Stuck ball placement question

I had this issue come up in a tournament yesterday. An older game had a cupped insert right over the left outlane. On several occasions the ball would get hung up on the insert, hovering over the outlane. The question is, what is the proper way to handle that situation? Should the ball be placed on the left flipper, even though that the ball would have been doomed without the cupped insert? Fortunately I didn’t have to make a call either way, but I was reflecting on it during my drive home. I would have placed it on the flipper if I needed to make a decision.

IFPA/PAPA rules …

“A ball which has come to rest on top of a center post, an inlane-outlane post/guide or a lamp insert/playfield divot directly above an outlane will not be considered a stuck ball. Players may choose to free balls resting in these positions through nudging of the machine, or request that an official end the ball in play by manually placing it in the drain for center post incidents, and the outlane for inlane-outlane incidents. If an automatically-triggered kickback exists that will send the ball back into play upon draining it in the appropriate outlane, that feature will be manually triggered, and the ball will be treated as a stuck ball from that point and placed on a flipper or other suitable location. Player-controlled kickback features, such as mini-flippers, posts, or manually-controlled kickbacks that send the ball back into play, do not count toward establishing stuck ball status in this case, and the player will not be permitted to utilize these features or touch the game until the ball has reached the ball trough.”


Damn you guys have thought of everything.

Now that the original question’s been answered…

Can someone point me to the section of the rules that dictate where a stuck ball must be placed once the official unsticks it? My impression is that there’s a new rule that says the stuck ball has to go on the lower flipper on whichever side it was stuck on. I can’t find anything in the rules about it, though.

The rules only say it’s at the discretion of the tournament director (NOT the player), which was the biggest distinction between the PAPA and IFPA rules before our combined ruleset was created.

We recommend a deterministic approach to where the ball should go, although based on certain game features tournament directors may not be able to put balls on flippers (interlock not disabled), or it can’t be put in the plunger lane (autoplunger active and interlock is disabled).

Typically it’s split down the middle of the playfield. Left side = left flipper, right side = right flipper. Situations where the ball is stuck in an area where the ball goes when plunged (Fathom A-B-C lanes for example), we would put it back in the plunger lane.

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Got it.

“If the tournament official is unable to free the stuck ball, the machine will be opened, and the stuck ball freed and placed either in the plunger lane, or on the upraised flipper of the tournament directors choosing, with the flipper button held by the player.”

With your extra explanation, the wording of this rule makes sense. But the way it’s phrased now doesn’t give any guidance to the TD (hemispheres, be consistent). I’m imagining a situation where the TD decides that his rule will be:

  1. Use the “side of the playfield” rule to determine ball placement
  2. Except when there’s already a ball on the corresponding flipper, in which case put the stuck ball on the other flipper
  3. Or other exceptions that the TD has in his head

The effect is that players don’t know what’s going to happen with stuck balls unless this rule is brought up or printed before play starts. Also, a TD could easily be in a situation where he refers to this rule to figure out what to do and then sees that he has discretion. And that’s sort of nice, but it opens his decision up to some unneeded scrutiny, if he’s making the ruling on the fly.


I was at a tournament recently where,the TD gave my opponent the choice of flipper for a stuck ball placement. No doubt the TD didn’t know the relatively new rule and I’ll assume he was consistent throughout the tournament. If a TD isn’t allowed to defer, as happened in this case, I guess I’ll request that this info be added to the wording of the rule as well.

Before we merged the IFPA/PAPA ruleset this was one of the ones we were debating for quite a while.

Here was the original IFPA verbiage:

"“If the tournament official is unable to free the stuck ball, the machine
will be opened, and the stuck ball freed and placed either in the
plunger lane, or on the upraised flipper of the tournament directors
choosing using a deterministic approach, with the flipper button held by
the player. Typically this deterministic approach is based on which
side of the playfield the ball is stuck on, with balls stuck on the left
half of the game being placed on the left flipper. In the event this is
not possible, the official may select another location or feature where
the ball can be placed safely while the machine is being closed in
order to resume normal play.”

I know the PAPA guys argued player choice for a while, with the reason being that it took the tournament director’s discretion out of the situation. In theory that works best because a TD can’t be blamed for making the wrong call, because it ends up being the players decision. Ultimately the unified rules removed all that excess verbiage about deterministic blah blah, but we went with tournament directors discretion with the assumption that a TD would make consistent decisions regarding stuck balls throughout the tournament.

If people think that extra verbiage is a value-add, I can go back to MHS and Polka about getting it added.

I know you’re talking about me Steve :smile:

I see it as my discretion and I choose to let players choose the flipper they want. Just because it’s stuck on the left side doesn’t mean it was headed for the left flipper.

New sterns it’s automatic relaunch to the shooter lane w/auto plunge. If a game has an advantage to going to shooter lane and you can’t get the ball there after ball start we won’t put it there. Shooter lane only if no unfair advantage and flippers can’t be used. We try to disable all of our interlocks.

I don’t read the rule as allowing this, but that doesn’t mean I’m right. Fortunately, we have the attention of @pinwizj for his input.

Tournament directors are of course able to do whatever they want, and I value consistency over anything else, so James is fine to do player’s choice, because the rule is that it’s up to the TD’s discretion.

Now PERSONALLY as a TD, I don’t believe it’s right to give the player a choice of anything . . . ever . . . period . . . with respect to where a stuck ball should be placed. With that comes the ability to strategically place the ball where you want depending on the situation. The deterministic approach IMO leaves it to the game to decide where the ball goes.

Again there’s so many variables in play here, between interlocks being disabled or not, plunger lanes auto-firing or not, etc. The most important thing as a player to ask the tournament director ahead of time how stuck balls will be handled. That way there is no surprises how that situation is handled if/when it comes up.

I really think the wording makes it clear that the TD must choose.

“either in the plunger lane, or on the upraised flipper of the tournament directors choosing”

Isn’t the whole idea about IFPA tournament endorsement that players can expect the tournament to follow the IFPA rules as closely as is practical?

I agree that consistency is more important overall.

You’re right . . . I assumed the rule said TD’s discretion, but it does explicitly say that the TD chooses the placement.

With that said, I know PAPA urges at least PAPA Circuit events to follow the IFPA/PAPA ruleset (although I personally know that’s not enforced). I urge event organizers to use the IFPA/PAPA ruleset as well, but that’s also not something we enforce for endorsement.

The most important thing is that the tournament has it’s rules posted/printed/online for players to see. It’s something I always read before I enter a tournament top to bottom (even IFPA every year as an organizer I re-read everything before the tourney). To me it’s simply easiest for an organizer to say, “We’ll be using the IFPA/PAPA ruleset for rulings, see for how we’ll handle things.”

If they don’t say that, they better have documented rules somewhere so players know exactly how stuff will be handled.

So the question is really for James, when he makes the statement:

“I see it as my discretion and I choose to let players choose the flipper they want.”

Where were the tournament rules posted, and was there a section in the tournament rules being followed that stated stuck balls will be placed on a flipper chosen by a player? Assuming that exists then I see no problem because James was following the rules that were posted prior to the event starting. Assuming a documented ruleset doesn’t exist, then that’s a bigger problem altogether because now everything is left to “TD discretion” which is a slippery slope (especially when that TD is playing in the event).

You quoted the whole rule yourself! :wink:

But this does draw attention to the need to keep the rules as short as practical while covering as many scenarios as possible. As does your advice of reading the full rules before entering an event.

I think that’s why all the extra verbiage regarding ‘deterministic approach’ blah blah ended up hitting the cutting room floor.

Rules are good . . . use ours, use your own, use a friends, use anything. It helps the players, it helps the organizers, it helps everything be more professional and takes a ton of subjective decisions off the plate of the TD.

Lately for my tournaments, for the sake of simplicity, I have been going to the shooter every time. It makes thing less complex and it is easier to explain to people aren’t necessarily as well versed in the nuances. Really though consistency is key. Whatever you do, communicate it clearly and be consistent in what you do.

We practice ifpa/papa rules for all our events.

This stuck ball ruling of player chooses flipper is what Ive done for every event I have run in the past few years. I feel myself choosing which flipper is having direct influence over a players game and not being completely biased.

I believe last year at pinburgh this was how it was handled. Players choice of flipper. At least that’s how it was handled in any group I was in. Perhaps this has morphed a bit since then.

If I’m doing it wrong I have no problem changing. If that’s the case then it’s soley my choice and has nothing to do with location of stuck ball and quadrant, hemisphere and XYZ coardinates?

Also every other stuck ball for all 24 hours and 19 rounds of matchplay for all 64 players were handled this way. And we had. A LOT of stuck balls during that :slight_smile:

You don’t fully based on your ruling for stuck ball placement :wink:

A player would be in the right to argue that you weren’t following the rules of your own tournament.

This isn’t about you choosing arbitrarily based on how you’re feeling at the moment, it’s about you making that choice based on some objective metric. Here’s a few you could use:

  1. All stuck balls will be placed on the left flipper
  2. All stuck balls will be placed on the right flipper
  3. Stuck balls will be placed left side/left flipper, right side/right flipper
  4. All stuck balls will be placed in the shooter lane

It’s about the TD making the choice based on objective criteria, and then simply following that consistently.

For Greg, he does shooter lane all day . . .AWESOME!

For me personally we go deterministic (mostly left side/left flipper, right side/right flipper, but room for us to objectively place the ball in the shooter lane if the ball is stuck in an area where the plunger lane can get the ball back into that same stuck area - to give no advantage to the player to get a free trapped ball out of it).

It may not be ideal but it does follow under TD’s discretion which even yourself thought was the wordage. Neither of us realized it was explicitly labeled out that way. :wink:

Steve was the first person to challenge me on my decision and I feel like most people were use to having flipper choice at most events I have been to outside of all that I have run.

Guess it’s time to end that. :blush:

I think it would be good for this rule to be taken away from TD discretion and be specific for anyone running a tournament under IFPA/PAPA rules—either always shooter lane, or always left side/left flipper etc. Rules that are open to interpretation or discretion almost always end up being contentious at some point and this is a pretty clear case of a situation where there doesn’t need to be a grey area.