When is in-game coaching legal?


I was certainly miffed, especially when all was said and done and it was absolutely relevant in the outcome of the match. But I also understand the urge to speak up.

But for years I’ve been saying that coaching should be allowed. Reason is, if were not going to enforce the rules, and if spectators can run wild and coach with no barrier, we might as well make it legal so people (like me) don’t have to get butt-hurt when a spectator coaches (and is just trying to be nice).


Right here is the common-sense reason why coaching active players should be allowed unless the player at the machine specifically requests that they not be spoken to. The “YMMV” clause is, frankly, BS. WTF is “pinball legal council”??

If a player in a group wishes to coach an opponent in their group… well, in most cases this doesn’t seem advisable strategically, but the knee-jerk “ball save!” announcement shouldn’t be penalized, because that’s typically just good sportsmanship – I’d hate to be DQ’ed because I was trying to be a nice guy. And similarly the “hey, it’s not your turn!” shouldn’t be penalized for the same reason.

If a player chooses not to inform their opponent that they’re about to do something disqualifying, so be it, but it just feels wrong to penalize players that are trying to win their matches through skill and good play of all involved, not through dumb errors.

This is where I remind all TDs that the PAPA/IFPA rules are a solid baseline, but you have the power to modify those rules as you see fit… and you can even still get WPPRs! “You can’t coach the player at the machine” is not the rule, it is a rule, that you can accept or reject as you wish.



They come highly recommended. I’ve seen them argue that someone who played out of turn NOT be DQ’d. They will dig deep into the minutia of the exact verbiage of the written rules to defend your case. Their rates are also very reasonable :slight_smile:


Making sure the correct person is on the machine is the responsibility of all players.
“9. Player Errors

It is the responsibility of all players to ensure the correct player is on the machine at all times.”


Sure, but when someone plunges out of turn are the other players penalized for not being “responsible”?



That’s a fine discussion to have. Right now we’re discussing coaching. Stopping someone from playing out of turn is “Making sure the correct person is on the machine” and specifically called out in the rules as legal behavior.
Therefore not illegal coaching. I wouldn’t call it coaching at all.


The ball save rule might be the most confusing rule for new players. I didn’t even know it was a rule until I did it at Pinburgh. At big tournaments I totally get it. It’s not fair to the two other players in the group that you decided to be a “good sport”. The other players in your group might not think you’re being a “good sport”.

That said, I’m going to assume most of us play a ton of causal pinball with friends and so our muscle memory is more likely going to be on the side of helping our fellow players. Maybe it makes sense that this wouldn’t necessarily be an automatic DQ even at the big events?

Just last week at my monthly a very knowledgeable player yelled out ball save. They knew the rule and they were ready to except whatever my ruling was going to be. It’s a causal tournament with a lot of newer players, so I don’t care about folks yelling ball save, but it did provide a good platform to educate a lot of players that while that a rule I’m not going to enforce, it is a rule and players should be aware of it.


Does FSPA rules currently allow coaching?

Does anyone using FSPA rules get access to the private TourneyGuru Pinburgh tips, or is that still members only?


I just don’t agree. You lose a bit of the integrity of the sport as rules knowledge is part of the skill of the game. Having random people calling out “shoot the ____.” is like any other spectator sport, for which I don’t have an issue with but standing by the game and point things out the whole way or talking someone through the game while they play is where that could easily go and it takes away a big part of the strategy of the game. Knowing what to do is just as/if not more important that being able to do something but it’s further compounded by having that in game situational knowledge. This is something that the elite players do very well that the average players don’t (making those in game spur of the moment decisions) that is a developed skill. This also very likely can increase the length of games as the player can trap up, call in their coach to assess the situation and develop a strategy together on what needs to happen next.

In league events, I’m all for it but in a tournaments things need to be different. League to me is like class. Use the whole class to help you study but a tournament is the test and you’re on your own at that point to show what you know.


I don’t have any issues with coaching at any point, but I just don’t want games taking forever. Having two people at the game at all times doing their coaching would add to the crowd, and again, it would make matches take way too long.

So it’s best to just keep the coaching in between balls/games imo.

As for the shouting out to players as they play that a feature is available, or ball save or whatever, I think it will be hard to police that if the spectators continue to increase, so it is probably best to just allow it.


And frankly, this is where it goes all pear-shaped for me. There are basically no hard and fast rules that a tournament director must follow, so there is also no way to know which rules a TD is choosing to follow unless they announce them. For most of my local tournament experiences, TDs will say that they are following IFPAPA rules and may call out a few specific ones, like how to handle stuck balls or “no extra balls” or things like that. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say anything about coaching one way or the other.

I would much prefer a system where TDs announced the rules they ARE enforcing, and everything else is “play the machine as it lies,” because when they say they’re using IFPAPA rules and that’s it, I can guarantee a lot of that is being ignored. We could start with a common bundle of things that almost everyone uses (no bangbacks/death saves, must start proper number of players, stuck ball handling, etc), then add on location-specific rules, then just go. That’s both simple to look up and simple to remember, and mitigates the possibility that someone is going to get cute and try to disrupt: “you said we were using IFPAPA rules, Joe’s been outside drinking beer for 2 minutes and he’s up, I want the delay rule enforced!”


It’s not 100% clear, but I think so. We say that coaching a player isn’t interference unless the player asks not to be coached, which is a little weird, and the rules are silent on if other involved players can request that someone not coach the current player. In practice though, I believe coaching is frowned upon.

As far as I know it’s still private, but personally I don’t see much of a difference between that and any other group pooling info for mutual benefit, especially as it pertains to on-the-spot information. All information doesn’t need to be public all of the time. For example, if I dial in an important skill shot on an EM or something like that, I would be inclined to share that with my brethren so it might help them in future Pinburgh rounds, but I don’t feel the need to grab a mic and announce that to every participant.


I’ll consider myself lucky that I have a friend on the inside that’s willing to share those FSPA game notes at Pinburgh with me.

My apologies because I do pass that info on to anyone on the Pinburgh floor that comes to me for a tip during their round. With no practice on the games, this is especially helpful for skillshot placement, tilt settings, kickout help, etc.


Some players get annoyed/distracted if they’re spoken to while they’re playing. They have the right to play without such verbal interference. Other players might be fine talking through their whole ball, and that’s also their choice. But yes, FSPA rules do specifically say that coaching is legal.

To @chuckwurt’s point: most events do have a delay of game clause which would help avoid bogging down a match while a player assembled a team of experts. :grinning:

Not sure how we got on that tangent, but thanks for your revelation and your sorry-not-sorry.


No worries. I’m not good enough to punch an A-division finals ticket every year, so I have to take whatever advantages I can get.


The majority of the tips that get entered into that system, at least from me, come from the free practice hour on Thursday morning. I’ll specifically seek out EMs and other old games where plunger positions for skill shots and/or tilt testing is vitally important. I’ll note this time is available to everyone, so let’s not pretend we’re doing something unavailable to others.


And that’s why you don’t take a single sentence out of context and interpret it :slight_smile: must read the paragraph it’s part of


It sounds like your TDs need to do a better job announcing and documenting rules. Just because your events go one way means that’s the right way or that’s how everyone does it.

Our league rules have a section titled “exceptions to IFPA guidelines” that calls out our coaching rules and other differences from the ifpa ruleset. That doc is linked in every event listing and most new players read it.

If a TD says they are following IFPA rules and do not, call them on it and ask them to document and share their ruleset. Games are played as they lie, including extra balls. No coaching. Delay of play is enforced, etc. If the TD isn’t following their own declared rules, report it to the ifpa.


I did and I still interpret it that way. The previous sentence doesn’t change that intent of the rule.

If the intent of the coaching rules in general is to not affect a game in progress, it doesn’t matter if the player is currently up at the game or not… the game is STILL in progress, and any information a player gets (except as specifically allowed in 4, concerning the pintips loophole) would affect the game.

If the rule is supposed to just cover while the player is playing, it’s kind of a meaningless rule as anyone not in an active ball can just find out whatever information it is that they are missing. Sure in the heat of the moment that might not know what to shoot, but they’ll know for next ball.


That’s great in theory, but at least around here, you’re talking about Sisyphus and his rock. For every person who cares to call people on the rules, there are 50 who don’t give a crap. Most of the time things go off without incident, it’s not like it’s pure anarchy around here. But we do have a rather interesting combination of established TDs and established expectations mixed into a playerbase that often isn’t super competitive, and those people aren’t going to read rules. The ones that will are already familiar with everything one needs to know.

It works for us. I can’t really think of any recent major problems.


It’s not meaningless because it’s not intended to prevent to prevent coaching away from your turn. So the fact the rule doesn’t prevent that means… the rule is actually constructed correctly.

The goal is not to limit what people know… the intent is to keep the LIVE PLAY to the player and not be directed or ‘coached’ during their play. Play has later been clarified to mean once the player has stepped up and engaged the machine for their turn. That clarification comes from the same people who wrote the rule in the first place… so the clarification is not in conflict with the INTENT of the rule.

No one wants or wanted players to be in isolation chambers during their match. No one wants or wanted players to be anti-social or not have contact with people. They are not intended to be playing on an island. It’s simply saying once someone’s turn is in play, its on THEM - not external sources to guide their play.