Tournament ruling - when is the game over?

At what point is a game considered “finished”? We had the following situation in a recent tournament that makes me ask the question.

It was a traditional strikes format, 3-player game, so only last place received a strike. Player 1 on ball 3 drains with a last place score. P1 had earned an extra ball, and our local rule is to plunge EBs. There was no way for him to score enough points on the plunge to overtake the other players. So is the game over at this point? Is P1 even required to plunge?

As P1 had his back turned to the game complaining about the drain, P2 runs up and begins playing P1’s extra ball, thinking it was his turn. There was no need for P2 to even play at all since he had already “won”, but because he played P1’s ball, I had to rule that he played out of turn and give him a strike, ending his tournament.

You can watch it all play out on our stream here:

I frequently see players 3 and 4 play out their ball 3 when they have already avoided a strike. What happens if the game resets during this unnecessary play? Or if someone tilts through? Is the game over as soon as the finishing order is decided, or only after all the balls have been drained?

It’s up to the TD if a determination is needed. You made the right call IMO.

The ideal situation would be for one of the players to request a running when P1 drained. You could have called it at that point. But that didn’t happen, P2 was careless and paid the price.


I also think you made the right call, if your ruleset’s documented penalty for playing out of turn is an automatic strike.

P1’s game was not over due to their extra ball. The “1 Up” light was clearly still lit, so there’s no ambiguity of whose turn it was. It’s the responsibility of a player approaching the machine to verify that they are, in fact, up.

In general, I would argue that a player’s game is “finished” only when there is no conceivable way for their score to change. That was clearly not the case here. On some games – hopefully not ones that are chosen for tournament play – a player’s score can even change when they have no more balls to play; think of “swap player scores” or “award all players 250,000” types of novelty awards.

It’s really awful to see a player get knocked out with a situation like this – hopefully P2 will remember forevermore to verify that it’s their turn before plunging the ball.

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Could the player who benefited—had he elected to—said I deserve the strike and then received it instead of player 2?

TD discretion let’s you do whatever you want.


The game was on Strikes & Spares, so there was absolutely a way for Player 1 to take the lead from the plunge of their extra ball. If you make the Skill shot, Strikes & Spares can up-and-back multiple times collecting and building the strike value as it goes - Just watch the final game on Strikes & Spares last night in the D82 tournament, Nate Grant scores over 500k on his first ball with a lot of that score coming from the ball doing its own thing.


well swap / take / catch up should be disabled if it can be or games with that not used.

Now what are the full rules for your plunge EBs? some games can make for an lot of plunges.

Well that part seems to be under an local rule? now games with betting where players can lose points should have rule saying that the game must be fully played out / or game is not over till the end?

Now an other differnt / odd thing may be if you ruled that if the game fails in X way again we will do an full game restart / game change. Then it should be done for all players even ones that have played there last ball and in last place.
(based on how it fails lean more to full restart say player 1 lost points to X fail and then later player 2 say in 3rd trying to get to 1st or 2st had the same fail.) To be fair to all.

Now as for plunge offs after it’s done. It should be ok to
slam to get an quick reset (slam should be disabled for tournament play)
tilt the game to speed things ok even if does tilts through
just have any player do an plunge and not even try to skill it.

You made the correct call based on IFPA rules. P1’s game wasn’t over, and could earn more points off the plunge + pops action, as others have noted.

For local tourneys where you don’t have access or time to turn off EB’s, you can always simply include this tourney-specific rule in your event description/details: “Any extra balls must be plunged and not played. No player disqualifications involving playing an EB out of turn.”

There’s still disincentive to NOT play another person’s EB, because any points played on their EB still count toward their score.

Thanks for the feedback everyone. I felt confident the ruling was correct given the circumstances. The only possible exception would have been if P1 was hopelessly behind and wanted to concede anyway, but after watching the video, the scores were a lot closer than I remembered. As @Adam said, it was possible that the extra ball could bounce around enough to pass the other scores, so P1 certainly deserved that chance.

I’m hesitant to make an exception rule about no DQs on extra balls. The rule as it stands is pretty easy to understand and enforce. I’m afraid any exceptions would only create more controversy somewhere down the line.

I’ve also heard some local criticism that P1 shouldn’t have walked away from the machine knowing he had an extra ball. Maybe, just maybe, that argument would have merit if P2 was a new or inexperienced player. But P2 has played over 70 tournaments with us over the past two years, so at some point he’s got to be responsible for his own actions.


Not if you plunge and then tilt the other player’s extra ball.


Locally, one such tournament and game that has a “take highest score” feature was played as a one-player game with scores recorded manually specifically to avoid this. I agree that this is a really lousy feature to have in a game because of what it does during tournament play (or for that matter, non-tournament games played for small wagers, for those who partake of that).