Ruling question: What do you do when a game kicks out two balls?

I dont seem to be able to start a thread here so I’ll piggyback on this one, sorry if I’m stepping on anyone’s toes.

I’m a relative noob with a rules question. A game has been firing two balls out of the trough with regularity, about 30% of the time. The TD determines that since the flippers don’t go dead after the first of the two balls drains, we should just play it and if you get two balls to start, let one drain. It turns out that when that first ball drains, the flippers go dead and you lose the other ball too. What;s the appropriate ruling?

  1. Award compensation balls to anyone who lost their ball this way, to the disdadvantage of anyonne who didn’t
  2. Start the game over on a different machine
    3… Other, explain

I moved this to a new topic for ya. Here’s how I handle it: If a machine kicks out two balls, the player should trap up and let one drain. If the game kicks out a new ball due to ball save, let that one drain as well. If at that point the flippers die, the player impacted gets a compensation ball at the end of the game should they need it.

If the issue is happening consistently and the TD has enough other games to allow for pulling the game, after the game in progress is completed, they should pull the game until the trough switch issue can be fixed. If it happens only occasionally, or if the TD can’t pull the machine, it’s a pretty easy and consistent ruling to make when it happens, and you can even brief the players in advance to let them know what to expect.


In case of a compensation ball, if it’s a modern game and you have the keys, you can switch it to 4 balls mid-game so the impacted players don’t lose their progress and play a real 4th ball. I know it works on Sterns, never seen it done on WMS tho.

That doesn’t work on Wms games. There’s a list somewhere of the games where it works (Stern starting around Iron Man, a few other games).

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I would say either pull the game or repair it. The trough is malfunctioning so not only can it periodically spit out two balls, it may occasionally end the ball in play during play. If you have keys you can try reseating the connectors that plug into the trough (both sides of the trough). A broken weld on the scoop can also cause mis-feeds. If this is the case it shouldn’t end the ball in play prematurely, but it can get annoying!


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Way way too frequent for satisfactory use in a tournament. As a generality for the sake of discussion, that would mean that in a 3-player game, this will happen once to every player in every game. No bueno, DQ the machine.


Totally agree after the initial game in question is over.

Thanks all. The problem in this case was that the game was a death match and ended up being very close- the two players who got compensation balls still got skill shot and bonus points for the balls that were ruled out, and that might have made the difference. The guy who got eliminated was justifiably pissed but I thought he handled it quite gracefully. I can’t remember his name but he’s a very good looking guy, extremely stylish, and highly underrated as a player. I’d guess he’s in his early 30s, maybe younger.

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I will say my new approach with keys on modern sterns to 2 balls in the shooter lane is: Open the door. Put in service menu. Plunge balls. Exit service menu. Close door.

I use to have the player drain one, or do a seperation non-validated plunge (which can be hard), or take the glass off. Using service menu is better.


Hey does this forum need a “Missed Connections” section?


On Sam games, you are assuming coin door ball saver is enabled, correct? Drain both balls, coin door ball saver kicks a new ball into the shooter lane when door is closed.

No coin door switch on Spike games. I believe coin door ball saver is enabled by default on Sam game, not sure on Spike games.

I am not assuming coin door ballsave. If you go into service menu, the game is not running, so no switches will activate. The playfield will not validate, and a new ball will be ejected.

Keys or no keys?

If keys they what I always do is open the game. Retrieve one ball. Let player play. If he drains and game is still active for the player then I will put the other game back in, in the drain.

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Oh, good point. I answered assuming no keys.

Weird, i don’t even remember being there. :smirk:

I will add that if two balls are served to the shooter lane, and the keys are available, while the door is open, give the two small connectors for each trough opto board a little push to re-seat them. This is one of the few things that seems to be a forever problem on modern Sterns and its 99% because the connectors wiggled up a bit. I find this fix is good for at least a few weeks of trouble free operation with moderately consistent play.

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Ohhh, no no no. Look, the rules are to drain down to the correct number of balls-in-play. If this causes lost points or lost ball-in-play, award a compensation.

What you suggest is a road to more trouble. On a game that is (likely) already broken.

Not 99%. That system may also suffer cracked solder joints, misalignment of the boards, cracked connector cables, failing optos. That design is just pure shit.

I have a ghostbusters that does this quite often. I take the second ball out and let the player play on with one, when the game is finished I stick the ball back in. Need to debug the machine though as to why its doing it.

If you end up with two balls in play from some game malfunction yes it is written to let one drain and not play an unearned multiball. If the game serves up two balls before they have done anything I’m not going to tell them to sit there and juggle balls/ plunge them and mess up there starting skill shot or strategy and have them fumble around trying to gain control of two wild balls in play now.

Most often the game corrects itself(although often coming back again and again especially on sterns). If it’s a common issue like we had on a junkyard and Addams family before we tested and learned that putting the extra ball right into drain caused no issues and put game back into normal state we did that every time going forward in any matches it arose. If its unknown what the game is going to do I’m going to try and make as little impact of the game as possible. If I hold onto the extra served ball and it causes more issues down the road the game is likely unfit to be used until problem is fixed outside of gameplay anyways.

I use to blame the bad opto board design and vibration from the kickout for this always. I have started the believe that these are really jams, instead of false positives. Especially when metal plates are installed to project the wall from damage, it appears balls bouncing back into the through and causing a jam is common. Resolving the jam will put 2 balls in shooter lane. If you game isn’t ever ending while ball in play, I would suspect bounce back.