The unstuck - Stuck ball in Multiball conundrum.


Is there documentation for this ruling of manually draining the ball in the shooter lane? I was unable to find any references to this action in the IFPA/PAPA rules.


If I had to make that ruling at IFPA, I would reference Section I, Paragraph 10:

“Final authority for any ruling, including rulings that contradict or vacate anything written in this document or in other IFPA materials, rests with the President of the International Flipper Pinball Association, Josh Sharpe.”

It’s amazing how that paragraph always works in a pinch :wink:


Here is another area that I would appreciate further clarification:

If a “significant beneficial advantage” is determined relating to a stuck ball during multiball, is the procedure always to void the score and have the affected player replay their game or is there a circumstance in which the player would be given a different consequence up to and including a DQ?


“Any beneficial malfunction which provides one or more players with a significant scoring or strategic advantage in a way that is not part of normal gameplay will void the score of the affected player(s), unless all immediately-affected players and tournament officials can agree on a suitable adjustment of the score or other elimination of the advantage. If the beneficial malfunction has been specifically avoided by the player, it is unlikely that a penalty is necessary. If any player score(s) are voided, the affected player(s) may then replay the game after the other players have finished, and the new score(s) are used for the affected player(s).”

There is verbiage for an adjustment to be made here, so it’s not an ‘automatic void’.

As far as the potential DQ-ing goes, that’s 2 paragraphs later:

“Any situation which indicates the presence of a beneficial malfunction should be brought to the attention of the scorekeeper promptly, who will alert tournament officials. Any player who intentionally takes advantage of a significant beneficial malfunction may be given a warning and/or have his or her affected entry interrupted and disqualified by tournament officials.


Aside from plunger juggling, it would seem to be quite a rare scenario where you could prove intentionality.


Thanks for the thoughtful replies, @pinwizj and @mhs. Believe it or not, I’m not trying to be an ass about this, but it’s always a ruling that has driven me a little bonkers for all the reasons I’ve brought up over the past couple days.

BTW, this sort of thing, including Mark’s commentary on the “why”, is exactly why I’ve been writing a “directors commentary” document to go along the FSPA rules. A large number of leagues use the FSPA rules in whole or in part, and often ask questions about why such-and-such is done a certain way. Every one of our rules has a large amount of thought (and sometimes several iterations) behind it, but all that background information gets lost in the rule document. (Which is a good thing, for declutter reasons.) What I’m writing is a document that’s synchronized with the FSPA rules doc and explains the thought processes and past experiments behind most of our rules, so that history won’t be lost. My hope is that the extra background information will help better educate league officials, especially if they’re considering making their own adaptations to our rules. It might be cool to see a similar companion to the IFPA/PAPA rules, since of course they also have a lot of thought behind them, and are adopted by many events. (Because I know Mark and Josh just have a ton of spare time… :wink: )


Suggestion: Store them on github for permanently archived history. There’s in-browser editing so nobody even needs to know git for it to work. We recently did this with our employee handbook at work, and all the admin staff manage it fine. It is REALLY valuable.


One thing you (Josh) can do right away is to carve out an official exception to the player interference rule, specifically allowing opponents to say “You have a ball in the shooter lane” or “Please plunge the ball in the shooter lane” whenever that situation occurs, without any chance of being charged w interference. At least in the bigger tournaments, opponents tend to watch each other pretty closely.

Next step is trickier, how long is the player allowed to fart around “gaining control” or whatever without plunging before they risk a ruling? Perhaps write the exception to allow opponents to continue repeating the statement louder and louder (public shaming?) until the player finally pulls the plunger? :smile:


@heyrocker, keeping past versions of the actual text isn’t a big deal… we already have a Revision Log that summarizes all the changes made over the years, I keep copies of prior revisions, etc. What can’t (reasonably) be preserved is the feedback I get from leagues (both officials and players) in person and via E-mail; the hours of FSPA execs debating these topics with each other in our regular meetings; etc. But I can at least provide a summarized version of all that stuff.


That is a good idea to state in rules that you are allowed to remark a stock ball. However, it can be abused as well.

Regarding how long you can play before you must trap up, I think there is a general 30 sec understanding on my local scene.

Personally I see this matter with quite a margin. A trapped ball is not always an advantage. As I pointed out earlier, it will at least cause some distraction.

For it to be a player error that will grant some penalty, the player must clearly have exploited the situation.

Let me put it the other way around. If a player traps up as a cause of his normal multiball play - and do not wait for a TD to free the stuck ball - it is an exploit. Oh, you had a timed Super or playfield multiplier - too bad. I have personally wasted a stacked in Funhouse Super frenzy in competition because I did what is right.

Also, in line with Bowens post. Playing on in a multiball mode with a single ball is to a greater advantage, should be noted by the player and should constitute a penalty if exploited.


If you’re going to abuse a one-ball multiball, at least hide a ball where no one will see it!

Took a while to find this one. I thought it was a trough issue.


The “time limit” I’ve always wanted to test at some event (circuit final) is a game-specific point cap. The idea is rife with potential problems, but it goes like this:

AFM max score = 2.5Billion (or whatever is game appropriate)
If Player 1 hits the cap on ball 1, player 2 must also get it on ball 1.
If both players get it, they either split the points, or it’s called a draw, and the players move onto a different game with a different point cap to decide that particular point.

The key is ensuring the point cap is high enough that most players will not reach it every game. The benefits are that it’s easy to understand for a viewing audience, repetitive marathon games are eliminated, virtually all games become tournament-worthy, players must be aggressive on every ball (no more waiting for ball 3 Tommy multiball), and the audience gets to see a lot of different games in an exciting, easy to understand head-to-head format.


Back off, dude. I earned that job!


Our scoring system for Pin-Masters gets about as close to this as I’ve seen. We keep the par scores far enough into the game that it’s a good amount of work for the players to reach it, with the bonus that once a player does reach it they stop playing.

Keith’s comment about Diner actually made me chuckle, because like you pointed out this is EXACTLY the format where a game like Diner is no problem.

Come to Vegas! :slightly_smiling:


Nice one!

The one that always gets me is the stupid screw head just right of the pop bumper cluster on Star Trek. Ball gets caught there way too often… I dunno how they didn’t find that in testing.


I added a tiny round felt pad that eliminated this ball trap 100%.

Agreed that it was poor QC, but Stern clearly added a post to the area to remove the ball trap – they just didn’t quite get it right.


The only thing I don’t like about the “you must deal with a stuck ball immediately, even in multiball” rule is with the immediacy of it. Sometimes even experienced players might not realize a ball is stuck for some time, and inexperienced players might not realize at all. I don’t know what’s a fair resolution to that.

At Nationals last year, I had a stuck ball on Elvira (I think) in the form of a multiball that started but one of the balls never cleared the lock mechanism. Not being overly familiar with that game, I played on until I realized I was still in multiball but only was tracking one ball on the playfield, at which point I called someone over. IIRC I wasn’t penalized, but would have been pretty miffed if I was for something I had no idea about.


There’s also early 80s games which have locks lit at all times–even during multiball (Catacomb, for one). It’s not a stuck ball if the ball is re-locked, but I assume it’s a stuck ball if the ball never leaves the saucer? I don’t even know :frowning:


Haha, I was the other player in this group. The guy was pretty upset so we kinda just backed off and let him call over another TD but man the look on Bowen’s face was pretty great when it was finally revealed that a ruling had already been made :stuck_out_tongue:


Made a ruling on this at TPF: player was in multiball on Dr Who (2 balls remaining) and got a stuck ball on the inlane/outlane divider, and did the right thing by trapping up. Ruling: player can try to free the stuck ball through nudging, or the TD will courteously drain your stuck ball down the outlane, ending your multiball.

Player initially attempted to nudge the ball free, but unsuccessful after one Danger, elected to have the TD drain the ball. Thankfully, we’d disabled the interlocks before the tourney began, so the player still had his ball cradled on flipper as we drained the stuck ball.

But what should be the ruling if interlocks haven’t been disabled? If player chooses to have the stuck ball drained rather than risk a tilt, and upon opening the coin door, the flippers go dead, draining their cradled ball. And then their inlane/outlane post stuck ball is also drained. And if the software doesn’t compensate for the cradled-now-drained ball, then cue up @pinwizj’s favorite line: “You’re f*cked.” Sound about right?