When is in-game coaching legal?

Definitely some gray area here with broadcast booths that are near the players. I can ignore all sorts of surrounding noise and chatter, but when I can hear live commentary on my game it shifts my focus.


well it’s the reason we try to move the booths AWAY from the immediate play :slight_smile: Of course now we are seeing live commentary on the PA… so its shifting to players needing their own isolation if they care for it.

But I think the comment stands for all avenues of play :slight_smile:

Save it for when you are busting the balls of the player and they are your friend :smiley:

Not always. As a veteran player in league, if I’m blowing up a game, I don’t mind comments from the peanut gallery. They can be both amusing and motivating. ‘You gonna collect that super JP some time tonight?’

Where it becomes a problem is with newer players. I had a player tell me he would never come back to league because another player was talking to him while he was playing. I think many of us forget just how intimidated we were when we started competing or first joined a league. Give the noobs attaboys after a good ball, but leave them alone when they’re playing.

Is yelling to another player when they walk away from a machine that they have a ball save “coaching”?

I have always wondered about that.

Definitely not allowed at places like pinburgh (pretty sure). But it’s pretty commonplace at the NKY and cincy tournaments to do that. We’re more casual on that front. No ones really complained, so we just left it as is. No repercussions.

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Technically that is coaching but most places often have exceptions for that though I’ve seen some people mad about someone saying that at Pinburgh before…


I broke the habit of calling out a ball save. I will stop someone from playing out of turn though.


Lets assume a broadcast booth is away from players but someone is listening to the stream on their headset.

It also seems like some players move from broadcasting in a booth to playing and back again.

Great discussion. May I offer an additional point to consider?

Beyond the question of whether coaching is legal, it is important to understand whether your advice is actually wanted, particularly if it is unsolicited. Tact is vital.

Volunteering unsolicited information to another player may be coming from a kind, selfless place in your heart, but consider how the other person may interpret it. While most players welcome every hint they can get, some can see coaching as condescending, arrogant or sexist.

As someone who hates beating someone because of better rules knowledge, I’ve stumbled in this area several times. Through trial and error, I developed a few guidelines for myself which have served me well…

(1) Before offering any unsolicited advice, engage the person to try to feel out whether they are struggling with the rules or just aren’t playing well today.
(2) Ask before offering advice.
(3) Just because you don’t recognize someone, don’t assume they aren’t a world-class player.
(4) Be prepared to offer everyone information equally, whether they are a rookie or a world champion.
(5) If you’re a man, be mindful of gender dynamics to avoid the perception that you are “mansplaining”. [This is particularly risky if you just explained something to a male player a few minutes earlier and are still in “helpful” mode. Remember that she may not have witnessed the previous exchange.]
(6) Be particularly tactful if the person is your direct competitor. It can feel weird to get advice from someone who then beats you anyway.
(7) If, despite following these guidelines, the person is offended, don’t get defensive. Just give a quick apology and move on.

I can’t claim to have completely figured this out myself yet, but perhaps these ideas can be helpful. I’m interested in others’ ideas, too.


When people shout out to a player walking away about a ball save or frantically try to prevent a person from touching the game to prevent them from playing out of turn, I view that as people showing kindness and excellent sportsmanship.

It is a shame that both actions are technically considered breaking the rules, because what it has done from my perspective is create and increasing number of “Gladys Kravitz” types who are hawking and snooping over matches just waiting (more like secretly hoping) for someone to make an error so they can claim a win by giving someone else a DQ on the match via a technicality, rather than winning by skillful (or even lucky) play.

Yes I understand there are certain potential collusion scenarios and butterfly wing flapping effects of who wins/advances but that’s not my point.

Players being compassionate in those 2 scenarios should not be a “violation”.


I always thought that you could say anything to a player as they are walking up to a game. “It’s your turn”, “it’s not your turn”. It’s always on the player to know if what that other person is saying is true.

The latter though I agree. All that is good sportsmanship. If you’re wrong, so what? Still no possibility of a DQ.

I don’t understand why people think that preventing someone from playing out of turn is against the rules. Even if you want to consider that coaching, if the person is about to plunge a ball that isn’t theirs then it cannot possibly be their turn. Therefore coaching is permitted.

Since it isn’t against the rules, is it some gross violation of sportsmanship? I’d say the opposite. Knowingly allowing someone to plunge when it isn’t their turn seems to be unsportsmanlike.

Yelling out about a ball save directly benefits the current player during their turn. This is coaching and isn’t permitted by the rules since it has to occur during the player’s turn.


I agree, but what, if anything can be done when it comes from a spectator and not a player actively in the match? This seemed to occur at INDISC finals(can’t remember if it was main or high stakes) and @cayle was visibly upset.

“Spectators and other players must refrain from commenting on play in a way that affects the current game”

This line doesn’t say a thing about ‘the player currently up at the machine’ - it just says affects the current game. I would interpret that to mean at any time during the current game.

Nothing really. If the person was known, might get a warning from the TD and ejection if it continued.

Technically yes, but as others have said, I view it as sportsmanship, especially in league and especially with newer players.

I appear to be physically incapable of stopping myself from calling out “BALL SAVE!” as my opponent turns away from the machine. Thankfully I don’t play in anything important like Pinburgh. :slightly_smiling_face:


Yelling out stuff like that is a tough one because it’s so reactionary.

I played at a tournament today where a player on Centaur had successfully bumped the ball back through the inlane gate and back into play, but didn’t see it, and just turned away as the ball was rolling off the flipper. At least 5 of us saw it happen, no one said anything.

When playing for fun, there is definitely proper pinball etiquette. When playing competitively, there are rules. Unwritten etiquette still plays a part, but rules are rules. Once you step over the line, you have to play by the rules. Sometime the rules will contradict what you’ve been taught is proper pinball etiquette. This is the price we pay for more popularity in our sport. I’m ok with this.

What if competitive pinball became as popular as darts? Would you like to see audiences this loud:


I’d love for pinball to have this much hype.


I’m trying to bring the hype to my events! Check my video intros for starters.