Tournament Unwritten Rules or Etiquette

This was my number one fear last year when it was my first time there.

Almost always the sheet will be under the game you are playing. Just get in the habit of sliding it out and making sure it’s your turn before every ball.


Something I’ve never been clear on is when you notice someone playing multiball with a stuck ball, what is the proper etiquette here? I’m always hesitant of saying something and startling someone to the point where they lose focus, possibly losing a ball, when they weren’t expecting someone to start talking to them to let them know to trap up. Maybe they already know and are trying to do this.

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I think this is the only instance where saying something to the player is allowed. Notify them then the TD immediately.

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I agree with this as well. I’ll give them 10-15 seconds to “notice it” themselves. Then I will say something. If they still don’t trap or try to remove the stuck ball I’ll then ask an official for a ruling. Some people (myself included) don’t know the rules enough to know how many balls should be at play for every game they play plus some people (myself again included) may focus mostly in the flipper area and may not notice a stuck ball at the top of the game. For instance I had a ball fly off the PF and get stuck behind a plastic and I would have never know if someone in our group didn’t mention it to me.

it’s a slippery slope. Intentionally playing with a stuck ball is a DQ but I don’t think anyone wants to win a game that way if the player truly didn’t notice the stuck ball.

A player that didn’t notice the stuck ball can’t be DQ’d for “intentionally” playing with a stuck ball.

For sure. This is why I would lean towards calling a TD over sooner than later to make a ruling. I don’t want to be the horses ass that says there’s a ball stuck when it’s just being held for 2x scoring somewhere.

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Thank the scorekeepers and techs at every opportunity. They are the unsung heroes of every tournament.


The worst that can happen is to have the game invalidated and the player must start over, right?

Yup yup!

Seems like that rule needs to be re-looked at.

So what you are saying is that if I intentionally play with a stuck ball my game is invalidated and I must start over vs being DQed for that game.

So, in a limited entry format for qualifying. I’m having a bad game and on ball 3 I see a stuck ball while in MB. I can then make the decision to keep playing so that I can start a fresh game?

Now for finals bracket. I’m player 4 and players 1, 2 and/or 3 have had good games. I’m playing catch up and get a stuck ball and keep playing so that I can get another shot at playing that game.

Their quite a few games to where jackpots aren’t that big of points so the above (hate to call it this but) strategy could be very beneficial.

If you intentionally play with a stuck ball = DQ

If you accidentally play with a stuck ball = game invalidated, restart (based on TD discretion as to the materiality of the advantage that was actually gained)

Good to know. I played in two games last year where people played with stuck balls for quite some time, unintentionally as they walked away when their balls they knew about drained, but the game was scored as is.

Note that this is IFPA rules only. Other tournament/competition rules may be different. For example, here in the FSPA, we don’t consider a stuck ball in multiball to be an exceptionally unfair advantage, so it’s play on.

Thanks for clarifying. I either read that or interpreted it wrong. Either way, when daughter get’s home tonight from 2nd grade I’m going to have her give me a reading less :frowning:

I just wanted to say that I’ll never fail to be amazed at how polite and tactful pinball people can be at tournaments. By that, I mean traditionally so. The cultures between it and tabletop games and some video game competitions can be like night and day–to behave like the way you guys describe would be insulting and condescending to some of them, and they WANT you to trash-talk them, teabag their characters, Happy Birthday them at any chance you could.

Because of that, I get SO nervous at pinball competitions. I have problems behaving tactfully, honestly, because I am so used to other subcultures centered around playful mocking and teasing of other people (with varying levels of viciousness).

(For the record, a “Happy Birthday” is a fighting game term. In some fighting games, you use multiple characters per match, with one in active use and the others in reserve. A Happy Birthday is when you manage to knock out a character in reserve, who normally cannot be hit. This term came about when one of the players said it was his birthday–so his opponent proceeded to knock out his active character and a reserve character in one combo, with the announcers and spectators all sarcastically wishing him a happy birthday. The name then stuck, and from then on, any knockout of a character in reserve is called a Happy Birthday. This sort of behavior, I would guess based on what people have said in this topic and other related topics, would be completely unacceptable in pinball competitions, but in that competition’s environment, to NOT do so is a clear sign you are an outsider and must be taught the ways.)

I’ve experienced both cultures and I can confirm what you say. It’s all about context. At one of my local scenes, where everyone is friendly towards one another, it would be totally fine to needle someone after choking away a ball 3 or describe in gory detail how you’re going to win because you can tap-pass and they can’t, or whatever. I wouldn’t recommend this in all environments though, but it doesn’t have to be super-serious all the time. Start there and then loosen up as you read the room, I’d say.

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Thanks for the explanation here. At first it made me think of “Trick or Treat” from Searching for Bobby Fischer.

That’s true–I suppose in some video game competitive circles, the whole thing is basically one big, rather close community, and this is their way of playful ribbing. I have been insulted for being traditionally polite though, and I have met people who tell me they feel insulted when their opponents act (traditionally) politely towards them, regardless of win or loss.

I should say, however, that I’ve played in some collectible card game competitions in which my opposition was acting out of malice. Not outright cheating, but acts of gamesmanship. Well, either that or they were just socially awkward. I remember my very first one, in which my very first opponent played extra fast, and when it was my turn, he waited 3 seconds before loudly rhythmically tapping his fingers on the table in a “hurry it up already” way. In my second one, one of my opponents had a friend among the judges, who told him, within my earshot, that he was “going to have an easy time” against me and explained what was in my deck. (At that point, this was a fairly common practice: Among a sizable group of friends, have some people apply to be tournament judges in the hopes of at least one of them getting admitted in, upon which they’ll use it for reconnaissance and to provide rulings in their friends’ favor. Since I used the option to take it up with the head judge or even the tournament heads, I made many enemies in this way.) I have never seen opponents at these card game competitions gloat about their victories though. For a lot of them, they treat it as strictly business, albeit business with a lot of mocking and teasing: They are in it to win, and they’ll do it by any means necessary that won’t get them disqualified and banned if they’re caught. If they win, they just quietly pack up, leave, and move on. These are the people who drop out of the tournament should they lose twice in the preliminaries because it means they won’t be able to move on.

Amen to that!

I too was worried about this last year but asking other players who were only too happy to advise. Its worth saying that its your first pinburgh as a few folks gave me some insight on what to expect and to think about. Generally the mood is hugely positive and everyone wants to enjoy it. Also manage your own pressure. playing at tournament whilst is about doing well it also has to be about enjoying yourself and being in the zone without being under pressure. My first game at pinburgh was a game I own and I knew I could score big on it, it put me under huge pressure and anyone watching would have thought I’d never seen the game before and I barely scored anything. In some ways that was a huge plus point as it reset my thinking for the rest of the tournament and I have no doubt I played better throughout the tournament because of it.