Ruling question and benefit of the doubt discussion.

A ruling came up in the final of our State Championship yesterday that I would like feedback on.

The game was TZ. Player two was on ball 3 and started Powerball Mania. Somehow a ball wound up in the shooter lane and was not identified by the player during the multiball. The player drained his 2 balls in play and then the stuck ball was noted. Player one asked if player two should be disqualified for playing out the multiball with a stuck ball. Player two stated he had no idea that the ball was there. By this time player two had already won the game and didn’t need to play the ball in the plunger lane.

For what it is worth, I believe him. What may or may not be relevant is that player two failed to score a jackpot while in multiball rendering any advantage relatively small.

The PAPA/IFPA rules are pretty vague on what actually constitutes a DQ-worthy offense in this scenario. Intentionality seems to be a criteria but how is this determined? I was left to go with my gut. I also left some of the responsibility on player one for not being more proactive in alerting the player of the trapped ball.



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Very clearly not a violation, given that you believed that the player didn’t intentionally play the advantage.

This is the grayer (?) area to me. I’ve been in this situation, as I’m sure we all have. In a competitive match, I resist the urge to say anything to my opponent while he’s playing at the machine. I do make a point of discussing the situation when the ball is over, however, to make sure the player knows what happened and what to do in the future.

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Yeah don’t alert the player alert the TD. If the TD is playing then… more gray area.


This EXACT situation came up in the first Pinburgh (well 2011) in a game of Jackbot I was playing with Rob Wintler-Cox, Jon Replogle, and Pete Hendricks. At some point (I don’t remember which ball it was), Rob wound up with a ball in the plunger lane during multiball. I don’t remember the details of how it happened, but I do recall Jon and I looking at each other like… “Does he have a ball in the shooter lane?” I think it took us a while to realize this, which is why no one said anything immediately. It may have in fact not been until multiball ended that Kevin came over.

The ruling was handled this way: Rob’s score was written down, and disqualified from further play on that game (don’t remember if it was ball 2 or 3). He was allowed to play a new game by himself, and score UP TO what his written score was (somewhere around 1.1B IIRC). Unfortunately he tanked out his 2nd game and wound up with a very low score.

I’m not really sure where that idea came from offhand, but I can tell you that is definitely how it was handled in a major event once, since I was involved. The round in question is on finals div a quarterfinals group 3.

FWIW, this is exactly why in FSPA league rules, a stuck ball situation is NOT considered a positive malfunction. Here’s an excerpt from the “director’s commentary” that I’m writing…

The FSPA’s rule that a one ball “multiball” (or a stuck ball during multiball) is not an exceptionally unfair advantage differs from many other competitive pinball rulesets, but there are many arguments in favor of the FSPA’s rule:

  • During multiball, many players -- especially less-skilled players -- are very intently focused on the playfield area right around the lower flippers. They are often unaware of where all the balls are, and therefore may not be able to identify that something is wrong with the game's state. Even spectators may not realize that a ball is stuck somewhere. These factors make it difficult to consistently enforce a "stuck ball during multiball" rule.
  • In most league play situations, opening the coin door to release a stuck ball will disable playfield coils, probably causing the drain of the player's remaining balls and the loss of their (legitimately earned) multiball mode. This seems like a rather harsh penalty for a player who did nothing wrong.
  • Many stuck balls are caused by airballs (a ball rising off the plane of the playfield while moving). An airball is never considered an exceptional (major) malfunction, even if it results in an unsaveable loss of ball that is not part of the game's intended design (e.g. ball flying over the flippers into the drain). Symmetry suggests that an airball should not be considered an exceptional advantage, either.
  • Even when in "one ball multiball", the player must still make skillful shots to earn points. This is not the same as a situation where the machine awards points for doing nothing at all or for unskilled actions like just hitting the flipper buttons repeatedly.
  • Having fewer balls in play during multiball is not necessarily an advantage: game modes (e.g. frenzies) may be less valuable with fewer balls in play. Certain multiball features (e.g. doubled or tripled jackpots) may be unavailable. In the most extreme cases, it may not be possible to make any progress at all in the multiball.
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In many situations, the TD is not immediately available. What is the relative harm in playing partners informing the player of the stuck ball vs allowing the game to become increasingly compromised/controversial with each passing moment?

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What if the other players cause me to drain? That would be more controversial.

If a ball becomes stuck during a multiball mode, the player should attempt to trap the other ball(s) in play and request assistance. A stuck ball during multiball often represents a significant beneficial malfunction, and intentionally taking advantage may result in a penalty. Please note specifically that a ball ending up in the plunger lane during multiball on a machine where there is no autoplunger (or where the autoplunger for some reason refuses to fire) counts as a stuck ball, and the ball must be plunged by the player. See “Beneficial Malfunctions” for further details.

There is ambiguity, in both “intentionality” and in “penalty.” It could be clarified.

Perhaps, but that doesn’t seem any more likely to happen than if the TD notified you.
If a playing partner did notify the player of a stuck ball situation, would you consider that a “player interference” violation?

I like FSPA’s rule, but it needs to end with…

When a ball stays in the shooter lane during multiball for more than 5 seconds, the player is required to launch the ball as soon as possible without jeopardizing any other ball in play (as soon as his right hand is free).

If the player hasn’t noticed after 5 seconds, an official, or another player, is allowed to (gently) remind the player that the ball must be launched.

This is an unspoken rule to me. If a ball is in the shooter lane during MB, you launch it ASAP. Kinda like when a ball is stuck somewhere. As soon as you notice it, you stop what you’re doing and try to knock it free using another ball. I know for sure I’ve reminded people in this situation that they need to launch it. Usually a noob.

Anything that happens while a ball is in the shooter lane or stuck in a pop bumper isn’t legit IMO. On location, by all means. MCC made a living exploiting situations like this. But not it competitive play. Gentle reminder for noobs, kick in the @ss for regulars.

From the IFPA rules:

“Any player who deliberately interferes with the play of another player, through distraction, touching the machine or player, or disrupting tournament procedures, will receive a score of zero for the game.”

“Tournament officials will be the sole determiners of what constitutes interference and whether or not it is accidental or deliberate.”

It’s up to the TD to say whether this would be interference. Under just about any circumstances I can imagine, I wouldn’t DQ the distractor, but rather advise him to find me or another official in future situations.

The fact that a TD has the complete discretion and ability to issue a DQ in these scenarios probably means it’s a good idea not to tempt fate.

I would not consider notification of a relevant issue to be equivalent to “distraction, touching the machine or player, or disrupting tournament procedures”.

I would be beyond surprised to hear a TD would DQ someone for such an act.

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Unfortunately, then you’re back to having no objective guidance in the situations described by @alveolus (OP) or @keefer. Unless a playfield camera is being projected on a screen at the event location, there’s a decent chance that no one will notice the ball is in the shooter lane until there are 1 or 0 balls left on the main playfield, and then the player starts wondering what’s wrong with the machine. And then you just get into a he-said-she-said thing where it’s impossible to determine if or when the player knew about the ball in the shooter lane.

(In the case of Jackbot, in my experience what happens is that the one-way gate at the top of the shooter lane in the pop bumper cluster flaps open, and a ball sneaks in there, usually propelled quickly by the adjacent bumper. If you’re not looking right at it when it happens, you probably won’t notice.)

I still don’t like the way it’s written. A ball in the shooter lane during MB on some games (BSD comes to mind) is a huge advantage. The hip cheat (lean on shooter rod to keep auto plunged balls in the shooter lane) was invented just to exploit situations like this. The way it’s written, it sounds like it’s no big deal. Leave it there and take advantage of a malfunction. I’d still launch it ASAP.

I’m almost afraid to ask, but does FSPA have a stuck ball in MB rule? Can I leave that ball there too? What if I get a ball stuck in the pops and another in the shooter lane? Play on?

No way on the DQ. And no way on a zero score.

There is no way to be sure that a player intentionally took advantage. And a stuck ball is not a garanteed advantage. I have certainly been stressed out on a stuck ball in MB in tournaments which led to more or less end of MB without much points made.

The best rule is to say that a player is not allowed to exploit in circumstance of a stuck ball. And when notised, the player should try and catch free balls to allow for the ball to come back in play with the glass off. Or at least try to shoot the ball free (it resides in a ball lane, catched by a gate…).

If a penalty is in place because a player had an unfair advantage, try to resolve it by deducting points from final score. As a TD, unfortunetly I did not handle this correctly at a tournament I ran. Lesson learned.

I really like Joe’s rule here because it is the only rule that is consistently enforceable.

What about Fireball: You earned your ball in shooter lane and it is by design. Does it really need to be plunged during multiball?

Spiderman ( and others like it). Behind the gate, I think should be allowed. Takes skill to put it there and skill to avoid releasing. Game will fix when multiball ends.

I worry about situations like metalica snake during 2x. If a newer player thinks they are in a 1 ball multiball and craddles up, that sucks.

You should ban the hip thing explicitly, but requiring a player to understand game software completely sucks. Does that jackpot have a grace period or do I have a stuck ball?


No surprise that that this happened. In SCS this weekend, I had a TZ air ball off the playfield, over the outlane and auto-launcher lane, and into the shooter lane. But it was in single ball play.

I agree: if the pin can return the ball to the shooter lane by design during multiball through skillful play on a pin without an autoplunger (such as Fireball and Fireball Classic), then the player shouldn’t be obligated to plunge that ball during their multiball. But in both Fireballs’ cases, I doubt a multiball will last longer than the 30 seconds that’s usually allowed for a player to realize what’s going on, or free a stuck ball with the other ball in play.

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Completely disagree on this :slightly_smiling:

If a ball comes to rest on the zipper flippers that player better be plunging the ball in the plunger lane.

“By design” isn’t acceptable to not plunge at that time.

Same goes for Pinbot when you’re on multiball. While I love the vortex exploit at home, there’s NO WAY that’s allowed for tournament play because the game was designed to possibly put the ball back in the shooter lane.

Josh, do you have any perspective you could share concerning how you handle these situations if a player states they were unaware of the stuck ball?

Other players should be watching, and TD’s should be watching (if possible of course).

There’s a long way before I call something interference. Pointing out to a player with a quick “Ball is in the shooter lane- plunge it when you can” is completely proper etiquette IMO.