Rulings: Official drains stuck ball when trying to free it


In my estimation of the rules, that would be “live” as it’s not considered stuck in single ball play. But I’m curious - did this specific situation arise? If so, what game/situation?


IMO: Neither. You are not allowed to play a 1 ball multiball. Regardless of how poorly worded the stuck ball section is. The ball is not “live”, it needs to be dealt with. The ball is not “stuck”, because it will be drained, not placed on a flipper. The text from above should be copied into the inlane /outlane paragraph.

"Please note that when this happens in multiball, in no way will a player be allowed to take advantage of this situation by continuing to play any other balls currently available. The situation of this ball that has come to rest needs to be dealt with immediately by either the player or tournament director."


I think this is an interesting situation. In a multiball with a ball stuck somewhere on the play field and a ball stuck on the in/outlane divider the tournament director has the option of trying to free a ball by nudging (if the TD tilts you get a compensation ball) but if the ball on the divider drains it seems straight forward that you (sadly lost multiball) are now in single ball play with a stuck ball and continue as though in single ball play with a stuck ball. But what if the TD tries to free the balls by nudging and frees the ball stuck on the play field and not the ball stuck on the divider? Are you then just screwed because the rules screw the player more harshly for balls stuck on the outlane?

[Edit, the freed play field ball would be live and the player has responsibility for it so even if it drains it seems like the freed ball and the ball stuck on the divider would then be treated separately. In the full “the player is screwed” spirit. But still an interesting and complex situation nonetheless when you consider the options of dealing with it-pull the glass or TD nudging-) which makes the original question even more valid–is it live or is it stuck?]


Hmmm… So, it’s legal to trap, for example, a ball under an upper-right flipper while in multi-ball. That’s not considered a stuck ball. And, in single-ball play, a ball perched on an inlane divider is not considered stuck. I’m just expected to shake it loose. The same goes for a ball that sits on an a lane switch or a sunken insert.

Now, somehow, in multi-ball play, the same ball is considered stuck? That doesn’t ring true to me.

I realise that this somewhat like Pandora’s box. Tough call to make. But consider: how long does the ball need to be “stuck” for before it is considered stuck? Two seconds? Surely not. Five seconds? Surely not either. Ten seconds? Maybe. Twenty seconds? Probably.

A really simple solution to the dilemma would be be to ditch the stuck ball rule altogether. If I’m lucky enough to have a stuck ball during multi-ball, I just get to abuse the hell out of it. Upside: unambiguous ruling. Downside: the lucky guy wins.

This is why I don’t think pinball will ever be considered a sport. Too many unexpected and surprising situations can arise that, no matter what, no-one can anticipate and that no ruling can ever adequately address.


Football will never be considered a sport when this is the definition of a “catch” :slight_smile:

A player who makes a catch may advance the ball. A forward pass is complete (by the offense) or intercepted (by the defense) if a player, who is inbounds:

secures control of the ball in his hands or arms prior to the ball touching the ground; and
touches the ground inbounds with both feet or with any part of his body other than his hands; and
maintains control of the ball after (a) and (b) have been fulfilled, until he has the ball long enough to clearly become a runner. A player has the ball long enough to become a runner when, after his second foot is on the ground, he is capable of avoiding or warding off impending contact of an opponent, tucking the ball away, turning up field, or taking additional steps (see 3-2-7-Item 2).
Note: If a player has control of the ball, a slight movement of the ball will not be considered a loss of possession. He must lose control of the ball in order to rule that there has been a loss of possession.

If the player loses the ball while simultaneously touching both feet or any part of his body to the ground, it is not a catch.

Item 1. Player Going to the Ground. A player is considered to be going to the ground if he does not remain upright long enough to demonstrate that he is clearly a runner. If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent), he must maintain control of the ball until after his initial contact with the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, the pass is complete.

Item 2. Sideline Catches. If a player goes to the ground out-of-bounds (with or without contact by an opponent) in the process of making a catch at the sideline, he must maintain complete and continuous control of the ball until after his initial contact with the ground, or the pass is incomplete.

Item 3. End Zone Catches. The requirements for a catch in the end zone are the same as the requirements for a catch in the field of play.

Note: In the field of play, if a catch of a forward pass has been completed, after which contact by a defender causes the ball to become loose before the runner is down by contact, it is a fumble, and the ball remains alive. In the end zone, the same action is a touchdown, since the receiver completed the catch beyond the goal line prior to the loss of possession, and the ball is dead when the catch is completed.

Item 4. Ball Touches Ground. If the ball touches the ground after the player secures control of it, it is a catch, provided that the player continues to maintain control.

Item 5. Simultaneous Catch. If a pass is caught simultaneously by two eligible opponents, and both players retain it, the ball belongs to the passers. It is not a simultaneous catch if a player gains control first and an opponent subsequently gains joint control. If the ball is muffed after simultaneous touching by two such players, all the players of the passing team become eligible to catch the loose ball.

Item 6. Carried Out of Bounds. If a player, who is in possession of the ball, is held up and carried out of bounds by an opponent before both feet or any part of his body other than his hands touches the ground inbounds, it is a completed or intercepted pass. It is not necessary for the player to maintain control of the ball when he lands out of bounds.


What’s that got to do with pinball? Except to point out that the rules for football are complicated?

So what? Pinball can have complicated rules, too. Not a problem. The difference between football and pinball is that, in football, the ball doesn’t suddenly deflate, the ball doesn’t suddenly end up suspended in mid-air out of reach of all players, the stadium lights don’t unexpectedly start strobing, and it never happens that suddenly there are three balls in play instead of one.

Sorry, but this analogy truly doesn’t fly.


I don’t agree with you that unexpected and surprising situations suddenly make something “not a sport”.

Ask Tom Brady about balls suddenly deflating :slight_smile:

Ian pointed out a paragraph in the rules that explicitly explains the situation in question. I don’t see this situation as that big of a deal to handle personally. The ball isn’t considered stuck. It’s considered “at rest”, and by the IFPAPA rules it needs to be dealt with immediately.

For the tournaments you run the solution seems simple. Just post a note:

“We will be entirely ignoring Section I, Paragraph 7 of the IFPAPA rules. Play stuck balls at your leisure.”


I don’t run tournaments. Precisely because I don’t think I could live with any decision I’d be forced to make.

As for stuck balls, I can recall numerous occasions where I’m in a multi-ball frenzy with four, five, or six balls. I try to keep all the balls in play, try to make shots, etc, etc. Once I’m down to two or three balls, I go “hey, wasn’t there some other ball around somewhere?” It is only then that I realise that, actually, there is a ball stuck somewhere, and I never noticed it. Yet, I might have been playing with that ball stuck for a minute or more; I honestly have no idea.

Ruling please?

Can you also please provide a ruling for Apollo 13? Preferably a ruling that doesn’t penalise me for being so inept that I’m incapable of keeping track of 13 balls, just in case one of them gets stuck?


During multiball frenzies I wouldn’t be concerned as a TD about a player playing a 4-ball multiball with one ball stuck instead of all 5 balls being “live”. This issue becomes material when you’re playing a multiball with ONE ball in play.

The moment you notice that there is a ball stuck, follow the rules:
“If a ball becomes stuck during a multiball mode, the player should attempt to trap the other ball(s) in play and request assistance.”

It’s completely appropriate for you to not have noticed the stuck ball IMMEDIATELY. The determination of how material the beneficial advantage was would be based on the discretion of the TD.

For your Apollo 13 situation I wouldn’t worry about 1 ball stuck out of 13, or 9, or 5 with respect to declaring the game “VOID”. I would however expect you to try and trap up if you do happen to notice there is a ball stuck, regardless of how many balls are in play.


I agree with you, that’s a sensible ruling, But the ball that is perched on the inlane divider is one that I am expected to notice? Never mind that this is a game with an upper playfield (e.g Pharao), where all my focus is on keeping the balls on the upper playfield? So, I have two balls on the upper playfield and I never notice that there is a third one perched on an inlane divider or some other lower playfield element?

Or I’m playing ID4, with a ball perched on the rubber just underneath the bumper nest, and I simply don’t notice that there is still a ball hanging out there?

Josh, I hear you, and I agree with you. That’s what I would do, and that’s what any fair player (read sportsman) would do. Not everyone is like that, though. I have plenty of first-hand experience to confirm that.

So, I stand there, and watch a player play on in multi-ball mode for a full two minutes. Eventually, I step up and say “I think you may have a stuck ball.” The guy traps up, looks all innocent, and says “gosh, you are right, I never noticed that, thanks!” Yeah, right…

How do I (or how do you) prove him/her wrong?


You don’t. You accept the player at their word and move on accordingly.


Right. Hence, this approach potentially rewards the most convincing liar.


I’m sorry you have people in your tournament scene who exploit these rules for their own gain, this is obviously a very frustrating experience for you. I have seen this happen as well occasionally at very high levels of play, and it is also frustrating for me! However I also accept that this is a good balance, and while I may lose to one of those players, at least I’m not them.


Thank you for your empathy! I don’t think it’s very frustrating. (I don’t feel particularly frustrated.) I do think that it is wrong, though.

It’s pinball. I can’t exactly feed the family with those WPPR points I’ve earned can I? So, in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter. I still like pinball, I play as much as I can, and I can put up with a few bad apples in a very large barrel of A-grade apples that I like to hang out with.

The world is not perfect. The pinball world less so…


We don’t expect/require that you notice anything. All we ask is that when you do notice it, trap up.

You noticing it or not actually moves into the player conduct section and has nothing to do with the stuck ball rules.

If you didn’t notice the stuck ball, and inadvertently took advantage of the beneficial situation, the worst I would do to you as a TD is void the game (if my TD team determined that a material advantage did occur).

If you did notice the stuck ball, and intentionally took advantage of the beneficial situation, you’ll be at best DQ’d from the game, at worst thrown out of the tournament.

There’s no proving someone right or wrong. Like I’ve mentioned dozens of times, like golf, we play a gentleman and ladies sport/game where we are often left calling out our own penalties and malfunctions.

I’ve found a majority of players that have played in my events honor that level of sportsmanship that I expect out of those participating. YMMV based on your TD.


I strongly agree. Except that, sadly, this message doesn’t seem to make it for some percentage of players.

Same here. The vast majority of players are honest, are sportsmen/sportswomen indeed, and I’d be happy to play with them any time.

Some are not. The proportion of those who are not will get larger as we continue to make pinball a “sport”, with ever increasing prize pools.

The degree of honesty of the participants in any activity is inversely proportional to the potential gain from said activity.


If I was TD, unless you’re down to one ball in play and the stuck ball, play on.


Are you advocating for a change in the rules? You seem to be happy with the state of the rules as is, and simply frustrated with human nature, which I understand, but I’m not sure it can be dealt with here :slight_smile:


Thank you! Any other ruling would have made me conclude that I’m utterly inadequate because of my inability to watch six balls simultaneously while keeping track of the DMD… :wink:


My question is: what constitutes “immediately”? In this particular example, during multiball, my way of dealing with this immediately would likely be “keep flipping at the the other balls in play” because a ball at rest on an outline/inlane post sure isn’t going to last very long with a lot of other action going on. Down to one ball? Sure. Trap up and shake free.

I’m just struggling with a real world scenario in which this particular (edge) case would come up…