball), is the match scored…?
a) 7-4-1, with the absent player scoring nothing (or 0)
b) 7-5-3-1, with the absent player scoring 1
c) Other

#2. Is the answer any different in a multi-game round? If a player starts a five game round and completes three games, presumably the results of the first three games must stand as recorded. But how should the remaining two games be scored?
a) 7-4-1, with the absent player scoring nothing (or 0)
b) 7-5-3-1, with the absent player scoring 1
c) Other

#3. In 7-5-3-1 matchplay, if a player withdraws in the MIDDLE of their game (after playing ball 2, for example), the player will have their remaining balls plunged out. But what machine score is used to determine their match placement? Is it…?
a) Whatever their score is after the last ball they at least plunged (ball 2 in this example), but before their remaining balls are plunged out? (ie, points from bonus and random pops DO NOT count)
[Remember that bonus on a plunged-out ball can be enormous. Think Guardians.]
b) Their score after the last ball has been plunged out? (ie, points from bonus and random pops DO count)
c) Last place, because they did not finish. The match is scored 7-5-3-1, with the absent player scoring 1.
d) Nothing, because they did not finish. The match is scored 7-4-1, with the absent player scoring nothing (or 0).
e) Other.

#4. The phrase “During final rounds or any qualifying format that involves group play,” is used early in the section, but later in the section only the phrase “final rounds” is used. Is it safe to assume that this is just short-hand for the full phrase and that there is no difference between “final rounds” and “qualifying formats that involve group play” for the purposes of this rule?

#5. The phrase “Note that an absence at the beginning of final rounds results in the player not being part of the final rounds at all.” is also confusing us. What if the player is present, but withdraws or otherwise does not play?
a) A player who is still present but does not play is scored as if they were absent, ie, they are not part of the final rounds at all.
b) Other.

I realize that Pinburgh’s ruleset is not specifically designed for other tournaments. But I’d note that it has some language in section “VIII-1 Absences” which may provide a relevant analog…

When session groups are announced, all players must proceed immediately to their assigned set of machines and check-in with the other players in their assigned groups. If a player is absent, tournament officials must be notified promptly. An announcement may or may not be made to attempt to locate the absent player. Any player absent 10 minutes after a session’s start time will be disqualified from the session, and will receive a score of 0-12.

When a player is determined to be absent, tournament officials will alter the affected group appropriately, recognizing that other groups will have begun play and should not be unduly disrupted. 4-player groups will continue as 3-player groups.

I’d appreciate everyone’s (calm) perspectives. :wink:

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I personally handle all absent players just like I do for someone that got DQed from the match for whatever reason. They are given a game score of zero and entered as last place in matchplay. So for 7,5,3,1, they get a 1.

I would do the same if they didn’t finish a series of games in a match.

If they left mid game, their final score would be what it is after the plunge offs, and their position recorded as it actually fell. Now, since the player didn’t play all three or 5 balls, that might affect TGP so I’d let the IFPA know about it.

For finals, I think that if the player never plays a single game of the round, they should be treated as they were never meant to play the round in the first place and the group is scored as a three player group. Then that players tournament would obviously be done.

I think I hit most of them. Haha

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It’s zero match points, effectively a DQ. If it’s a multi game match, try to remove them from the group. If they withdraw in the middle of a game, mark it zero. If the player is present but does not play, mark it zero.

Only thing missing there was yelling “over the line” :slight_smile:

My recommendation would be to not try to interpret the IFPA/PAPA ruleset in this situation and write a rule that is fair, makes sense, and isn’t easily exploitable for your event/league.


A player not present usually gets a DQ for the event and can’t qualify. I award them the highest position they earned. They get 0 match points for any games not completed.
If they let me know they will be unavailable for round(s) X-Y they still get 0 match points for missed games, score recorded at the time they left for games in progress, but don’t get a DQ from the event.

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I would suggest that if you’re running a league, you should consult a league ruleset when setting up your league. FSPA, PPL, TOPL are a few of the very well established leagues that have thorough written rules. There are a lot of realities of league play that are just different from a tournament situation. For example, depending on your rules, you could occasionally end up with a two or even one person group, so you need to ensure that your scoring system allows for this possibility. (Most of these things could happen in a tourney situation too, they just seem much less likely.)

I’ll give you FSPA’s take:

1 - (a) If a player is absent at the start of a game, it is scored as if that player was not in the group… e.g. 7-5-3-1 scoring converts to 7-4-1 scoring for that game (assuming the group started as a 4-player group).

2 - (a) If the player plays only the first three games of a five game round, the first three games are scored 7-5-3-1, the last two are scored 7-4-1.

3 - (b) As a practical use case: imagine a situation where right before a player’s turn on ball 2 is up, that person gets a super-important work call and has to go to a quiet corner for a few minutes. She is not DQed from the game or the match, but when her turn is up, you give her whatever grace period your ruleset allows and then plunge that ball. If she finishes her call and returns to the game before her ball 3 is up, great, play on. On the other hand, if she doesn’t return by ball 3, plunge that out and record the final score as shown.

5 - Good question… don’t think I’ve encountered a situation where a qualified player showed up for a finals league match and then said “y’know what, I refuse to play, I’m just going to sit here and watch TV”. Becomes one of those league official discretion things. My inclination would be: if they announced their withdrawal or abstention before the match started, I’d remove them from the group and follow whatever your league’s rules are for finals (just play with the smaller group, or promote the next highest seeded player who is present into the group). If the person played some of the match and then chose to forfeit, I think you just have to score them as a forfeit for each game they choose not to play (referencing questions 1 and 2 above for handling).

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Keep it simple.

“A player gets the score recorded that was achieved with the player in control of the game.”

That is the entire ruleset on this topic as I see it. And it is whether a player decides to leave or is forced to leave.


If a game is never started or never played by a player: A score of zero points.

If a player leaves mid-game: The score on the game at the point of departure.*

If a player is late and is allowed to enter a game in progress: TD plunge-out points are not counted towards the players score.

A player stays in the tournament system.*

A player gets the finish position this eventually turns out to be.

I find the (*) marked ones important. As it prevents that a player can influence who advances in a tournament, or the finish positions, by deciding to quit. It also protects players, as there can be no speculation on, if their reason to leave was to help a friend. Maybe for a return favour, cash payment etc. With this rule, everything is clean and fair. Again, I will strongly advice aganst recording a zero score for an ongoing game.

You may call it an exception to what I just wrote. But if qualified players decide to leave before finals are started, I like to “fill them up” with lower qualification players. But once started, there is no substitution like that.

A player that is absent is not disqualified for this reason alone.

However a player that decides to quit cannot re-enter.

Although I’ve never had this situation, I like this too. Next qualified person fills the spot.