Why should I trap up during multiball if another ball becomes stuck?

After getting extremely red, mad, and nude in the IFPA Nationals chat today and generally pissing everyone off I decided to look at the rules more.

I would like to apologize for my conduct in the twitch chat and for accusations I made of cheating.

From PAPA Rules

If a ball becomes stuck during a multiball mode, the player should attempt to trap the other ball(s) in play and request assistance. A stuck ball during multiball often represents a significant beneficial malfunction, and intentionally taking advantage may result in a penalty. Please note specifically that a ball ending up in the plunger lane during multiball on a machine where there is no autoplunger (or where the autoplunger for some reason refuses to fire) counts as a stuck ball, and the ball must be plunged by the player. See “Beneficial Malfunctions” for further details.

Furthermore, the following sections are related.

Any beneficial malfunction which results in a player being able to continue play of a ball that normally should have ended is allowed once per game. Examples of this would include an unexpected software ball save or a ball that comes to rest on an unlit kickback in the outlane (which will lead to a ball search, kicking the ball back into play). Any such behavior shall not be allowed if it repeats, meaning that tournament officials may require players to allow the repeatedly-saved ball to drain, or play on the machine may be terminated in accordance with catastrophic malfunction rules, at which point repairs may be attempted.


Any beneficial malfunction which provides one or more players with a significant scoring or strategic advantage in a way that is not part of normal gameplay will void the score of the affected player(s), unless all immediately-affected players and tournament officials can agree on a suitable adjustment of the score or other elimination of the advantage. If the beneficial malfunction has been specifically avoided by the player, it is unlikely that a penalty is necessary. If any player score(s) are voided, the affected player(s) may then replay the game after the other players have finished, and the new score(s) are used for the affected player(s).


Any situation which indicates the presence of a beneficial malfunction should be brought (by who?) to the attention of the scorekeeper promptly, who will alert tournament officials. Any player who intentionally takes advantage of a significant beneficial malfunction may be given a warning and/or have his or her affected ticket interrupted and disqualified by tournament officials.

Based on all of this, I have a few questions. My first is why should I ever do what it says in the first sentence? (Attempt to trap balls and request assistance)

Invented Scenario A: I’m playing No Good Gophers. I’m in multiball. I’m getting auto-plunged saved balls and kickbacks left and right. Balls are also going into the “hole” scoop and disappearing very often. Eventually 2 balls go down the kickback lane at the same time and only 1 gets kicked back into play, the other coming to rest on the kickback opening. I have 2 balls remaining in play. I shoot a jackpot and drain one ball down the center. I miss the super jackpot and regain control. I shoot the orbit and hit another jackpot. I miss the super jackpot and that ball drains.

As this scenario unfolds it becomes obvious at different times to different players what happened. The best player with the best object tracking might notice the stuck ball immediately. For most players with strong familiarity with the ruleset it becomes more odd with each passing second in which they are observing multiball with no ball emerging from the hole or pop bumper area and no other light, sound, music, speech, and display changes to indicate multiball has any plans on ending. For a person playing his first pinball game ever who has no concept of the “state” of the game being in multiball or not they would never notice this until they don’t see the pinball on their flippers or in the shooter lane. Eventually the ball “magically” appears during ball search.

Let’s say I’m the best player in the world and I always know exactly where every pinball is during multiball. I’m also not having a particularly great game up to this point. Why should I trap up when I notice this? Why shouldn’t I play on, acting like I have no idea?

For simplicity lets say I have 3 million points before the ball rests on the kickback hole. I ripped off 2 jackpots worth 3.5 million during Multiball for a total of 7 million points to bring my post-mutiball score up to 10 million.

Here are some ways this may unfold:

  1. Nobody else says anything to a TD or the player during the game. I keep my 10 million.
  2. My observant opponent notices I got a jackpot while it looked like i had 1 ball in play. While I was acting like I didn’t know what was going on after the multiball ended and I wasn’t getting my bonus they noticed the ball return to play on a ball search. They notify a TD who instantaneously appears to tell me to trap up and stop my game and address the situation.

2a. They make a strong case to the TD that I absolutely must have had that ball sitting there for the jackpot I got and thus those points should be deducted. Everyone agrees. I lose 3.5m and play on. I have 6.5m

2b. They don’t make a strong case to the TD of “exactly” what happened because they aren’t quite sure what happened. They can’t reasonably say what the scoring advantage was. The TD asks me and I say “I dunno I wasn’t paying attention.” The TD gets distracted by another player coming up to them and asking “so how does scoring work today is it 5-3-2-1? And do you have a link to the standings?” and forgets what was happening. I turn around with a ball trapped and shrug my shoulders at the other player and say “play it?” They shrug their shoulders too and I turn around and continue to play. Nothing seems to come about and I brick my next shot and drain. Keep my 10m points.

2c. The TD confidently states that my game must be voided immediately. I’m given a new game to play. (Is this really the rule? Or is this just supposed to give me a new game in like a PAPA ticket and not for a finals game?) I get a brand new game.

3.I do the responsible thing and trap up once I immediately notice the ball come to rest on the kickback. I raise my hand to alert the TD. They come over and I explain what happened. They say “thank you, we’ll take care of that right now.” and they remove the glass and place the stuck ball on my flipper. I’m not assessed a penalty. I currently have my 3m points. I may not have as easy of a time getting the jackpots in my honest and true mutiball.

What am I missing here? Soccer players dive all the time. Why shouldn’t I do the pinball equivalent and play dumb every time this happens UNLESS I’m way in the lead and don’t want to jeopardize my score and progress in the game.

Also, as an outside observer what should I do here when I notice this either as an opponent or a bystander? Am I allowed to tell the player “yo trap up?” Should I just make some mental notes of exactly what the score is as soon as I notice the exploit and after it’s not being exploited any longer? Do I scream the TD’s name at the top of my lungs?

Because you’re not a total asshole?


For the same reason you shouldn’t death save when there isn’t anyone looking over your shoulder.

I have always been curious about this. Is it okay to interrupt?

To answer your initial question - you should trap up when you realize a ball becomes stuck during multiball because those are the rules. Yes, the one rule asks you to see another rule, but the entire reasoning of the rule “trap up and get a ball unstuck during multiball” is all right there in the rule, as is the possibility of receiving a penalty.

Your second question is legitimately a head scratcher. Here is the problem - what if the observer is wrong? What if they interrupt a player to tell them they need to trap up, the player drains, and the ball wasn’t stuck it was already in the drain? Now what - you have an observer affecting results, which I don’t think you ever want. But, the rule does use the word “intentionally,” which infers that the player knows the problem exists and has made a decision to play on. What if the player doesn’t know. It is rare, but it happens - it happened to some of us recently on Stern KISS when Gene’s head was eating balls during multiball, and if we weren’t paying attention one less ball would be in play during multiball. With add-a-ball and ball save this problem could remain hidden for sometime.

So who is allowed to inform a player that a situation may exist that requires them to trap up? Competitors? What if a competitor is wrong - even worse than an observer in my opinion. A TD - what if they aren’t watching the game? I also would like to know who should alert a person that they need to trap up.


I hate to make the dreaded stoppage of play ask. I usually have a keen observation when it comes to weird events, and if it’s a big competition I’m more likely to make that decision quickly and get a TD/ask the player to trap.

I’m curious as to how TDs would rather it done - groups policing themselves or groups calling the rules cops on them to tell a player to stop? How long should I wait?

Hmm What if the playing players gets real stressed, and actively tries to trap the ball and in a poor attempt loses the ball?
Tough luck since he tried following the rules and trap so a TD could assess the situation?

“If a ball becomes stuck during a multiball mode, the player should attempt to trap the other ball(s) in play and request assistance. A stuck ball during multiball often represents a significant beneficial malfunction, and intentionally taking advantage may result in a penalty.”

Those are the rules we are playing by. I don’t understand the question. If you don’t want to trap up when balls get stuck during multiball, that second sentence may apply. On a positive note, though - if you have a stuck ball in multiball, the drain will not cost you your ball, just your multiball. Which, I am assuming, is preferable to allowing players who are lucky enough to get stuck balls during multiball the advantage they could gain from a single ball multiball (eventually).

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yeah sorry, i brainfarted. Of course you will only lose the multiball, not the “game” :slight_smile:

I always thought that for a ball stuck in MB, the first course of action would be to try and free it by hitting it with another ball.
That’s the ruling I’ve always seen applied. As long as the player is seen to be attempting to free the stuck ball and not avoid that area of the playfield for fear of dislodging it, everything’s good.

The worst case I have seen of a stuck ball being used to advantage was in a team event played on LotR. Player started Fellowship MB. as the Balrog swung out a ball got stuck behind it. Despite being told to trap up on numerous occasions he continued to play a “single ball” MB alternating between hitting ramp and then Balrog - eventually completing the MB.

So, in my experience, once you trap up, the TD will come over and tell you your options. They may or may not include shooting for the stuck ball (depending on how it is stuck) and can even include shooting for scoops/saucers if the flippers are going to die upon opening the coindoor.

Yep, that’s the other way to do it. If you can dislodge it (and it’s not stuck in plastic land, slingville, or in the bottom of the cabinet), you can do that ASAP. If you don’t feel confident on the shot or like control, you can trap up as well.

Fun fact: there are a few situations where you will be asked to shoot something as part of the stuck ball procedure. TSPP standard tournament procedure is to shoot the garage and open the coin door to circumvent the interlock drain.

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This past Saturday I was the TD and a participant in an event where a player had a two ball multiball on Metallica and got a ball stuck in inline drops and cradled other ball on right flipper. I was in the middle of playing a ball and no one wanted to interrupt me and by the time I was done the transistor that powers coil for right fiipper blew. In this situation as a TD there is nothing i really could of done anyway besides put the player in single ball play. If he drained to activate ball search or even tried to hit stuck ball with ball on flipper it would of been a better outcome. I did have coindoor ball saver enabled…

I went to get a stuck ball out of a Star Gate once and didnt realize the game slam tilts and erases the scores, doh! I should of just had the player drain the ball on flipper to activate ball search also.

I think if a player can get back to single ball play without interrupting a TD on smaller scale events, that should be acceptable. What other options do we have if interlock is enabled?

I am just thinking out loud here, brainstorming if you will, but I think it would be interesting if there was a way to activate ball search with a flipper trap (something difficult to initiate, so as not to initiate it by accident). Maybe 2 contact points that must be touched by the same piece of metal somewhere accessible, like under the machine near the front?

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Amen. You really have to be paying attention to game state and have a thorough understanding of game rules.

I’ve been burned by people collecting multiball jackpots with a single ball in play, and that sucks; but I’d feel a hundred times worse asking someone to trap up when they didn’t need to do so. I’m thinking in particular about games that allow you to re-lock balls (this has happened to me in league play on both 24 and Stern Playboy) — I’ve only saved face in this situation by conferring (quietly) with other more knowledgable players nearby.

Assuming you’re in a tournament I can think of a lot more reasons you wouldn’t do this: because your move will attract attention, because this penalty is aggressively enforced with loss of game and no new game, because you risk tilting, and because you might hurt yourself. None of those risks apply to the stuck ball case.

Flippant but yes this is this point. I, in this hypothetical situation am a huge asshole. What happens to me? I get to go home knowing I was an asshole? That’s it? There has to be a better way to rule on this, right?

Yes and that second sentence doesn’t look so bad. “May” apply. Then in the other paragraphs I may get some points deducted from my score. I may be asked to play a new game. There are situations where this is not particularly undesirable.

I had this happen in a tournament last week that I was TD of. The player is inexperienced along with the rest of his group. I came up to watch and they all commented that he had a ball stuck during multiball and was still playing his multiball. None of them knew of the rule. I just explained to them that we need to free the stuck ball and I said that to the player. He trapped up, jostled the game and it spit it out of Genes head like it was supposed to earlier. Play on.

Assuming the player know exactly how the game is supposed to operate, I think it’s on them to not be an asshole and try to get the ball loose or trap up and call someone over.

Assuming they are green(or don’t know the game) and don’t know that they are getting a beneficial malfunction it’s on the rest of the group to let the TD know.

Assuming everyone around said beneficial malfunction knows nothing about this rule, hope that the TD is just randomly walking by and notices. Haha


[quote=“timballs, post:16, topic:2533”]
I, in this hypothetical situation am a huge asshole. What happens to me? I get to go home knowing I was an asshole?[/quote]

Pinball karma points deducted from your soul . . . and being known as one of “those people” :wink:


Maybe this is the point i am missing…

There is a real point in time when the ball gets stuck. There are various points in time where someone might notice it is stuck. This can range from immediately until after multiball is over. The penalty does NOT seem to be there to reconcile the difference in points between when the ball became stuck and when normal play resumed, but a way to deter a player from “being an asshole and exploiting the situation.” Thus, If I were doing this it would be valid for a TD to assess a penalty to me, but not to a far less experienced player.