Tournament etiquette

So, say you’re a spectator watching someone playing a tournament game. The player drains and begins to walk away at which point you see that the ball saver is active and the ball is kicked back into play. Is it considered improper to alert the player in time for he/she to return to the machine and resume playing the ball?

No, it is not improper. It is also acceptable to let them walk away.

If I was a spectator on a match that I was not involved in, I would be reluctant to influence the outcome of the match by alerting a player in this way. If I was a participant I would do it, but as an observer I think influencing the match in this way is more questionable. I’m curious if the official PAPA rules address this, because I don’t see it as much different than coaching during a match.

I ask this because I feel that it is unsportsmanlike not to alert the player if he/she is my opponent, but acknowledge that being a spectator changes the dynamics a bit.

I was playing in a tournament where a spectator was coaching my opponent (“hit this,” “do this,” etc.) while he was playing. I asked the spectator to stop doing that immediately.

I would not have a problem for a player or spectator giving a ball save heads up – at least in part because it’s a natural knee jerk reaction to this situation.

Following on from this, spectators pointing out stuck balls during multiball and other potential rules infractions to the player actively playing. (Some incidents more infamous than others. :wink: )

Agree that if I’m a participant I’ll tell the player walking away - it’s the sporting thing to do.

Seconding what Greg said. I don’t think I’d feel right winning a match if the ball saved fired for my opponent after s/he walked away but I would never announce a ball save to a match I’m not part of.

With that said I would by no means say it should be ‘required’ in a tournament. The onus is on the current player to know the game rules.

It isn’t likely a rules violation - but my opinion is to keep quiet on comments either way. Here’s a good example why.

Telling someone they’ve made enough points to win the match, the player (stupidly) believes them and drains early. Whether the teller was lying to influence the outcome or just made a mistake - its a violation, at least in theory. I remember this one being a topic discussed at length amongst tournament players.

I’ve seen countless times, including PAPA A-division finals, where the crowd yells about a ballsaver. As far as I understand the rules, this is most certainly a violation of the coaching rule. Personally, I would never tell anyone (whether I’m in a match with them or not) that they had a ballsaver. You’ve got to have some actual awareness of what’s going on. Seriously.

As far as the “you’ve got it” rule, I do remember bringing it up, at least to the point where if your opponent claims that, it’s like pushing over your king whether it’s actually true or not. The sketchy part as you allude to is a non-participant. The horrific part would be if a judge said that and it wasn’t true.


Rule #1 of tournament play. Do not take your fingers off the flippers until the bonus starts counting.

For some reason, I am still learning this rule. HA!

Spectators spectate because they want to see drama like this and will likely respond excitedly and verbally.

Though this shouldn’t be an issue because the opponent and any participant/directors around should have already told the player a ball was still active. The specators shouldn’t be the ones to break this news. It’s good sportsmanship.

What’s everyone’s stance on warning a player about to follow up on the previous player’s machine moving tilt?

That sounds like coaching to me. It is totally inappropriate for a spectator to interrupt a match and alert the player to a ball save, or anything else that’s going to benefit them during the game.

If their opponent wants to say something, that’s their choice. I probably would, but I don’t think anyone should feel obligated to do so. It’s the player’s responsibility to pay attention to their own game and know if their ball has drained or not. If they miss a ball saver because they walked away early, that’s on them. I have no sympathy.

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You can’t enforce anything that spectators yell, and you especially can’t penalize the player playing due to any sort of “coaching” that may have occurred from the audience.

I think the best you can as an organizer is remind the audience about “no coaching” (similar to a tennis match when you’ll hear the chairman call for QUIET PLEASE).

I’ll often let a player who is up after me know if I tilted the machine, especially if he wasn’t around just as a sportsmanship thing to do for him to give the game a minute to let the plumb bob settle.

As for the “you got it” situation, I think we’re planning on adding something official to the rules that the only time this is actually valid is if a player tells the tournament director that the opponent has it (thus conceding the match). Any player-to-player converstaion not verified by a tournament director is meaningless, so stop play at your own risk IMO.


That’s the correct move of course, but I’ll still tell an opponent if they have passed my score and the game is effectively over. Maybe they glance up at the display during a ball trap or something, and we can both move on.

I wrote this thing about tourney etiquette a few years ago. There are a few things I would add or tweak since I’ve gained more experience, but I feel like it’s a good start.,2751


With regard to draining the last ball when you are ahead, is it considered kosher to play it out if there is a possibility you may have to play that same game later in the tournament in order to get a feel for the shots?

Only if you are Andrei :wink:

IMHO, only in pretty limited circumstances. If it’s the final game of your round AND you’re reasonably sure that you’re not blocking another group from the machine in the current round, nor delaying the start of the next round, then sure, go for it. If you don’t meet all those conditions, I’d suggest plunging it out of consideration for other players in the tournament. And anyway, if you’re in a situation where you can do the last ball walk-off plunge, there’s a decent chance you already got a good bit of play time on the machine and therefore got the feel for the shots.

And even if those conditions don’t apply, I’d personally be OK if a player used that ball for a play-test that was quick and clearly not running up the score… say, some reasonable shaking to get the feel for the tiltiness of the machine.

I let my ball 3 drain out in a tournament because a couple of people behind me said, “he’s got it, it’s over. He can drain out now and it’s done” and my opponent echoed it to me, saying, “that’s that, you got me.” So I let it go and fell about 5,000 short after the bonus piled up. I wear earphones whenever I compete now. Everybody was apologetic, but I was out. I wasn’t too mad, because I know I should have put myself in the clear before the bonus, but sometimes you are just ready to let it go and move to the next round.