Tournament/League Ruling: Self Plunge Before Auto Plunge

Couple of interesting rulings came up recently in our league and tournaments. Both were kind of grey areas so wanted to see if anyone had encountered them or new of a ruling.

Can players self plunge before auto plunge when a ball is returned to the shooter lane? Heres an example. On Aerosmith, the player can light the lock up to 6 times. When the first ball is locked, the game puts a ball in to the shooter lane and auto plunges. Players have been soft plunging the ball in to the super skill shot, and in to the lock BEFORE the auto plunge can fire the ball. This makes it pretty easy to put 6 balls in to the lock back to back without much risk. Games like GoT also auto plunge after locks or whenever a ball is returned to the shooter and players can benefit from self plunging before the auto plunge.

Related, but different, was one we ran in to on Pinbot. During 2 ball multi ball, one of the balls went up the left ramp, though the upper level on the right, then in to the shooter lane. Since Pinbot is older and does not have an auto plunge, does the player HAVE to plunge the ball or can they continue to play out multi ball with one ball on the play field and one captive in the shooter lane? On other games, any time a ball or balls is tied up/stuck during multi ball, it is usually considered a positive malfunction and the player needs to stop play until it can be resolved.



I see nothing wrong with the Aerosmith situation, but with Pinbot, I would treat that as a stuck ball during multiball and it must be “released” if possible.


There are many games where self plunging is a desirable strategy; it’s always been allowed as far as I know.


First is common, and (to my knowledge) allowed.

Your second example, however, is not okay. Beneficial malfunction. Section 7:

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. Please note specifically that a ball ending up in the plunger lane during multiball on a machine where there is no autoplunger (or where the autoplunger for some reason refuses to fire) counts as a stuck ball. and the ball must be plunged by the player. See “Beneficial Malfunctions” for further details.

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If you’re using stock FSPA rules, they explicitly say that a one-ball-multiball situation is not considered a malfunction; play it as it lies. If you’re using PAPA/IFPA rules, they explicitly say that a one-ball-multiball situation (or any stuck ball during multiball) is a malfunction and must be dealt with immediately.

(Why the difference? Here is a writeup with some thinking behind the FSPA’s solution …

The FSPA’s rule that a one ball “multiball” (or a stuck ball during multiball) is not an exceptionally unfair advantage differs from many other competitive pinball rulesets, but there are many arguments in favor of the FSPA’s rule:

  • During multiball, many players – especially less-skilled players – are very intently focused on the playfield area right around the lower flippers. They are often unaware of where all the balls are, and therefore may not be able to identify that something is wrong with the game’s state. Even spectators may not realize that a ball is stuck somewhere. These factors make it difficult to fairly and consistently enforce a “stuck ball during multiball” rule.
  • In most league play situations, opening the coin door to release a stuck ball will disable playfield coils, probably causing the drain of the player’s remaining balls and the loss of their (legitimately earned) multiball mode. This seems like a rather harsh penalty for a player who did nothing wrong.
  • Many stuck balls are caused by airballs (a ball rising off the plane of the playfield while moving). An airball is never considered an exceptional (major) malfunction, even if it results in an unsaveable loss of ball that is not part of the game’s intended design (e.g. ball flying over the flippers into the drain). Symmetry suggests that an airball should not be considered an exceptional advantage, either.
  • Even when in “one ball multiball”, the player must still make skillful shots to earn points. This is not the same as a situation where the machine awards points for doing nothing at all or for unskilled actions like just hitting the flipper buttons repeatedly.
  • Having fewer balls in play during multiball is not necessarily an advantage: game modes (e.g. frenzies) may be less valuable with fewer balls in play. Certain multiball features (e.g. doubled or tripled jackpots) may be unavailable. In the most extreme cases, it may not be possible to make any progress at all in the multiball.


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Enthusiastic yes. On GoT Premium it has a huge impact on play, controlling when the ball will be kicked to the upper playfield. Lock a ball, start 2 modes, and BOOM is happy castle collect time. Plus, on a myriad of Sterns it allows you to get a trap before you go valid playfield (GoT, GB, games without right side spinners or periphreals from the plunge), which is nice. It’s not a game-breaking advantage, but it’s something that reads the player for good muscle memory, reflexes, and knowledge.

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As others have said, if you are using a standard rule set, there are no grey areas here and both cases are covered.

  • Plunging yourself is OK.

  • Ball in plunger lane during multiball with no auto-launch is a “stuck” ball (unless you are in fspa crazytown. :wink: )



Other examples of Sterns where defeating the auto-plunge should become second nature: WOF, POTC, Aerosmith, KISS, and so many more. In fact, allowing the machine to auto-plunge is rarely beneficial.


The only exception I’ve made to this rule applies to Fireball and Fireball Classic, but if you opt for this, only do so if you prominently post a note on the game informing the players of the difference vs IFPAPA rule set.
Especially during single-player qualifying, it’s very difficult to enforce the “shooter lane = stuck ball” rule. And IMHO, both of these versions of Fireball, the ball in shooter lane is earned, and neither extends gameplay for a significant period of time relative to other EM/Classics in a tourney bank.

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Does pinbot stop the double scoring with the ball in the plunger lane? If it does it’s probably in your best interest to plunge it (unless you use your right knee to hold the plunger far enough forward to negate the switch - like that would be allowed!!)

If not it’s kind of a grey area to me - the game is clearly designed to let the ball get back to the shooter lane during multiball/other times (for another spiral ramp shot of course, at a higher multiplier) - and that could be huge if you get it up to 10x for a possible million plunger shot. I think a lot of people of course would prefer to keep the ball in reserve. If I were responsible for tournament setup of games I’d probably disable the ability for it to get back in the shooter lane and just put a gate or rubber across the mini playfield exit to it to make it feed the inlane instead.

You can agree or disagree with what I wrote, whatever, but none of it was crazy. I laid out bullet points so interested TDs can consider them and make their own informed decisions for their events, not just blindly follow a policy.

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By the same logic, isn’t it fair to say it’s earned in Pinbot also, by skillfully shooting the ramp and then nudging the ball from the UPF to the shooter lane?

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Here’s a little more fodder for people’s consideration…

Take High Speed. This game has a multiball where, by obvious design intent, it’s possible to “park” a ball indefinitely and play “single-ball multiball”. If this happens in a tournament, should the player be forced to have that ball ejected, either by shooting the ramp immediately or summoning a TD? Why or why not?

Take Pinbot. This game has a multiball where, by obvious design intent, it’s possible to “park” a ball indefinitely and play “single-ball multiball”. If this happens in a tournament, should the player be forced to have that ball ejected, either by shooting the plunger immediately or summoning a TD? Why or why not?

Compare and contrast.

Related background info: both machines were produced by the same company in the same year.


Don’t worry, I didn’t read it :slight_smile:

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It is. But there it’s a far more advantageous situation in Pinbot, partly determined by the luck of bounces/nudges in a pachinko style upper PF. And more importantly, it can make the game too long-playing.

Most times, I rule out Pinbot because of progressive solar value / jackpot.

There are a couple variants on tournament roms that make the solar value a fixed value.

As an official, one problem I’ve always struggled with is with the wizard modes on World Cup Soccer and Tales of the Arabian Nights.

Both of those machines have unlimited ball saves for a certain amount of time. When a ball drains, it is re-served to the plunger lane immediately.

Is leaving a ball in the plunger lane in this circumstance disallowed? Note that the stuck ball rule also includes a line which reads…

A stuck ball during multiball often represents a significant beneficial malfunction, and intentionally taking advantage may result in a penalty.

In the WCS and TOTAN examples, the ball in the plunger lane arguably does not represent a beneficial malfunction. (In fact, the rulesheet for TOTAN states that leaving a ball in the plunger lane makes the Genie pull the bottle to his side faster, so it is probably a disadvantage.)

We used WCS in City Champ two years ago. As head official, I discussed it with our state commissioner and I decided to announce ahead of time (and put a sign on the machine) that it was explicitly allowed to leave a ball in the plunger lane on WCS in the Los Angeles Wizard Mode (partially because it was unclear whether there was an advantage, but also because as an official, I didn’t particularly want to be forced to DQ a player who would have gotten to the wizard mode in tournament on a machine which was set up so extremely difficultly).

I’ve never been sure whether this was the right move or not. Announcing it ahead of time leveled the playing field at least, though.


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You’re the TD, so you can make any event-specific rules you want, as long as they’re reasonably made known to players and applied equally to all. Nothing wrong there. As it turns out, World Cup Final is just like TOTAN’s Genie Battle, its harder if you leave a ball in the plunger lane, so it’s not to the player’s advantage to do that.


This was discussed at length in a different thread in the last month or two -

Tldr, the rules should be re-written to cover this case as the current rules were never-ever intended for this situation. (The rule is there to prevent faux extra-balls, and single-ball multiball scoring play). Until rules are adjusted, allow it for these games.

The suggestion was something like “Blah blah ball in shooter lane during multiball is stuck ball, EXCEPT when the player is in a game state that can not end their turn should ALL balls drain” Or perhaps, spcifically just call out WCS and TOTAN final battles as exceptions.

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