Toxic Behavior Continues in 2019

The point of this post is that its 2019 and I continue to see certain players display what I would consider inappropriate behavior at IFPA events. I hope we can collaboratively list behaviors and some of the offenders might read this and possibly think before they either say or act in such a manner. I am not perfect but i do have enough self awareness to think that rage tilting, swearing, complaining (a lot) is not going to recruit new players. Unfortunately players (even those in the Top 100) engage in this type of behavior which Im really getting tired of and causing me to get burned out as being a TD. Who wants to run an event where they have players which such poor conduct? Who wants to run an event where players actions make you cringe and other players complain to you about them. Who wants to run an event where I have to confront an adult and warn them about this conduct? The biggest complaint I have about being a TD is player conduct and im getting tired of having to deal with it.


Just issue them a yellow card followed by a red card and be done with it. No need to have them participate in your tournaments if they only bring negativity. Then you can get back to enjoying TD’ing.


No one.

As my wife is fond of saying, unhappy people behave badly. For example, I always think of the situation where I am driving and someone cuts me off. Sometimes that makes me angry and sometimes I let them in and don’t give it a second thought. What’s different between the two scenarios? Same exact event, two totally different reactions. Only me – my attitude, what’s going on in MY head.

People inevitably will bring “real life” issues with them into a tournament setting. I am new to tournaments, but I deal with a lot of situations in my work that are stressful and bring out the worst in people. So I’m pretty good at taking a step back, pausing and realizing this isn’t their best day. But do you know what IS my best day (or right up there anyway)? Pinball day.

Pinball is a game and it’s supposed to be fun. I’ve only been to a few tournaments/competitive play events/leagues, but I do notice occasional bad behavior and it is cringe-worthy. The vast majority of players, though, are well-behaved and as a TD you’re only seeing the worst cases, so that tends to skew your perspective. My advice is to try to realize that their bad behavior is not about you, or the condition of the game/tournament – it’s about something else much deeper.

Issue them their warning or eject them outright if their behavior is egregious and be done with it. (I am unfamiliar with this “card” nonsense – that’s from soccer, right? I rest my case…)

They’re acting like a child, and they need to be treated like a child sadly. You have to eject them in order to teach them that this will not be tolerated – leave your anger at the world at the door, please. This is pinball.


People that act badly will eventually be ostracized if they are just a-holes and they will leave the pinball scene.

Only infractions of rules, e.g. objective interpretation, should result in any actions by a TD.

Someone acting like a child is a subjective interpretation and should be left out of it. If someone is acting like a child, then the person that is annoyed or offended should act like an adult and not complain to a TD about it. They’re literally becoming part of the problem by also acting like a child and whining about someone else whining (and I’m not referring to this thread as this is a discussion about it, only referring to the instances encountered by OP)

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I’m 39 and I was taught at a very young age when I joined the work force to leave personal issues at the door. Its unfortunate some people can’t do this when entering the door to a pinball event. Feedback I’ve received today which Im going to use going forward is to bring up acceptable conduct at the meetings we have at the start of an event. I usually just have a roll call, go over the rules, any known game issues and ask if anyone has questions. Im now going to add a few lines regarding conduct.


I think it’s about setting expectation at the start. I see players acting like asshats at other folks events because the TD won’t act.

At my event they know I won’t put up with their behaviour and they don’t behave badly. It shouldn’t be like this but it is. So as noted above hand out a few yellows…


If a TD wants to ask people to keep it calm in their opening remarks, great. Anyone who is considering penalties/DQ, however, should give the matter lots of consideration. Any such rulings should be designed to be as objective as possible IMHO.

You wanna card players for saying the Seven Forbidden Words? OK, but be prepared to card half your players.

Maybe only if they’re “too loud”? OK, but how do you define and measure that fairly?

Yes, there is and should be room for behavior-related penalties solely at TD discretion, but I believe any such penalties should be exceedingly rare (much less than 1 per event on average). Otherwise the TD’s inherent biases (whether consciously known or not) and/or mood du jour can weigh too much on how the event is judged, and that’s not good.


What can be done about the literal toxic behavior of sticking hands down pants? I’m talking about beneath the undergarments. I’ve seen this too many times, even at Pinburgh. Ass nasty!


Lots of hand sanitizer and using it liberally.

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I think that the responses here are too limited, and don’t take into account the bigger picture. What we’re really talking about is community management. What kind of a community do you want? What experience do you want participants to have? What example do / don’t you want to set? If you don’t have a picture of these things in your mind, and a way to communicate them to players, then managing your community is going to be difficult.

Locally, we tend to not think of it on an event-by-event basis, but again take a bigger picture view. Anyone can have an outburst at an event when they get a bad beat in a tense situation. We’ve all done it. When we tend to step in is when a player starts displaying this kind of behavior repeatedly over time, especially when we hear other players complaining about it. In this situation we have pulled the player aside and talked to them and laid out what our expectations are going forward. Often the player, while they know they are obnoxious, doesn’t really realize how much their behavior affects other people. We have largely had good results with this, and will continue to work in this manner.

Community management is hard, but attempting to set strict rules and divorce behavior from context is, in my opinion, setting yourself up for failure. Set expectations, think about the big picture, and treat people like actual adults. If a player thinks my rulings are biased, they can come talk to me about it, and I’m happy to discuss it, but I’m not going to remove context from my thinking just to set this standard of “objectivity”. This is the approach I take here on this forum, its the approach I take at my events, and its the approach I take in any group setting professional or otherwise.


Sorry to hear Kevin. I instituted a conduct talk to every single one of my events about 2 years ago. It’s a quick reminder that certain behaviors will not be tolerated. But some people just ignore it or cannot control themselves.

So much so, that one player has a standing yellow card at my events. He agreed to it (actually suggested it) because of how bad his self control is.

Start making it very clear what won’t be tolerated and that should help. It’s stupid those talks have to happen, but unfortunately they do.


Yeah I agree with basic conduct talk as well to help mitigate issues, but it gets tough handing out punishment unless it can be easily an objective call, like certain words that are unacceptable.

One suggestion is do what I did at home. I created a Slap Happy Bucket of Shame and made people put a $1 into it every time that hit the glass after a drain. That actually helped because everyone in the room would start hooting and hollering and the offending player would sheepishly then add a $1 to the bucket. I eventually took it down because it had its effect.

Why wouldn’t you issue a yellow card for when someone hit the glass?

I’ve never kicked someone out of an event. A yellow card has stopped a player just fine. I’ve probably never issue more than one yellow card in a single event.

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To me, this is getting dangerously close to “I don’t like behavior X, therefore it is bad.” People have different tolerances to things.

I can tell you that we have a location here in mid-MD that just completed its biggest tournament ever, 101 players registered. Many new, many with a year or less of competitive play experience. This place has a well-known reputation of being rowdy, loud, and crass. Some of the regulars would make a sailor blush. And yet, the scene continues to grow.

Now granted, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and quite a few well-known players won’t play there, but those rowdy regulars would also feel bored and uninterested in a more sterile environment. I think this is perfectly fine, there are atmospheres for everyone and the larger community sorts itself. Without getting into specifics, I can say with 100% certainty that if some of the old salts brought that behavior into certain private home tournaments, they would be shown the door, as is appropriate. But I’m not going to shun them on their home turf where again, that scene is growing.

I can’t think of a good wrap-up to this so I’ll just echo what others have said and say things should be taken individually. I’m passionate enough about my own play that I understand when people are about to blow and I don’t hold it against them. I know that some don’t like outbursts of any type, but on the flip side, some of us are just built that way, and we are going to blow a gasket every now and then as a way to let off steam. I wouldn’t think it fair to not allow those types to express themselves when needed, provided it wasn’t overtly and directly aggressive towards other players of course.

Also, thank your TD’s for putting up with the crap they do.


I’m sure I missed a bunch but here are just a few off the top of my head of the type of conduct players should not partake in. We’re human so I dont expect flawless execution but there are grown adults , some who are in the Top 100 that continue to exhibit these behaviors. Going forward I will review acceptable/unacceptable behavior prior to the events I run and yellow/red card as needed. If people aren’t seeking treatment for anger management or other issues, that doesn’t give them a reason to poison an event.

-Rage tilting after the ball has drained
-Swearing excessively and loudly
-Excessive complaining (not directed at the TD, but to other participants)
-Hitting the machine (kicking it, slamming the lock down bar and/or glass)
-Knowing IFPA/PAPA rules but conveniently “forgetting” them to gain an unfair advantage


How will you determine this has happened?

Objective analysis:

Pretty clear to me, no one wants this.

Define excessive and loud. For example, I don’t care about this at all, so there is no amount that would be excessive. The easily offended might answer “once.” In other words, 100% subjective.

See above.

Kicking sure, slamming the lockdown bar/glass sure, but define “hitting.” If I bring my hand down without force and my ring happens to make a “ting” noise, is this hitting? Again, subjective.

That’s a TD problem IMO, and you need to prove it. If you can, DQ for cheating. If not, you’re potentially making a false accusation.

Now to back down from the ledge… yes, I was being overly and deliberately pedantic about those. I think in all of them, if any participant has a problem (including the TD if not playing) then you simply bring it up if it bothers you and someone in charge makes a decision accordingly. But I’m never codifying any of this, because as was said before, the moment you make it an official rule and someone doesn’t have it called on them, all hell will break loose, and no TD can be in all places all the time.

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I’d define “loud” as in everyone in the bar/arcade turns towards that person’s direction to see what the commotion is. It’s also an easy judgment call to make if multiple players complain to you as a TD.


I thought I’d share a passage from “the inner game of tennis”

This was written in 1974. About tennis.

My point of course is that behavior like this is timeless and not limited to pinball. If you’re hoping to see it go away anytime soon, you will be disappointed. I am in no way condoning this behavior, and I’m equally appalled by it when I see it.

btw, for any of you hot heads hoping to master the mental game, this book is for you. Shout out to @GarrettHays for recommending it. totally changed my game.


Maybe seeing a top player not cradle up in two ball multiball play while a ball is stuck? How many years does one need to play to know they should cradle up and have TD unstick ball. Just a quick example