The unstuck - Stuck ball in Multiball conundrum.


I agree on the lower level and league stuff that a lot of it is pretty harsh on people. I mean, I know often I am not sure how many balls are in play in a MB since I am still looking mostly at my flippers so if something got stuck further up I won’t know right away. Also, I always hated how you’re asked to trap up since I don’t really trap up during my play and like to play on the fly so it felt like a disadvantage to be forced to use a skillset I didn’t have or want.

Since then as I’ve gotten better, I can appreciate trapping though :slight_smile:


It’s pretty obvious lol.

The IFPA/PAPA rulesets are primarily used by IFPA/PAPA events that we directly run, which mostly consist of the highest class of events in the world.

I strongly recommend that any local leagues and casual tournaments adopt their own set of rules to follow (many do!). Many of those local environments have to deal with situations we don’t (not having keys to the game, so a stuck ball = Catastrophic Malfunction).

For example, I’m far more likely to tell my Mom at one of our local monthly events to ‘play on’ if she noticed a ball in the plunger lane after her multiball was over. And NO, NOT BECAUSE SHE’S MY MOM! (I know you thought that) :wink:


Not if you don’t know when the ball landed in the shooter lane. The player could have earned 95% of that ball’s points before the ball landed there.

The fundamental issue/problem I have is ruling on something that cannot be known.


Those are always the toughest rulings to make! :slightly_smiling:

In my example of the 1,500,000 Powerball Mania, I don’t care if you earned 10% of that score before the ball landed there, or 95% of the score before the ball landed there. The scoring of that multiball itself was not material to the total points earned during the game up to that point.


When, in your opinion, is it appropriate to not make a ruling at all and rather, “let the machine decide”?

If the player rallied from 100M points down with a strong powerball mania, how can you rule a “significant advantage” if you don’t know whether the ball became stuck at the beginning or near the end of that multiball?


Not making a ruling is indeed making a ruling . . . I can jest that our rulings are “screw the player” . . . but I laugh because EVERY ruling screws SOMEONE. Sometimes it’s the person playing, sometimes it’s the opponent not playing.

I think in your example you mentioned that the player double-drained, so they didn’t actually ever play a one-ball multiball. If I know my group of TD’s as well as I think I do, we would probably argue that playing with two balls at the same time, versus three balls at the same time isn’t a significant advantage. There’s a good chance that player would have lost one of the 3 balls at some point anyway, and they would have been in the same situation with 2 balls in play at the same time having the ability to earn the same amount of points they did in this situation. We would most likely call the multiball points good, but then manually drain the ball that’s in the plunger lane.


I strongly disagree with this. I also disagree with rules that make it potetially advantageous to a player to ‘not know’ things.

I’ve been heavily involved in running competitive event outside of pinball, including Magic: the Gathering tournaments which are huge in comparison to anything pinball does. Setting up rules such that they are consistently enforceable, as well as it never being in a player’s interest to not know the rules/not know what “happened”, has been a longstanding goal of the MtG tournament rules. It seems to work pretty well. (It’s also way easier to cheat with cards than pinball machines, another complication that pinball mostly doesn’t have to deal with.)

If you can’t enforce a rule, it’s either inconsistently enforced or it’s easily gamed. Both of those things make the rule “bad”.

@keefer: Why are you opposed to stuck-balls during multiball so vehemently? I assume there’s a story here?


This thread is still only the 16th most commented thread on the site so there’s still plenty more arguing to be had here :wink:


I’m sure we can work WPPRs into the discussion somehow…


Are you taking into account the fact that it is interleaved with the other thread?


My overall opinion here is that this flies in the face of what it means to be “in multiball”. If you’re in multiball there should be … uh … multiple balls.

I’d be in favor of a rule that allows a player to continue a stuck-ball multiball until there is only one ball left in play, with the stuck ball then retrieved. I feel like in the situations where a player is in multiball but unaware of a stuck ball, it’s usually when there’s still more than one ball in play. Once you’re down to one ball, and the game is still yelling multiball at you, it’s more clear that something is wrong.

Contrary to what some in this thread feel, I think general one-ball multiballs caused by stuck balls are too unbalancing to be allowed. I feel it also looks bad for a player to win in this fashion, more so than a player losing due to a moonwalk or failed kickback. There’s definitely room for disagreement here – heck it hasn’t been long since moonwalks and failed kickbacks were being ruled as major malfunctions.

To correct something that was said earlier, the PAPA interpretation of the rules allows the Shadow “phurba trap” and similar situations – I am certain of this through discussions with the PAPA tournament directors. @mhs may want to chime in on this. Perhaps a good compromise would be to have “released through player action” changed to “released through flipper-button action”, which would then make clear that balls trapped on top of drop targets, or stuck on gates, would be considered stuck.


I disagree, for one main reason. If you’re in a one-ball / stuck-ball multiball situation, you still have to make the shots. You’re not getting any free points.

If you have something like a kickback that fails to function, you have earned the right to protection from a drain there, and then that earned right is just voided for no good reason. I feel it looks bad for a player to lose in this fashion.

(That said, I personally agree with lit-kickback-didn’t-work not being a major malfunction, again based on the philosophy of having the machine itself have the final say as much as possible.)


A lot of rules are easier for me to wrap my head around if I think about them like so:

How does the rule/ruling feel if it decides who wins PAPA/IFPA?

So say its IFPA final, last game on CFTBL. Player 1’s score is finished and is in the lead by a big amount, 1.5B. Player 2 starts ball 3, gets in a multiball, one of the balls makes in into the shooterlane. Player 2 now has a 1 ball creature MB. They slowly chip away at multipliers, jackpots, super 1 and jackpot 2 all in single ball play. And they pass player 1. Player 2 wins IFPA.

That would feel really crap.

You are seriously telling me that feels correct because the player still “had to make the shots”?
Many many games, like cftbl, aren’t as much about making the shots in MB as they are about managing the other balls while you make those shots.



So the “normal” way of playing Creature multiball, perhaps I try to get one ball on each flipper. Then I skillfully keep the left button depressed while I shoot the left ramp repeatedly from the right flipper until I get to my desired playfield X. Then I skillfully continue to keep the left button depressed while I shoot the KISS shot, hope the girl is there… now we may start getting into some trouble; depending on game setup I might or might not be able to shoot the Snackbar solely using the right flipper to get my Rescue and Jackpot. If I can… well, lucky me, because I can continue skillfully holding the left button while shooting Move Your Car until I have enough pops to collect my Super and start it over again. I have personally done this sequence in this exact manner, and I’m not nearly as skilled a player as yourself or many others here. Indeed, it feels damn good when you can progress through all that using just one flipper.

So am I glossing over how the player probably won’t just nail every shot perfectly while skillfully keeping the left button depressed? Sure I am, in the same way you gloss over the actual difficulty of scoring 1.5B in a multiball, even with one of the balls “stuck”. A player who actually accomplishes that has done something quite impressive, whether with one ball or two. There is no question that the player with the stuck ball has an easier task, but they still need to work to capitalize on it.

When thinking about stuff like this, I also try to compare this rule to other events that commonly happen in pinball. A player who’s way down drains ball 3 but then gets a crazy Lazarus and goes on to win. A player who’s only behind by a tiny bit drains down the left outlane with a lit ballsaver, but the ballsaver fails and they wind up losing the game. A player shoots the Super Jackpot shot they need to win the game, but the machine fails to register the shot. Pinball is full of weird breaks, both good and bad, that can be highly impactful on the outcome of a game, and for the vast majority of them, we say “play it as it lies.” It’s not clear to me why some people are so adamant that “stuck ball during multiball” is in a class by itself, when it might or might not be just as impactful on the results of the game as any of those other anomalous events. While I agree with you that “Quintin won PAPA 19!!! (* because he got to play a one-ball multiball)” isn’t great, I don’t see it as any better or worse than “Quintin won PAPA 19!!! (* because his opponent’s ball saver failed)”.


What’s great about tournament rules is that the TD gets to decide what is fair, and what isn’t fair. Nobody is WRONG here.

I think it’s completely reasonable for the rules of the tournament to reflect the experiences of that TD over the course of their history of running events.

There’s a large group of people that feel a 1-ball multiball has the potential to be a huge advantage. If that’s the case, and you’re the TD, why wouldn’t you have a rule against that?

Same can be said for your approach Joe. If you don’t feel it’s a huge advantage, then I think it’s great that your rules support your opinion on the matter.

Trying to argue that someone’s opinion is wrong/right about the advantages gained is where this gets off into the weeds.

Even the FSPA rules offer vague interpretations on how to handle situations:

“If a malfunction causes a player to receive an exceptionally unfair advantage over the other players, and there is no reasonable way to avoid it, then the game is stopped and a new game is started either on the same or a different machine at the SLO’s discretion.”

So what constitutes an exceptionally unfair advantage? Can something be very unfair but not exceptional? It clearly mentions that a one-ball multiball is not an exceptionally unfair advantage, but instead of a list of what is, you’re left to having the TD simply come over and make a judgement based on??

“At theSLO’s discretion, game features may be set on the new game to match the known state of the original game, subtracting any incidental points required to establish this state from the player’s final score.”

Again, the dredded ‘TD discretion’ vagueness. Game features may be set to match the known state. How does your SLO know when this should be done, and when it shouldn’t? There’s no trigger point in this verbiage to say YES/NO based on some obejctive criteria.

I’m not trying to pick a part the FSPA rules versus the IFPA/PAPA rules . . .all I’m trying to say is that it’s OKAY for different rules to exist because of where your experiences have taken you over the years. It’s why after every major event there’s usually an email thread going between MHS, Polka and myself, discussing things that can be clarified in the rules based off of some new experiences that one of us had.

I happen to side with Bowen and Cayle in that 1-ball multiball play does represent the POTENTIAL for an exceptionally unfair advantage, and that’s why we don’t allow it in our rules. For those that don’t, as long as you have it in your rules that it’s not an unfair advantage, then PLAY ON at your leisure.


The primary reason balls aren’t allowed to sit in a shooter lane, and that bang backs, shooter lane juggling, and death saves are forbidden, and “play on” isn’t the ruling on all stuck balls everywhere, is because people like Cayle and Elwin would make tournaments last for a month. Keith played a two-hour ball of Dirty Harry, which was set up difficult, at INDISC without stuck balls. One single dipswitch mistake caused someone who scored 1.8million points on Harlem Globetrotters to come in last place at Circuit 2014. Time is a very real concern for TD’s at the highest level, and we’re forced to cover our asses in this particular area with rule tweaks. In the end, explaining to a competitor that a ball can’t sit in a shooter lane is a lot easier to do as a TD than telling them they lost because the tournament itself ran out of time and everyone wants to go home. There’s also the very real and practical aspect that new players will be turned off to the experience if they only get to play a ball once every 90 minutes.

Every major sport I can think of has some form of time limit imposed on the players outside of their control, including golf; Pinball currently does not, and that absence will remain an issue until it’s addressed directly in one fashion or another. Pinball also, unfortunately, takes longer the better players become, exacerbating the situation. Current rules do not address the time situation because the culture of the players and tournaments has never historically moved in that direction. As a result, certain rules are occasionally inconsistent or specifically targeted to be exceptions. This allows competitive pinball to be played in the “regular” fashion without blowing up the entire fabric of what has already been established, which would be far more difficult and dangerous IMHO.

The good news is that we frequently update our rules to improve, and we welcome others to take our rules and adapt them to their own needs if they disagree.

Also, Josh’s posting of my 2013 comment doesn’t completely represent the stuck ball rule as currently written. I’ve backed off portions of that position after much discussion and currently enforce the following:

  1. If it’s touching a flipper or mechanism directly controlled by a player via a cabinet button, it is not stuck.
  2. If the game has software written into it to specifically address the mode or situation, then it is not stuck.

Outside of the “stuck in an outlane” portion of the rule, that is basically it.

AFM Dirty Pool = Play on
Phurba Trap = Play on
Stuck under the upper flipper on congo = play on
24 Suitcase lock = play on
Airball into a shooter lane = stuck


There you go . . . I’m cool with this too.

Just maybe not on Bannon’s Shadow :wink:


I’m not trying to argue any particular points here, I just thought this was an interesting observation. For example, I’m not aware of a tennis time limit; matches have certainly been postponed and resumed the next day on occasion. Unless you’re talking about a per-serve time limit or something like that which obviously does exist.

It is important to take the viewing experience into consideration though. Remember when volleyball didn’t use rally scoring ALL THE TIME? The 2012 Olympics would still be going on if old-school scoring was still used. People just got too good for the old way to be relevant and not require a week’s rest after every single game played.

Pinball has occasionally tested these levels of extremes, and will probably continue to do so, and more and more rules will eventually have to be imposed to address delay-of-game-type issues.

I remember thinking volleyball would be destroyed by rally scoring, but by bumping the score up to 25 they made it a fairly palatable change I think. If there’s NO OTHER REASON (which I think there are plenty more valid reasons) to not allow multiball ball-in-plunger situations, consider what the pinball equivalent of rally scoring might be?

(I have no idea but it probably wouldn’t be pretty. Might be interesting, possibly. But it wouldn’t be “pinball as we know it.”)


The original IFPA World Championship match format was designed to play 6 games, and then Sudden Death was going to be “win by 2”. We eventually decided on limiting it to a best-of-3, and after watching the 2010 US Open where the 5th set went like 140 games or something RIDICULOUSLY CRAZY, I instantly thought of an IFPA finals match going that many games and wanted to kill myself.


Clearly this means tennis is not a major sport. They’ll let anyone be a local tennis pro, I hear.