Yellow Cards, behavior and penalties

Wanted to start a fresh thread since we have been talking about it a lot in the other thread about BPO.

One of the things that I would like to do more personally and see in more tournaments is more swift dealing with bad behavior. However, I feel like one of the problems in pinball is that we don’t typically have refs that watch the games/players and as such often it’s other players that it’s up to to notify TDs/refs about bad behavior.

Most people don’t wanna ‘tell’ on others and/or be “that guy/girl” to call someone out so that’s one barrier. Then if the TD doesn’t see something they can take the word of the player but where is this line? In theory someone could lie about some harassment or other such bad behavior which in itself is probably yellow-card worthy.

Often a TD will have to keep an eye out (while doing a bunch of other things) so it’s a tough situation on the TDs too, who I am pretty sure don’t really want to deal with those type of situations. I know I don’t like dealing with that type of stuff at my tournies (though I usually have my yellow/red card kit in my back pocket just in case)…

Also, if a yellow card is handed out earlier during bad behavior then hopefully it’ll slow it down or stop it and at the least the player has been officially warned. Often things go on for so long before it’s brought to a TDs attention that the player can be surprised that they are being called out…


This. I think this is very effective concept. I used to referee soccer at the club-select level, high school level, and adult club teams. (I was certainly not at the level of reffing pro, semi-pro, or collegiate games) Whenever I’d ref a game, during the pre-game huddle with the team captains, I’d let them know that the game would be called tight, particularly when it came to card-worthy infractions. And if there were any of those infractions toward the beginning of the game, the card(s) would come out. Games typically went much more smoothly and less physically aggressive/dangerous.

I’m always perplexed by what I see in FIFA-level matches where a ref doesn’t administer cards for the same level of foul or dissent in the early portions of the game (typically, too lenient) than later in the game, when the game has gotten somewhat out of control, and players are pushing the bounds of what they can get away with.

I think the same goes for officiating pinball (and other sports). Actions of the officials speak loudly. Players will take notice and adjust their behavior accordingly. So the earlier bad behavior is curbed, the better.


I watched the episode of How the game is played last night that followed Tadman and Becker during the IFPA championships. It is clear the IFPA does not consider language to be an issue.

However that glass punch was something else. If that happened during an event I was running, I don’t think it would be a yellow card, it would ejection. Then afterwards he talks about how he needed to do that to get himself back in the game and it was worth the yellow card.

I feel it is an accurate portrayal of how things are enforced, but does not leave a good impression.


I’d like to see “bad behavior” quantified a bit more. The yellow/red card system is good, but not when the criteria is vague. When it’s not enforced consistently, it loses a bit of effectiveness.


If language is going to be something that will result in a yellow, is it only for swearing? What about screaming? What about self-deprecating talk?

If machine abuse warrants a yellow, is it just glass and lockbar punching? What about rage tilts? What about leg-kicking?

And so on.

Then you have the issue of someone actually witnessing a violation. A few times I’ve been accused of abusing a machine because of my titanium wedding ring - if I just kind of bring my hand down on the lockdown bar at the right angle, the ring will smack it and make a very audible noise. I’ve even been accused of smacking the glass after a particularly energetic airball during normal play.

So while I love the idea of curbing bad behavior through a card system, I am wary that it can ever be done uniformly and fairly unless you basically dedicate a TD to watching the players for this specific purpose.


Screaming cuss words is definite yellow card. Saying cuss words isn’t imo as I doubt any other people would even hear it. I’m more concerned about loud negative outbursts of any kind that make the room uncomfortable and make the tournament look bad.

Fair game assuming it’s nothing vulgar. I think this can lighten up a stuffy crowd.

Machine abuse is a definite yelllw card and that includes rage tilts. If you’re not actively playing the game or it’s deemed that your aggressive actions were not done to legitimately save a ball, that’s abuse. Abuse can also be considered if you slide a game and crash it into a wall or another machine. Hopefully they are setup to stop this though. I’ve issued a yellow card to someone from slamming the lockbar after hitting a big jackpot.

If someone reports it to me, I’ll be on high alert on that particular player. But It would be hard for me to rule anything until I witnessed it myself. Except of course if I was out of the room and came back and there is an overwhelming group of witnesses that report it. Then I would feel confident in what occurred and rule accordingly.

Imo the yellow card is there so that every single player has one shot at being completely clear on where the TD stands on these issues. Also publically listing the TD’s stance on bad behavior to start with.


:point_up: :point_up: :point_up: For me, it is far less about the content of the outburst than it is about the volume and attitude. Aggro rage yelling, whether it involves epithets or not, is not something I am comfortable with as a person or as a TD.

I also think that without a level of conduct enforcement, players can develop bad habits where they start yelling and swearing whenever they drain, not just in competition. This can damage the local pinball community’s relationship with locations and operators, and it can discourage potential pinball converts from seeking out additional opportunities to play if their first encounter with someone taking pinball seriously is an uncomfortable one.


I don’t want to tell anyone because I am afraid of being called a big ol’ hypocrite. I know I have done bad/dumb things and am actively striving to fix it, but outside the realm of Pinburgh its hard to bring anything to attention, especially given the fact that I wish to be non-confrontational and my history.

It’s even hard to talk about specific things from my perspective of climbing out of the ditch because I’m always nervous about that “takes one to know one,” or “you’re just making excuses” response.


This is another reason why I don’t like TDs participating in larger events.


We don’t :wink:

I’ve been told by players, both live and online, that I can’t reasonably give yellow cards as a TD because I have previously received a yellow card as a player. I will never understand that logic.


Then there’s @pinwizj who gives HIMSELF yellow cards :wink:


Uhhhhhhh. What?

Maybe that’s why John McEnroe isn’t a judge. :wink:

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He looks vaguely judge-y here…


I think the idea of the yellow card (enforcement) is separate from the idea of behavior (violation).

Discussion over “if” it should be applied is a question of judging behavior… not the enforcement system.

The only vagueness the card system adds is because there are two levels of violations, where the major can be applied without accumulating a minor first.

I’m in the process of writing the rules for an event I’ll be running shortly. I plan to include the following:

All events will use the combined IFPA/PAPA Ruleset, found here:

Warning System

In order to enforce section “III. Player Conduct” of the rules, a formal warning system will be in place. There will be three levels: Danger, Double Danger, and Tilt.

A Tilt results in ejection from the tournament. If the violation is sufficient enough to be a “Slam Tilt”, the player’s results with be voided. However, if the Tilt is a result of repeated violations as opposed to one particularly egregious one, the results will be allowed to stand, but the player will no longer be able to compete.

Certain behaviour, such as hitting the glass, will result in an immediate Double Danger.

At the time that the penalty is issued, the player will be advised whether it is a “game-ending” penalty or a “ball-ending” penalty.

Game-ending penalties do not expire and will stand for the remainder of the tournament.

Ball-ending penalties can expire if there are no additional warnings within a period of time to be specified at the time of issuance.


  • A player who loudly swears may earn a ball-ending Danger.
  • A player who interferes with another player may earn a game-ending Danger, depending on the level of interference.
  • A player who slaps the glass out of frustration will earn a Double Danger. Previous violations will dictate whether it is a ball-ending or game-ending offence.

The degree of penalty is at the exclusive discretion of the Tournament Director.

Any feedback is welcome!

Don’t try to be cute in rules - it just fogs the view of things. I mean, it’s fun, but just makes it harder for everyone involved.

Don’t try to create rules that require elaborate tracking/status/work to actual enforce.

I think your system also makes it hard to be objective over. You have effectively major and minor penalties… which is fine and good… but you’re adding in additional elements of ‘the judge decides…’ on the actual punishment. This makes it hard to maintain objectivity and clarity.

What if the TD is friendly with one person and not with another… and decides to give a longer “time out” to the non-friend than the friend? And people point that out as favoritism. It is much better to remove that possibility than it is to try to defend that it didn’t happen.

I think you’ve made a nice story, but it’s way too complex for what it needs to be.

A simple system that is

  • a verbal warning - lets ppl know they are near the limits…
  • a minor infraction - lets ppl know they’ve crossed the limit…
  • a major infraction - for when things need immediate, final repercussions…

Is all a rules set really needs, IMO, is one that says a major or a combination of minors results in the punishment desired (ejection, zero’d or whatever).


Naming the rules and infractions after actual pinball terms is clever, but makes them very difficult to understand.


mines more personal and to the point:

No bad behavior!!
I do not want to see anyone doing anything to the machines after a drain. Rage tilting, punch lockbars, coindoors, hitting cabinets, etc. that I deem to not be an attempt to actively save a live ball, you will receive a warning for the first offense. Second offense your day will be done. Also, this goes for disrespecting other players. Everyone be respectful to one another. We have a great group playing, so i doubt we have an issue with this. Just a reminder. It will be crowded, people will bump into you while playing most likely. Let it go. Do not let things distract you. Embrace the distractions and you will play better! Also, no loud negative outbursts. Taunt the game, talk to yourself, be lighthearted about it, but do not have these immature displays of negativity and outbursts of F bombs. It makes others uncomfortable and it is unsportsmanlike.

We also reserve the right to go straight to an ejection if we feel the infraction is serious enough.


@chuckwurt you hit it all on the head:

  • examples of bad behavior and things you shouldn’t do
  • respect your fellow competitor
  • 2 strikes and out policy
  • incidental “interference” is a thing, deal with it instead of punishing fun/accidents
  • no Sopranos Multiball frenzy