Stuck ball question

3 ball MB on WCS, ball gets stuck on ramp with two balls on the field. Both balls in play trapped on flippers. What would be the official IFPA or PAPA ruling?

See section 7 Stuck Balls at

  • Wait for four ball searches if possible (probably not possible during multiball on this or other games, as the upheld flipper will prevent ball search from running)
  • Tournament official may choose to try to nudge the ball loose.
  • If the official’s nudging is unsuccessful, or they opt to not try, the machine will be opened and the stuck ball placed on the official’s choice of flipper or shooter lane, or if these are not possible (probably because of interlock switch), in another location of the official’s choice.

So balls drain ending MB and the stuck ball is freed and put back into shooter lane.

“If the game is in multiball play and one or more balls are lost as a result of freeing stuck balls, possibly ending multiball but not ending the ball in play, this will be considered no worse than a minor malfunction.”

So yeah, that does sound like a correct, though unfortunate for the player, way of resolving the situation. I believe most/all games at IFPA and PAPA tournaments have their interlock switches disabled, so the flippers trapping the balls would remain up while the coin door is open.

Modern Stern (maybe even Sega, or Data East?, Though perhaps not the newest ones on the Spike system) games have an option called “Coin door ball save” that is awesome to have for situations like this.

I’ve yet to be a tournament judge or director, and this may be incorrect, but what I might do as a judge in this situation is offer the player their choice of the following options:

  • The standard ruling that results in the end of multiball
  • Player can make a reasonable number of attempts to shoot at the ramp(s) that might knock the stuck ball loose, if it’s stuck somewhere along the ramp that another ball might knock it loose. If it gets stacked up and two balls are now stuck, you can now free those two and let the third drain, not ending multiball.
  • Player can make a reasonable number of attempts to shoot for scoops and saucers if it’s possible to open the coin door quickly enough to avoid them kicking out. Then you can free the stuck ball and keep one of the other balls in play, not ending multiball.
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Yes, you’ve pretty much covered it. If the interlock can’t be disabled, shooting for the ball and shooting for scoops are the ways to allow multiball to continue. In the end, this has to happen because you can’t allow one-ball multiball to proceed.

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So is it acceptable to play on, so long as two or more balls are ‘in play’/not stuck ?

In other words, if in multiball and a ball gets stuck, the only time a player should trap up and raise it as an issue - is when the multiball is down to 2 balls (including the stuck ball)?

no no no no.

The moment any ball is stuck, regardless of the current state of the game, the essence of the rule is that you should promptly notify an official and get it taken care of. In the situation you describe, the player would never be at peril of ending their turn while they have 2+ live balls in multiball, and the stuck ball rules are specifically trying to ensure the player is in peril at all times.


The decision that was made was to allow the player to continue MB play until they no longer had two balls in play. At that time the player had to try to shoot a feature that would hold the ball when the door was opened. The player than had their stuck ball removed and put into the shooter lane and continued in MB play.

Seems incredibly advantageous to the player with the stuck ball.

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In Taylor’s situation, why not allow the MB play to continue as long as there were at least two balls in play in addition to the stuck ball. Then once he is back to one ball and the stuck ball, get into the game and drain the stuck ball taking the player back to single ball play?


Because playing 3 balls is much harder than 2, and here you allow a player to play two separate 2 ball multiballs, as opposed to one 3 ball multiball.

Edit - actually I see you had a different suggestion, which is basically to treat the stuck ball as drained already, and wait for the 2 ball multiball to end. My response should have been to counter the ruling actually made, and not your suggestion, which I think is interesting.

Edit 2 - I think the problem is - what if the ball becomes free 2 minutes later while I am still in multiball? Or, what if I double drain - are you going to take a ball in play and now place it in the drain?

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The problem the rule is trying to avoid is playing a MB with a single ball and at no time was the MB played on a single ball outside of locking the ball in the scoop to open the coin door.

If this was a PAPA event would the first order of business be to free the stuck ball, ball cannot be freed from regular play or nudging, regardless of its affect on balls in play?

First order of business is disabling the interlock :slight_smile:

As the rules are written, there’s no mention that the advantage is explicitly limited to single ball play in MB:

“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.”

Sometimes a stuck ball in mulitball doesn’t offer a significant advantage, sometimes it does. The rule as it’s written doesn’t care. It’s all about getting that ball unstuck.

By rule:
“If the game is in multiball play and one or more balls are lost as a result of freeing stuck balls, possibly ending multiball but not ending the ball in play, this will be considered no worse than a minor malfunction.”

So BY THE BOOK, that player is fucked. They could have 8 balls trapped on their flippers, with a ball stuck, and without the interlock disabled, the freeing of that stuck ball will result in the end of their multiball . . . sorry.

With that said, major tournaments typically have those interlocks disabled so this kind of situation is a non-issue. For SMALLER events where this situation is far more likely to occur, I would have no problem with a TD exercising their paragraph 10 right:

“Final authority for any ruling, including rulings that contradict or vacate anything written in this document rests with the TD.”

If this happened at our selfie league for example, I would totally Paragraph 10 this shit and have them shoot the goal and open the coin door as soon as they do. The other example of allowing the player to play on with 2 balls is ‘fine’, and if they drain down to one ball just have them junk it. I would probably add the caveat to the player that if they DOUBLE DRAIN those two balls in play, I would dump the stuck ball as well ending their ball. They are responsible for getting control of the ball in play so that risk is still on them (which is the advantage to playing with that stuck ball, no risk of actually losing your full ball in play).

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If I were the TD your first question would be answered by play on if you had at least two balls in play and one stuck ball that came unstuck layer while you’re still playing with at least two balls.

For the double drain, yes. Open the game up, get the stuck ball and drain it.

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Yes, but you would have had an easier multiball for all that time when you should not have if the ball becomes free.

I would just say that multiball should be played with multiple balls in play. As long as those multiple balls are in play, play on. But that’s just how I would do it.


If I was TD and made aware of it, the person would of lost the two balls and went down to single ball play. I would of placed the single ball in the plunger lane.

I was not the TD and when asked what the rule is for this situation I stated what Josh quoted. It was considered harsh by our league director so the other course of action was taken.

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Did the TD delete your comment and then ban you from their Facebook page? :slight_smile:


As your position as General in the Stern Army I plead the 5th.