Ruling: Listening to the tournament stream while competing

Should players be allowed to use their headphones to listen to the tournament stream of a tournament in which they themselves are competing?

I’ve seen this question occasionally raised. However, I haven’t seen this definitively stated anywhere (including in the “Headphones while playing” thread).

I’m pretty sure the answer should be the same as for looking up PinTips while playing …

A player may review electronic or written notes in between turns of a multiplayer game or between games, but not during their own turn or between balls of a single-player game.

(from the PAPA/IFPA Competition Rules, section I.9.)

…which is basically the same as the rule on coaching…

Coaching of any player during a game, in any round, is not allowed. While not actively playing, players are of course free to discuss features and strategies as much as they like, including between balls during a game…

(also in section I.9.)

However, I also know some people hate rules that are hard to enforce. (Is he listening to Twitch or Rick Astley?)

So I thought I’d post the question here to get a consensus.

Just another reason coaching should be allowed.


I cant see any advantage that could be gained by listening to the stream. Am I missing something?

When I see my opponent putting on headphones, I see that as an advantage to me. I get to hear the audio clues from the game, they dont. I haven’t won every game I’ve played against headphoned opponents, but the psychological boost I get from it works for me. Go ahead, listen to anything you want while playing. Here, let me turn it up for you.

I think some people would argue it can be a significant advantage.

The commentators will often discuss game strategy which will help players with only shallow rules knowledge.

They often also comment on tactics (eg, “the feed from the right scoop is safer than from the left scoop”).

But you’re right, some players may find that unhelpful or even distracting.

So, the question applies more to players who find listening to the stream an advantage.


From a purely technical standpoint, the stream delay is too large for this to be viable while actually playing! It’d be very difficult to play while hearing about actions 30 seconds in the past.


But listening outside of your ball could be very helpful.

But that’s perfectly fine imo.

I’m also in the camp that coaching should be allowed assuming it doesn’t delay the match at all.


There’s a reason other individual sports don’t allow a “coach” standing alongside a player while they compete. I personally think coaching in pinball is a terrible idea for any tournaments of significance. It might be hard to enforce at some level but the alternative feels far worse to me.


Jump in the booth and sabotage your opponent! I like it! BARFLYFISTICUFFSALLDAY!


If he drains here his bonus should have it. Oh, that’s a shame. Guess I was wrong. :grimacing:


Yes, you’re missing something. Commentators talk about strategy. Players can and have learned things previously unknown to them about the game they are playing by listening to live commentary. (I don’t know of anyone listening to stream commentary through their phone, but it could be happening. It had never occurred to me before this post.)

I’m not giving an opinion either way…but it’s quite clearly an advantage they wouldn’t have had without it.

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Actually I do have an opinion…coaching shouldn’t be allowed in pinball whole the ball is in play.

Are there any individual sports where players are coached outside of stoppages in play?


Thinking about it more, pinball is somewhat unique in that you compete against other players, but indirectly through the play of the machine. Many other sports with indirect competition are turn based, like darts, golf, or bowling. You have a release and that’s your turn…as opposed to pinball where you have continuous and live interaction with the ball until it drains.

The closest analogy I could come up with is rock climbing. Personally I think it would be a little ridiculous if you had a coach on belay, suspended alongside a climber, pointing out moves and holds as the competitor worked their way toward the top…trying to beat the time or distance of other competitors, who may or may not have the resources or ability to have a pro showing them the way.

MLB has base coaches.

Some long-distance races allow coaches along the path.

I’m sure there are other examples.

I’d rather simply allow coaching during play, rather than endorse the BS that has been espoused by some in tournament circles: “coaching is illegal, but if I’m in the audience and very loudly state to my buddy ‘Bob will start a huge multiball if he shoots the left orbit’, that’s totally legit”.

FSPA rules specifically allow coaching… newer/weaker players in particular enjoy cheering and coaching each other on. Do we really want to DQ all these people for learning the games together?

Also, I think @mwelsh is exactly right: with the system delays of the streaming infrastructure, I suspect most players would be wildly confused trying to listen to the commentary of their own play, unless they had some way to tap into the truly-real-time speech.

The question is moot. Pinburgh, Intergalactic and Circuit Finals (among other tournaments) already broadcast live commentary during finals where, ironically, you need headphones on to NOT hear what they are saying. In Circuit Finals last year, they were covering our Round 1 game of GOTG, and I wasn’t sure which mode to choose for my fourth one to get to cherry bomb, so I cradled up, lowered my headphones a bit and listened to what they had to say, lol. It wasn’t anything I didn’t already know, but I found it amusing that this external information was available to me whether I wanted/needed it or not. Perhaps more of that catches on - it certainly draws in the audience A LOT more than a passive stream does. Presumably, though, the players in the finals are there for a reason and most if not all of them will do just fine with between-ball consultations and whatever info they could glean from anyone while playing would be inconsequential to the overall outcome. YMMV

At league, whenever someone says “Nice shot!” To someone playing, I always jokingly retort: “No coaching!”, lol, because, really, encouragements is a form of coaching, too, but no one seems to mind that ? Is then, “Don’t tilt, you’ve got it in bonus!” any different ?


My anecdote: Pinburgh finals a few years ago I was playing high hand and could hear the commentators mention tilt ends game. I think I knew that but totally forgot, and was glad for the reminder (though I lost anyway).

Anyway, I agree that we should just allow coaching and be done with it.

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I worry about resource wars with regards to coaching. If I travel to a tournament somewhere and I’m by myself, there’s no one to coach me or feed me tips while playing. I’d be at a pretty big disadvantage against a local with tons of friends there to coach him/her on, or a traveling group.

I think I’d prefer to compete against the player, not the player plus their entourage.


if I knew what a kick out was gonna do, could I do something like bang on a nearby trashcan to let one of my friends know? once for fast kickout, twice for off speed kickout?


It dawned on me while talking to my wife on my head phones while waiting in the queue at INDISC that there’s really nothing stopping someone from relaying in game information while watching that game on the tv screen to someone currently playing said game.

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Of course, all the arguments about enforceability are perfectly valid. And like in many pursuits, there are many ways to cheat if you really want to. Look at the Serena Williams coaching controversy in tennis or the Houston Astros sign stealing scandal in baseball.

But there are plenty of us who at least try to employ good sportsmanship. I feel it would be helpful to have a consensus about where the line is for those who want to play fairly.

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Agree. Typically only playoffs are streamed. If you got to the playoffs without the stream, I’m not sure if it’s going to be any help in the playoffs. One exception may be rare games. I was listening closely during Indisc when AC was being played as I haven’t played it yet. From my view, it looked like people with some experience on it usually beat people not familiar with it. Generally rare games shouldn’t be used in competition, but Indisc gets a pass for a few reasons.

Other than for noobs, I’m not a fan of coaching. Mainly because it takes more time. We usually know what games we’ll be playing at a given event. Do your homework beforehand. There are a hell of a lot more resources for players today than there was ten years ago, including this place. Don’t wait until game day to come up with a strategy. Minor tips between balls, sure. But once you step up, no coaching.