PAPA 16: Official Rules

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PAPA 16 is the World Pinball Championship event operated by the Professional and Amateur Pinball Association (PAPA). This document specifies the official operating rules and regulations of the event.

The event coordinators for PAPA 16 are Kevin Martin, Mark Steinman, Elizabeth Cromwell, and Douglas Polka. Event coordinators organize volunteers, designate scorekeepers, handle malfunctions and rulings, delegate responsibilities and authority, and otherwise work to ensure the smooth operation of the tournament. Event coordinators and designated officials may participate in the tournament, but their entries will automatically be considered void at all times, and they are not eligible to participate in any final rounds or to receive prizes of any kind.

Table of Contents

I. Quick Overview

PAPA tournament rules are quite lengthy and detailed. They reflect the experience of many years of tournament and league play, under many different systems. The principles are simple, however.

The majority of the tournament consists of qualifying rounds for singles players. During these rounds, each player may make as many qualifying attempts as he or she likes, within a single division chosen according to skill. Attempts may also be made in the special divisions (Classics and Juniors/Seniors), separately from qualifying attempts in the A, B, and C divisions.

Each qualifying attempt consists of play on a set of machines the player selects from those available in the division. The player's performance on those machines is ranked and a composite score is determined. The highest composite scores within each division will advance to the final rounds.

In the final rounds, qualifying players play against each other in multiplayer games. A point system is used to determine who advances to the next round and, ultimately, who wins the division.

There are also mini-tournaments and other miscellaneous activities. Complete details are available here in the official rules, as well as on the Web site

II. Singles Competition

1. Divisions of Play

For singles play, there are six divisions of play. Three of these are skill divisions; each player may enter only one of these. There are also two special divisions which may be entered independently of the skill divisions. The six divisions are:

  • C Division - Novice players, who are casual, first-time, or relatively inexperienced.
  • B Division - Intermediate players, usually with league or tournament experience, or any player seeking a greater challenge or reward.
  • A Division - Expert players, such as league or tournament champions.
  • Classics Division - All machines used in this division were manufactured no later than 1986, and may use electromechanical rather than electronic features. The Classics Division runs on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday as three separate events.
  • Juniors Division - Players in this division must be no older than 16 years of age, as of the last day of the tournament.
  • Seniors Division - Players in this division must be no younger than 50 years of age, as of the last day of the tournament.
Please note that there is intentionally no women's division; women are free to participate in any division on equal footing with male players - pinball is not track & field! Note also that the Juniors and Seniors Divisions will share the same bank of machines during qualifying and final rounds. Other divisions will not normally share machines.

All players, winning or not, grant PAPA, Pinball Bug LP, Replay Foundation, and any and all other event sponsors and organizers, individual and collective, the right to use their names, scores, and likenesses for the purpose of promoting this tournament as well as other pinball-related events. This right is transferable without restriction.

2. Skill Division Restrictions

Each registered player must choose only one skill division in which to play. A player may choose to move to a higher skill division, automatically voiding all entries in lower divisions (no refunds are provided), but no player may move to a lower division without special permission from tournament officials.

The following restrictions are designed to discourage any player from intentionally competing beneath his or her level of skill:

  • Any player who has placed in the top four of the B or C division at the finals of any previous PAPA or pre-2004 Pinburgh tournament must enter the next higher division in their next PAPA tournament. If the player fails to qualify in the higher division, he or she may return to the original lower division in the following year.
  • Any player who has qualified in the A or B division of any previous PAPA or pre-2004 Pinburgh tournament may not enter a lower division in subsequent tournaments.
  • Any player who has placed in the top four of the A or B division at a post-2010 Pinburgh tournament must enter that division or higher at their next PAPA tournament.
  • Any player who has placed in the top four (or three, if only three players are ranked as winners) in any skill division of any other major pinball competition (e.g. Pinball Expo, IFPA, California Extreme, etc) may not enter the C division at PAPA.
  • Any player who has not qualified in five or more years may, at the discretion of tournament officials, be allowed to enter a lower division. If any such player demonstrates an inappropriately high level of skill for that division, he or she will be required to move up to a higher division.
  • At the discretion of the tournament officials, any player may be required to move to a higher division based on his or her performance or past league or tournament standings.
  • Any player who plays in more than one skill division will not be allowed to void their first entry in the higher division. Non-voided entries are used by the automated scoring system to establish which division is valid for each player.
  • No player may move to a higher division after noon on Saturday, in order to prevent sudden shifts in standings late in the qualifying process.

3. Fees

A one-time $5 registration fee is required of each player who wishes to compete in any division. Registration is not required to play mini-tournaments, to play non-tournament machines, or to simply watch. Each registered player receives an identifying number and this number is used to track his or her subsequent play.

Registration does not include entries in any division; each entry is sold for an additional fee. Coupons for entries may be included with registration packages or available from special events. All players who reside outside of the United States and travel to the tournament to register as a player will receive one free entry coupon. Coupons for entries must be redeemed at the registration desk.

Players may enter in their chosen division(s) as many times as they like. No player may have more than two unplayed entries outstanding at any time. Each day of qualifying will have a published cut-off time, beyond which no entry may be started, and a further cut-off time, beyond which no new game may be played. Outstanding entries at the second cut-off time will be voided and refunded.

The fees for each entry are:

  • C Division - $10
  • B Division - $15
  • A Division - $20
  • Classics Division - $15
  • Juniors Division - $10
  • Seniors Division - $10
Any entry left unplayed or uncompleted at the end of qualifying rounds will be voided and refunded. Entries that are intentionally unplayed or otherwise left incomplete through no fault of the tournament will not necessarily be refunded.

4. Prizes

The tournament features a guaranteed package of cash prizes. In the event of an overrun beyond expenses, excess revenue will fund the operations of the non-profit Replay Foundation, which contracts PAPA to operate events.

The guaranteed prize package for each division is as follows.

A B C Classics I + II + III Juniors Seniors
1st Place $10,000 $4,000 $1,000 $1,000 + $1,000 + $1,000 $500 $500 and trophy
2nd Place $4,000 $2,000 $500 $500 + $500 + $500 $300 $300 and plaque
3rd Place $2,000 $1,000 $300 $300 + $300 + $300 $200 $200 and plaque
4th Place $1,000 $500 $200 $200 + $200 + $200 $100 $100 and plaque
5th-8th Place $350 $250 $100 $100 + $100 + $100 $50 $50
9th-16th Place $150 $125 $50 $50 + $50 + $50
Top Qualifier $500 $250 $100 $150 $50 $50
Target Scores $100 Prizes for Specific One-Day Scores, to be announced
Total Prize Package: $45,000+!

The winner of the A Division will also receive the title "World Pinball Champion". This title remains in effect until the next annual PAPA tournament, or will expire after two years if PAPA tournaments are discontinued.

Other non-cash prizes may be awarded for special competitions, door prizes, top scores on certain qualifying machines, top scores on non-tournament machines, etc, at the sole discretion of tournament officials. Cash prizes may be paid by check in lieu of cash, and appropriate IRS regulations for tax reporting will be followed. In the event the winner is not a U.S. Citizen, we will provide the appropriate forms.

III. Singles: Qualifying Rounds

1. Purchasing entries

Before purchasing any entries, players must be registered. A registered player may purchase qualifying round entries in one or more appropriate divisions (at most one skill division, plus special divisions if eligible). Each purchased entry is specific to one division. Players should keep their registered player number handy for use when purchasing entries. Up to two entries may be purchased at a time by a player, although no more than two entries may be outstanding. Any coupons for free entries must be redeemed at the registration desk.

Entries will not be sold for any division beyond the posted time, nor will entries be sold for the Classics Division except when it is operating. Entries are non-refundable unless by special permission or as described herein.

2. Playing an entry

When a player is ready to play a qualifying round entry, he or she approaches the bank of machines designated for the division corresponding to the entry. The player will select the appropriate subset of those machines to be played for the qualifying entry. The exact counts of machines in each bank and machines to be selected per entry may vary from division to division and from tournament to tournament. A typical example might be a bank of nine machines, from which five are selected for each entry.

No machine may be selected more than once on a single entry. The player will line up behind the machine he or she wants to play. When it is the player's turn, he or she will signal for a scorekeeper who will take down the player's number. At no time may the player begin play on any machine without being instructed to do so by the scorekeeper. Players may, of course, select a different set of machines for each qualifying entry.

After playing each game, the player will request that the scorekeeper record his or her score before leaving the machine. It is the player's responsibility to ensure that the scorekeeper takes down the score, and to verify the score for correctness prior to submission.

When all games for the entry have been completed, the player must submit the entry by pressing the "COMPLETE/SAVE THIS TICKET" button.

At any point during play or immediately after play has been completed, the player may elect to abandon his or her entry by notifying the scorekeeper. The player would then press the "VOID THIS TICKET" button. This will void all scores recorded so far for the entry, and the entry will not be entered into the scoring system except as a "void", which does not affect scoring in any way. No money will be refunded, but the player has no further obligation to complete his or her entry. Once all games have been completed and the "COMPLETE/SAVE" button pressed, the void option is no longer available for that entry.

Players who begin an entry must remain present to complete the entry, except in cases of logistical challenges or emergency conditions.

3. Scoring

All scores posted on a particular machine, including multiple entries from individual players, are maintained in a ranking. Point values are assigned to each position in this ranking. The overall score of a particular entry is the total of the point values assigned to its ranked scores on the selected machines for that entry. Because the rankings will change as new scores are posted on each machine, the overall score of each entry may change as the qualifying rounds progress.

It is important to note that each entry is scored separately from other entries, based on the sum of the point values for the ranking of its scores on the selected machines. Each entry a player completes has its own score, and there is no consistent way to compile a score based on "best of" results, nor is this the intent of the tournament system. The intent is to reward consistently good play within a single entry. Players should be aware that on each entry, they are also competing with their own previous entries on the selected machines. Remember that a player may void an entry at any time during its play, but once an entry is submitted as complete, it may not be voided by the player for any reason.

In the event of two or more scores on a machine being exactly tied, the highest point value of the tied positions will be awarded for each such score.

There are no scoring normalizers or other adjustments. Scores cannot be compared across divisions. As the qualifying rounds progress, players may wish to adjust their choice of qualifying machines according to the scores already posted, as well as their personal skills and preferences.

The rank of the player's result on each machine contributes the following points to the score for that entry.

Rank Score
1st 100 points
2nd 90
3rd 85
4th down to 87th 84 down to 1
Tournament officials will provide up-to-date scores and rankings at all times, using a projected screen. The up-to-date scores and rankings are also available on the Web site at all times. Detailed results for every scored entry are also available online.

4. Scoring Example

A player purchases a qualifying entry in the B Division, and is assigned an entry number of 2058. She plays five of the nine available machines, and the scorekeeper records her scores. At the time the entry is completed, her scores are ranked in the 3rd, 13th, 7th, 98th, and 31st positions on the five selected machines. Her total score for entry 2058 is therefore 85+75+81+0+57 = 298. This score may change as other entries are played, by this player or other players. For example, at the end of qualifying, the scores for this entry may only rank 8th, 21st, 9th, 121st, and 35th, providing a total score of 80+67+79+0+53 = 279.

Note that barring the correction of errors in scoring data or the removal of a player from competition in the division, the total score for any qualifying entry can only remain the same or decrease as new entries are played; it can never increase.

IV. Singles: Final Rounds

1. Advancing to Finals

When qualifying rounds have been completed, a final calculation of entry scores will be made. Those scores will be ranked, and the top unique players in each division will advance to the final rounds. Only the highest entry score of each player will be considered. No player may qualify in more than one skill division.

The determination of final qualifying standings will be made by tournament officials at the end of qualifying on Saturday night, and shall not be changed for any reason, including player error or tournament error.

The number of qualifying slots which will advance to the final rounds is partly dependent upon the number of players competing. At a minimum, each division will take the top eight qualifiers to the final rounds. This may expand to nine, twelve, sixteen, or other numbers as determined by tournament officials. The final decision on expanding the number of qualifiers in each division will be made no later than 11 pm on the Friday night of the tournament. In the event that any chosen number of qualifiers does not match the groupings described in these rules (for 6, 8, 9, 12, or 16 players), the groupings will be posted at the time of the decision.

Finals in each division will consist of a semifinal round and a final round, unless twelve or more qualifiers are playing, in which case a quarterfinal round may be employed.

There is no bye for the top-ranked player, but the top qualifier in each skill division (A, B, and C), as ranked at the end of qualifying play Saturday night, will receive a cash prize. Note also that qualifying position determines the seeding in final rounds, as well as choice of machine or order of play.

In the event a qualifying player is not available, he or she will be skipped in the ranking as if he or she had not qualified. Upon discovering at any point (before finals play or during finals play) that a player is not present, tournament officials will make a specific announcement for that player, allowing at least ten minutes but no more than twenty minutes, for that player to appear. Substitutions or late arrivals are not allowed. Any player who is missing for twenty minutes or longer, in total, will receive no further accommodations for absence or tardiness, and his or her ball will be plunged by the scorekeeper.

No player shall be allowed to play in the finals of more than one division, if those finals occur at the same time. Any player who qualifies in two divisions with a scheduling conflict must select only one finals round in which to compete.

In the event that two or more players are tied on the qualifying bubble, such that not all of the tied players can advance to the final rounds, a tiebreaking procedure will be utilized. A single game will be played on a machine selected by tournament officials from the qualifying bank of the division. The tied players will play, in randomly determined order, in a multiplayer game on the selected machine, and will subsequently be ranked in the order of their scores on that game. If more players are tied than the selected machine will support in a single game, multiple games will be played to accommodate all tied players, in randomly determined order, and the resulting scores will be compared as if they had occurred in a single game on the same machine.

Player groups in a tiebreaker will be arranged breadth-first so that each group is of similar, but descending, size. For example, five players will be arranged as a group of three and a group of two, rather than a group of four and a solo player. Nine players would be arranged as three groups of three.

In the event that two or more players are tied but are not on the qualifying bubble, a simpler tiebreaking procedure will be used in order to save time. Each player's best qualifying entry will be examined, in order to establish a total score on the machines played on that entry. The player with the highest score total will be given the highest seeding, proceeding through all tied players, in descending order of score totals. Players will not be given a choice of seeding groups.

In the event that an affected player has multiple qualifying entries that add up to the same qualifying score, the entry with the highest total of machine scores will be used for tiebreaking purposes. In the event of multiple groups of ties, the seeding of each group of tied players will be resolved in descending order of qualifying rank.

2. Top Qualifier Shootout

The Top Qualifier Shootout has been eliminated, starting with PAPA 12.

3. Machines Chosen

The machines used for final rounds in each division will be designated before the beginning of the final rounds of play. This designation will be determined solely by tournament officials, and may include in each division machines that were not utilized in the qualifying rounds for that division, as well as machines not previously utilized in the tournament at all. There will be at least four machines available in each division, and quite likely more.

All games played in the final rounds are treated as three-player or four-player. In the event a machine being utilized does not support enough simultaneous players, multiple games will be played on the same machine, with playing order preference going by original seeding as usual, and the resulting scores will be compared as if a single multiplayer game had been played.

Before the first rounds of finals begin, each qualified player may play for no more than 30 seconds on each machine available in their division. This allows players to obtain a feel for certain machine features such as kickouts. Any player who notices problems with a machine at this time must notify tournament officials. This warm-up period is not available in the Classics divisions.

In order to enforce the 30-second limit per machine during this warm-up period, the scorekeeper for the division will announce that players must relinquish their machine. Players who do not cooperate will no longer be allowed to participate in the warm-up.

4. Quarterfinal Rounds

A quarterfinal round may be employed only if twelve or more qualifiers are playing in a division. Tournament officials may choose to skip this round even with twelve or more qualifiers.

In the quarterfinal rounds, the qualifiers in each division will be divided into three or four groups as follows:

12 Qualifiers 16 Qualifiers
Group 1 #1, #6, #7, #12 #1, #8, #9, #16
Group 2 #2, #5, #8, #11 #2, #7, #10, #15
Group 3 #3, #4, #9, #10 #3, #6, #11, #14
Group 4 n/a #4, #5, #12, #13
Each group will play three separate four-player games, each on a different machine from among those designated for that division.

Each four-player game will be scored as follows:

Rank Score
1st 4
2nd 2
3rd 1
4th 0
Three-player games will be scored as if a nonexistent fourth player received the 4th place finish (i.e., 1st earns 4 points, 2nd earns 2, and last earns 1).

In the event of two or more scores on a machine being exactly tied, the players with such scores will immediately play a tiebreaker game, on the same machine, unless another machine is selected by tournament officials.

The group that contains the highest-seeded player gets first choice of machine and order of play. The highest-seeded player within each group may choose either the machine to be played, or the order of play. If the highest-seeded player chooses order of play, the remaining players may choose their order, in descending order of seeding, and choice of machine then goes to the next highest-seeded player in the group. Conversely, if the highest-seeded player chooses the machine to be played, then the next highest-seeded player chooses the order of play, with the remaining players choosing order of play in decreasing order of seeding.

If at any point a high-seed player declines to make a choice, the choice is deferred to the next highest-seeded player, as appropriate. The affected group still retains its order of choice among groups, however. If no player in a group will make a choice, the choice(s) are determined by tournament officials, who may or may not choose randomly.

Note that the original seeding of players when entering the final rounds from qualifying is used in every round. At no time does a player's seeding change from round to round; therefore the advantage of qualifying in first place can be significant.

No group may select a machine which has already been selected by a group in the same round, nor may they choose a machine on which they have already played in that round (unless machine malfunctions have made this unavoidable; tournament officials may choose to provide additional or substitute machines, however). If the machine selected is currently being played by another group in a previous round of play, the group may wait for that round of play to be completed. For example, if one group is playing a given machine as their first machine, a different group may choose to wait for it as their second machine.

Final rounds for Juniors and Seniors divisions are played on the same bank of machines; when selecting machines, the highest-seeded group in Juniors will choose before the highest-seeded group in Seniors, proceeding in decreasing order of seeding and alternating between divisions. At no time, however, will either division be required to wait for the other division to complete the same number of rounds, unless there are no eligible machines available.

In the event too few machines are available during any round of play, the group(s) with the lowest high-seed players will be forced to wait until a game becomes available. As soon as a game becomes available, as indicated by the scorekeeper, the next highest-seeded group must begin play on that machine. In this situation, choice of order of play will be made by the highest-seed player in the group (unless that player declines, as described above).

When all three games have been completed by a group, each player will have a point total for the quarterfinal rounds in their division. If there were originally twelve qualifiers, players with the six best point totals overall will advance to semifinals. If there were sixteen qualifiers, players with the eight best point totals overall will advance.

Significant ties between players at the end of the semifinal round will be resolved by one tiebreaking game on a machine selected randomly by tournament officials from among the machines used in that semifinal round. Note that a tie is only significant if it affects whether or not a player will advance to the final round. Insignificant ties, such as between 2nd and 3rd, do not require a tiebreaking game, except, of course, in the final round.

In a tiebreaking game, the highest-seeded player has choice of order of play, proceeding in descending order of seeding. If more players are tied in one group than the selected machine will support in a single game, players will play in groups (or singly, if the machine is single-play) arranged by their selected order of play. The resulting scores will be compared as if they had occurred in a single game on the same machine. Player groups in a tiebreaker will be arranged breadth-first so that each group is of similar, but descending, size. For example, five players will be arranged as a group of three and a group of two, rather than a group of four and a solo player. Nine players would be arranged as three groups of three. In every case, the highest-seeded player will have choice of group and order of play, proceeding in descending order of seeding.

If more than one group of players are tied, the machine is chosen for the group with the highest-ranking tie first, and that machine is not available for random selection in lower groups. All such tied groups will play their tiebreaking games in parallel. In the unlikely event of an exact scoring tie on the tiebreaking game, only those affected players will play another tiebreaking game, on another randomly selected game, under the same rules.

5. Semifinal Rounds

For the semifinal rounds in each division, the qualifiers in each division (or players advancing from quarterfinals, if those were played) will be divided into two to four groups of three or four, as necessary depending on the number of qualifiers. The groups will be organized according to the original qualifying rank as shown here:

# Qualifiers: 6 8 9
Group 1 #1, #4, #5 #1, #4, #5, #8 #1, #6, #7
Group 2 #2, #3, #6 #2, #3, #6, #7 #2, #5, #8
Group 3 n/a n/a #3, #4, #9
Group 4 n/a n/a n/a
Each group will play three separate three-player or four-player games, each on a different machine from among those designated for that division. All scoring and rules for this round are as described in section IV.4, "Quarterfinal Rounds".

Players with the top four point totals in each division, regardless of which group they played in, shall advance to the final round of that division. Only four players will advance to the final round in each division, regardless of the number of players competing in the semifinal round.

6. Final Rounds

In each division, four players advance to the final round. The final round for each division is conducted in the same manner as the semifinal round. The total scores for this round will determine the ordering of winners in each division. Tiebreaking in the final round will be determined in the same fashion as in the previous rounds, with the exception that all ties are considered significant.

Unless otherwise determined by tournament officials, the same machines will be used in the final rounds as the previous rounds.

7. Winners

Winners will receive cash prizes as cash or check during an awards ceremony shortly following the conclusion of all final rounds on Sunday. Winners need not be present to receive prizes; prizes will be supplied via postal mail if necessary. All taxes are the sole responsibility of winners. Certain tax forms may need to be completed, as directed by tournament officials. All decisions by tournament officials regarding winners and prizes are final. Please note that tournament officials are excluded from receiving any cash prizes.

8. Classics Division

The final rounds of the Classics I, II, and III divisions, as played on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings of the tournament, will utilize the final rounds format of the A/B/C divisions.

Qualifiers will play in quarterfinal and/or semifinal rounds in order to advance to a final round of four players, as described in sections IV.4 through IV.6. All rules used for the A/B/C divisions will be utilized, except for the warm-up period. Tiebreakers will be used to advance to the final round and to establish final results, as necessary. All games will be played on the same bank of Classics machines, with machines optionally added or removed at the discretion of tournament officials.

In the event that a selected machine supports fewer than four players, the players will play multiple one-player or two-player games in turn, with the resulting scores being compared as if a four-player game had been played.

Machines used in Classics play may include extra balls and/or five-ball play. In this division alone, these features may be utilized by the player unless otherwise posted. Classics players should also be aware that some machines end gameplay entirely for a Tilt (similar to modern games' Slam Tilt), that scoring mechanisms can malfunction (this is handled as minor, major, or beneficial, depending on the situation), that in some cases features that resemble pop bumpers and slingshots are not powered, and that some older machines employ gobble holes which end the current ball in play.

Winners for each day of Classics competition will receive their awards promptly and do not need to wait until the awards ceremony on Sunday. We appreciate everyone's understanding of the unique challenges and limitations of using older machines for a competitive tournament.

V. Doubles Play

For logistical reasons, there are currently no plans to feature doubles play at PAPA this year. There may be unofficial team competitions held on non-tournament machines; if this occurs, further information will be available at the registration desk.

As always, we encourage anyone attending PAPA to play challenge matches to be entered in the PAPA Advanced Rating System; scoresheets for this purpose will be available at the front desk.

VI. Other Competitions

1. Mini-Tournaments

In 2013, we will not be operating any of the traditional mini-tournaments. There will instead be a charity tournament running on Friday on the new Wizard of Oz machine from Jersey Jack Pinball. Details will be available on-site.

2. Target Scores

On any given day of the tournament (except Sunday), tournament officials may choose to post a set of target scores for certain qualifying machines. The first player to reach any target score while qualifying, regardless of whether or not the entry is voided, will be awarded $100 cash. Target scores expire at the end of the day and are only awarded to the first player to exceed the score.

3. Door Prizes

Other door prizes and/or random drawings may be offered as tournament officials see fit.

VII. Malfunctions and Rulings

1. The Nature of Pinball

The unique charm of pinball lies, in large part, in the physical nature of the game. Unfortunately, this means that unusual events and outright malfunctions cannot be prevented, nor can they be perfectly compensated for. PAPA attempts to strike a balance between compensating for malfunctions and accepting the physical nature of the game.

In certain cases, malfunctions will be dealt with more strictly during final rounds than during qualifying rounds, at the discretion of tournament officials.

2. Minor Malfunctions

A minor malfunction is any incident without external cause which deviates from the normal course of gameplay, without directly causing a player's loss of turn and without providing any player a significant advantage over others. A minor malfunction is considered part of normal play. Tournament officials shall determine what constitutes a significant advantage; in the event that such an advantage is obtained, refer to "Beneficial Malfunctions".

A minor malfunction that occurs repeatedly, to the extent that it is markedly affecting play of the machine, may be considered a major malfunction at the sole discretion of tournament officials. If a player receives a tilt warning caused inadvertently by another player's action, this is considered normal play. Any player deliberately nudging to take advantage of this rule will be disqualified.

3. Major Malfunctions

A major malfunction is a gameplay problem with a machine that results in the premature loss of ball in play in a fashion that is not a normal feature of the machine's gameplay. These may be unusual one-time events, or they may indicate a recurring problem that will need to be addressed by technicians.

Examples of major malfunctions include:

  • The bonus count begins while the ball is still in play. This can happen if, for example, the machine loses track of how many balls are in the drain trough.
  • A flipper or other major playfield feature ceases to function.

Note that unrepeated physical failures, such as kickbacks or balls jumping off ramps, do not qualify as major malfunctions. On the flip side, unrepeated beneficial malfunctions such as a ball bouncing back into play, or passing through the trough, are also allowed. This is the physical nature of pinball.

Any malfunction that results in the loss of one or more balls during multiball play, without losing all balls so as to end the player's turn, will only be considered a minor malfunction. Loss of Tilt warnings, without loss of ball, shall not be considered a major malfunction. Loss of any lit feature, running mode, or other gameplay specifics, shall not be considered a major malfunction.

When a major malfunction occurs, it is the player's responsibility to notify the scorekeeper, calmly and promptly. The scorekeeper will request advice from a tournament official. If the official(s) agree that the incident is a major malfunction, the player will be provided with one additional ball of play at the beginning of a new game, after the current game has been completed. No attempt will be made to re-establish the state of the machine at the time of the major malfunction. The player's total score on the additional ball of play will be added to his or her previous score, and the new game will be terminated.

At the request of the player, if and only if a tournament official approves, the major malfunction may instead be handled as follows. The current game will be terminated and the score recorded. A new game will be started, and after the appropriate number of balls have been played in the new game, the new score will be added to the old score to determine the player's total score, and the new game will be terminated. This approach is functionally similar to the previous paragraph, but may afford different strategic opportunities to the player. In no event will a player be allowed to abuse this rule through intentionally seeking a major malfunction.

If a major malfunction occurs early in the play of the first ball by the first player, tournament officials may rule that the current game is voided and the score discarded. Machine repairs will be attempted and the player(s) will restart their play without needing to track the previous score.

In the event that two or more major malfunctions take place during the same game, the current scores of the player(s) will be recorded, and the game terminated. Once the machine has been repaired, players will be provided additional ball(s) of play on a new game, as necessary to provide the correct number of balls of play for each player. Alternatively, tournament officials may choose to allow the affected player(s) to replay the game from scratch, and the higher score for each player will be recorded as his or her official score, except in any case where the original score was unfairly improved by the malfunction or was significantly increased during attempts to investigate or cure the malfunction. In the event that a recurring major malfunction cannot suitably be repaired, the failure must be treated as a catastrophic malfunction.

Under certain specific conditions, a major malfunction may be declined by the player. This must be approved by the tournament official, and must not result in a situation which provides an unfair advantage to the player.

4. Known Malfunctions

Any malfunction or unusual behavior that is determined to be relatively minor but unusual enough to merit comment may, at the discretion of tournament officials, be posted for players to be aware of before playing the affected machine. Players who have played the machine before this notice is provided will not be allowed to replay the machine nor to replace it with play of another machine. The occurrence of any posted malfunction will be treated as a minor malfunction unless it worsens or interacts with another feature to yield a major malfunction.

5. Catastrophic Malfunctions

A catastrophic malfunction is any event, not caused by a player, which immediately ends play for all players on the machine.

Examples of catastrophic malfunctions include:

  • The game system crashes and/or resets due to a software error or component failure.
  • Power is lost or interrupted.
  • A new game starts.
  • A major malfunction repeatedly recurs in spite of attempts to repair the machine.
Any event caused by a player, intentionally or unintentionally, including Slam Tilts, is covered under "Player Errors" below.

When a catastrophic malfunction occurs, the current scores of the player(s) will be recorded, and the game terminated. Once the machine has been repaired, players will be provided additional ball(s) of play on a new game, as necessary to provide the correct number of balls of play for each player. Alternatively, tournament officials may choose to allow the affected player(s) to replay the game from scratch, and the higher score for each player will be recorded as his or her official score, except in any case where the original score was unfairly improved by the malfunction or was significantly increased during attempts to investigate or cure the malfunction.

If a machine affected by catastrophic malfunction cannot be repaired in order to continue play, it is considered disabled; please see "Disabled Machines".

6. Beneficial Malfunctions

Any malfunction which provides at least one player with a significant advantage over any other player competing on that machine is known as a beneficial malfunction. Tournament officials shall determine what constitutes a significant advantage.

Any beneficial malfunction which results in a player being able to continue play of a ball that normally should have ended is normally allowed once per game. Examples of this would include an unexpected software ball save, a ball that bounces back into play without player action, 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).

Examples of beneficial malfunctions would include a jackpot switch that registers when a different target is hit, a valuable switch that scores repeatedly without the ball contacting it, a failed Tilt sensor, or a ball stuck during multiball. See also "Stuck Balls", below.

Any situation which indicates the presence of a beneficial malfunction should be brought 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 entry interrupted and disqualified by tournament officials.

7. Stuck Balls

During the course of play, it is possible for one or more balls to become stuck on a playfield feature, usually after becoming airborne. If this happens during single ball play, the player must wait for automatic ball searches to occur. The expiration of any timed feature during this period is not considered a malfunction.

If the stuck ball has not been freed after four such searches, or if the machine is not performing searches for some reason, the player must alert the scorekeeper, and a tournament official will be brought to the machine. The player must remain alert and at the machine, as he or she is responsible for the ball if it becomes freed at any point. Where possible, machines will be configured with "chase" features disabled, so that additional balls will not be released into play as a result of ball searches. However, in the event this occurs, the player is responsible for continuing play, and a suitable malfunction will only be ruled if the machine is unable to function normally from this point forward.

A tournament official may initially choose to try to free the stuck ball through judicious nudging, tapping, etc. The player must remain ready to resume play at the machine during this attempt. If actions by the official result in a Tilt, this will be treated as a major malfunction (not the fault of the player). If the official frees the ball but the player does not successfully continue play, this is normal play (the fault of the player). Loss of Tilt warnings due to tournament official nudging is considered normal play.

If the tournament official is unable to free the stuck ball, the machine will be opened, and the stuck ball removed and placed, according to the player's choice, in either the plunger lane, or on either upraised flipper, with the flipper button held by the player. In the case of older machines with electromechanical scoring, the option of placing the ball in the plunger lane will not be available, unless the flipper configuration somehow prevents holding balls elsewhere. In the case of newer machines with lockout coils, upraised flippers may not be possible while the machine is open, so the plunger lane will be preferred.

At the tournament official's discretion, or as a result of freeing the ball, the ball may be placed in another location, so long as it is possible to resume normal play once the machine has been closed. If more than one ball is stuck, each freed ball will be placed according to the rules above, although possibly in multiple locations.

If the ball is inadvertently freed while the machine is open and drains without the player regaining complete control (stopped on a flipper), this will be treated as a major malfunction. If the machine cannot be opened successfully, or if opening or closing the machine terminates the game(s) in progress for any reason, this will be treated as a catastrophic malfunction. If the ball is freed and the machine closed without the player's loss of ball, play continues as normal. If the game is in multiball play and one or more balls are lost as a result of freeing stuck balls, possibly ending multiball but not ending the ball in play, this will be considered no worse than a minor malfunction. If any feature or mode that is lit or active times out while one or more balls are stuck, this will not be considered a malfunction.

Any player who chooses to shake or bump the machine in order to free a stuck ball does so at his or her own risk. No allowance will be made for a player who tilts while attempting to free a stuck ball, whether or not tournament officials are present.

If a ball becomes stuck during a multiball mode, the player must 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.

Any player who misuses a game feature in order to intentionally trap a ball during a multiball mode, such as holding in the plunger on Tommy in order to defeat the autoplunger, will be given a warning and/or have his or her affected entry interrupted and disqualified by tournament officials. Please note that intentionally causing ball searches is also prohibited (see "Delay" under "Player Conduct").

In situations where a ball is trapped in a way that it can be released through player action other than shaking or bumping - for example, a ball at rest underneath a flipper which the player controls - this is not deemed to be a stuck ball. Balls trapped in this fashion during multiball modes are not generally considered to be a rules violation, although the ruling will depend on the exact machine and situation.

8. Disabled Machines

Any tournament machine that breaks down during play will be attended to by technicians as promptly as possible. In the event that a breakdown is severe and cannot be repaired promptly, the machine may be taken out of service temporarily or permanently. During qualifying rounds, players in the affected division must choose an alternate machine in place of a temporarily disabled machine. A permanently disabled machine will be replaced with a designated substitute by tournament officials. During final rounds, tournament officials will designate an alternate machine; the game in progress on the disabled machine, if any, will be discarded, and play will continue on the newly designated machine.

Any machine that is temporarily disabled for more than two hours will normally be considered permanently disabled. During qualifying rounds, a permanently disabled machine presents a unique problem, as it is no longer possible for new qualifying entries to compete against ranked scores on that machine. If the machine in question is disabled before play ends on Friday, all scores recorded on the disabled machine up to that point will be voided. A substitute machine may be added to the division, which will have its own independent ranking of scores from that point forward.

Any player who has previously posted a qualifying score on a disabled machine may be eligible to play a "make-up" game on a substitute machine; his or her resulting score will then replace the previous score on the disabled machine. However, if the existing ranked scores for other machines in a completed entry are insufficient to allow the entry to affect qualifying standings, a make-up game will not be played for that entry. Each affected player who is invited to play a make-up game may select as his or her substitute any machine in the division that was not already played on the entry that is being modified; he or she is not required to specifically select the substitute machine which may have been provided to replace the disabled machine.

In the event that a machine is disabled during qualifying rounds at any time after play ends on Friday, the scores and ranking up to that point shall stand. In this case, a substitute machine will not be added to the division, and no entries will be eligible for make-up games.

Qualifying entries played before Saturday therefore enjoy a slight theoretical advantage in the event of machine failures. The addition of a substitute machine to a division does not allow existing entries to be modified except in the case of replacing a score from a disabled machine.

In the Classics Division, scores for a disabled machine will be allowed to stand after 2 pm on that day. If a machine falls disabled before this time, affected players will be invited to amend their qualifying entries as described above.

9. Player Errors

A player error is any player action, purposeful or accidental, which affects the normal play or outcome of a game in progress.

Any player who tilts his or her ball in play will not receive any penalty other than the normal loss of ball. Note that some older machines may penalize the player with loss of game; this is equivalent to tilting all remaining balls in order. Abuse of machines is covered under "Player Conduct". Any player who tilts the ball of another player, either through interference or by tilting his or her ball so roughly that the next player's ball is affected before play continues, will receive a score of zero for that game, unless tournament officials grant an exception based on the behavior of the machine in question.

Any player who slam tilts a machine, thereby ending play for all players, will receive a score of zero for that game. The slam tilt is treated as a catastrophic failure for any other player(s) who have not completed their game(s) in progress; they will be allowed to replay a new game and choose the higher score. If a tournament official rules that the slam tilt sensor is not functioning properly, the slam tilt will be treated as a catastrophic failure for all players.

Any player who deliberately tilts or slam tilts a machine in order to derive some benefit to his or her own play, or the play of others, under these rules, may be ejected from the tournament.

Any player who deliberately interferes with the play of another player, through distraction, touching the machine or player, or disrupting tournament procedures, will receive a score of zero for the game. Any repeated offense under this rule will result in ejection of the player from the tournament. Any non-player, or tournament participant not playing in the game in progress, who deliberately interferes with the play of any tournament game, will be given one warning. On the second offense, the offender will be ejected from the facility.

Accidental interference is regrettable but can happen. Any player or non-player who accidentally interferes with the play of any tournament game will be warned. If the interference was sufficient to cause the loss of ball, this will be treated as a major malfunction. If the interference terminated play for all players (for example, tripping over a power cord and pulling it from the wall), this will be treated as a catastrophic malfunction.

A player who plays out of turn in a multiplayer game will receive a score of zero. The affected player may choose to take over the ball in play, if possible, or he or she may choose to have the incident treated as a major malfunction. In the event the player takes over, he or she shall be deemed "in control" after declaring his or her intent, taking his or her position at the table, and making contact with the ball via the flippers. The affected player may not change his or her mind once he or she is "in control". Any player who plays out of turn deliberately in order to employ this rule will be disqualified entirely in the current division of play.

In qualifying rounds, any player who starts a multiplayer game will only be allowed to complete the "player one" game, regardless of when he or she noticed the error. Any player who restarts a qualifying game, rather than completing it and allowing it be recorded, will have that entire entry disqualified. Repeated offenses will lead to ejection from the tournament.

Because the tournament divisions consist solely of singles play, coaching of any player during a game, in any round, is not allowed. An exception is provided for Juniors play; Juniors players may have no more than one coach during their qualifying and final rounds of play. If a non-Junior player specifically requests advice on a game feature during play, his or her question may be addressed only by a tournament official, and answered only in terms of whether or not the machine is functioning correctly. Non-Junior players are not to seek assistance from other players or spectators.

No player may use a camera or visual aid of any kind, other than the instructions provided by the machine, while standing at the machine. A player may review electronic or written notes in between turns of a multiplayer game or between games, but not during their own turn or between balls of a single-player game. While not actively playing, players are of course free to discuss features and strategies as much as they like, including between balls during a game, but no spectator or other player is compelled to answer, nor are they responsible for incorrect advice or answers to questions.

In mini-tournament events which feature team play, players on a team may freely discuss game features and strategy without penalty.

Tournament officials will be the sole determiners of what constitutes interference and whether or not it is accidental or deliberate. Scorekeepers are strongly encouraged to watch for and, if possible, prevent incidents of interference.

10. Rulings

Rulings shall be made by tournament officials, which includes event coordinators and any person(s) designated as officials by the coordinators. Designated officials may have restrictions on the breadth of rulings, and may be overridden by tournament officials. Any designated official or event coordinator is excluded from ruling on any play situation that directly affects his or her actual or potential standing as a player. Such persons may also be recused where their decision affects a close friend or family member, at the discretion of other tournament officials. Final authority for any ruling, including rulings that contradict or vacate anything written in this document or in other PAPA materials, rests with the President of the Professional and Amateur Pinball Association, Kevin Martin.

PAPA accepts all feedback and constructive criticism, including player complaints, without reservations. However, please recognize that PAPA strives to be fair even in the most difficult situations. Complaints will be taken seriously, ruled upon, and considered resolved. There is to be no whining :-)

VIII. Machine Settings

1. Software Settings

In general, the software settings of each machine will be adjusted to best accommodate tournament play. The following settings will be employed on any machine that supports them:

  • Tournament Mode
  • Free Play
  • 3 Balls
  • Extra Balls disabled
  • Buy-In or Continues disabled
  • Game Restart disabled
  • 2 Tilt Warnings (may be 0 on older machines)
  • Flipper AutoLaunch disabled
  • Timed AutoLaunch disabled
  • Standard Factory Settings for Ball Savers, Difficulty, Timers, etc
  • Specific Difficulty Settings as determined by tournament officials
  • Automatic Reflexing Features disabled
  • Replays disabled (no score or Extra Ball awarded)
These settings may vary according to division, at the discretion of tournament officials. In general, expect settings to be the most difficult in the A Division.

Please note that older machines, such as commonly used in the Classics Divisions, may have different settings, such as allowable extra balls, five-ball play, or a Tilt penalty of "entire game" rather than "current ball". For more details, see section IV.8.

2. Hardware Settings

Machines used for tournament play will be prepared and kept in good working order to the greatest extent possible. Each machine will be properly leveled left-to-right and inclined front-to-back.

Any player with a complaint or question about the hardware setup of a machine should make his or her inquiry in between games, or in between balls, if urgent.

3. Machine-Specific Settings

In order to best suit tournament play, certain machines may be subject to specific settings or rules adjustments, at the discretion of tournament officials. These adjustments will be made before tournament play begins, and will be documented if possible. The intent is to eliminate features which can be abused by skilled players, or which arbitrarily extend play time to a degree that would hinder the smooth progress of the tournament.

IX. Player Conduct

1. Facility

The PAPA facility is private property and must be treated with respect. PAPA reserves the right to refuse play to anyone at any time, as well as to remove anyone from the property at any time. Any person(s) may be banned from the property, indefinitely, at the discretion of tournament officials. Banned persons will be prosecuted for trespass if necessary.

The tournament facility and playing areas must be kept clean. Food and drink are not allowed in the playing areas. In the tournament area, drinks are allowed only for actively qualifying players. Please keep the cap on your bottled drinks when not in use. Spills of any kind should be reported to officials immediately. There is a cafe area adjacent to the tournament where food and drink should be consumed. Trash should be deposited in the provided receptacles. Please do not remove chairs from any area where they have been placed.

All areas inside the building are strictly non-smoking. Smoking is restricted to designated areas outside the building.

Weapons, illegal drugs, and alcohol are prohibited on the property. Naturally, any and all types of illegal activity are prohibited as well.

The PAPA facility is not a daycare service! Anyone under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Violation of any of these rules may lead to ejection from the tournament.

2. Personal Conduct

All players are expected to conduct themselves in a polite and sensitive manner. Outbursts, especially those including indecent language, are unacceptable. A wide variety of players and observers will be present, including media, and these types of outbursts do nothing to promote pinball as a sport.

Any player who behaves rudely towards any scorekeeper or tournament official may be warned, disqualified, and/or ejected from the facility.

Any express or implied threats or actions of violence are grounds for immediate ejection from the facility, and authorities will be contacted. Other possible grounds for ejection include but are not limited to fraud, theft, illegal activity, harrassment, inappropriate behavior, public drunkenness, etc.

Any person ejected from the facility is banned and may not return to the property. Banned persons will be prosecuted for trespass if necessary.

3. Abuse of Machines

Tilt sensors are employed to determine what constitutes unduly rough handling of each machine, within the parameters of normal play. Abusive handling such as punching, kicking, lifting, tipping, or rocking a machine, or hitting the glass in any way, is grounds for a warning and possible disqualification of game or ejection from the tournament, at the discretion of tournament officials.

4. Interference, Collusion, and Cheating

Any player who intentionally interferes with tournament play or otherwise disrupts the tournament setting will be warned and/or ejected from the tournament, at the discretion of tournament officials.

Any form of cheating, including game restarts, tampering with games, tampering with recorded results, scorekeeper intimidation or collusion, or anything else not covered here, will be addressed by tournament officials as appropriate, including disqualification and/or ejection from the tournament.

Any collaborative effort between players in an attempt to unfairly affect the outcome of the competition, or to "lock out" a third player, or to otherwise refrain from making the best possible competitive effort on each and every game played, will be looked upon very poorly by tournament officials, and may result in disciplinary action, including disqualification and/or ejection from the tournament.

If players in a final round make any kind of arrangement to split the prize money differently from how it was originally allocated, the arrangement must be approved by tournament officials, who will verify the arrangement directly with each affected player. In no event will the prize pool be split evenly, or in amounts that are out of order with the finishing places. In no event will deals be allowed in semifinals or earlier rounds.

5. Intentional Delays

No player may delay their game for more than 30 seconds, except to await a ruling or resolution of an environmental inconvenience. Environmental inconvenience is defined as any condition which can reasonably be expected to be resolved quickly, such as unusual noise, lighting problems other than sunlight, or repairs to an immediately adjacent machine.

Intentional delay is defined as time when the player is intentionally making no progress towards in-game objectives, including but not limited to time during which the ball is left in the plunger lane, held on a flipper, or passed from one flipper to another. Stuck balls do not count as intentional delays. Holding one or more ball(s) while one or more ball(s) remain in play does not count as intentional delay.

Intentional delay will result in a warning for the player. If the delay continues or is repeated, tournament coordinators may instruct the player to stop playing, and a score of zero will be recorded for that player.

A player may not intentionally cause a ball search in order to activate any feature of the game.

6. Absences

Any player who is absent when he or she has a ball to play, whether in qualifying or final rounds, will be given a maximum of three minutes to return. After that time, a tournament official will plunge the player's remaining ball(s) in play, until such time as the player returns. Any player who has an emergency should notify a tournament official, so that accommodations may be made.

Note that an absence at the beginning of final rounds results in the player not being part of the final rounds at all.

7. Death Saves, Bangbacks, etc

Techniques known as "Death Saves" and "Bangbacks" are sometimes employed by certain advanced players. Because the effectiveness of these techniques varies from machine to machine, and because of the risk of injury to either player or machine, these techniques are banned from tournament play. In the event that a drained ball bounces back into play without deliberate or significant player action, the ball may be played. This may require a ruling from tournament officials if there appears to be abusive force employed by the player.

8. Wagering or Gambling

Please note that gambling is illegal in our venue and the tournament does not endorse, condone, nor support wagering between players. We also feel that pinball is at least 75% skill-based, making any wagering at best ill-advised, in addition to being illegal.

9. Internet Use

The facility provides access to Internet kiosks as well as a wireless Internet access service, at no charge. This is provided to our players and guests as a courtesy and we expect proper behavior. Any abuse or misuse of the service may result in ejection from the tournament and/or facility.

10. Accommodating Disabilities

Tournament officials will make every reasonable attempt to accommodate genuine disabilities, and may also elect, on a case-by-case basis, to ameliorate injuries or other hardships. Players who are not fluent in English are allowed to utilize a bilingual assistant in order to understand these rules, official rulings, and so forth.

X. Miscellaneous

1. Special Score Handling

a. Any player who reaches the maximum possible score on a machine that has such, will receive that score as their total. For example, Guns n Roses stops scoring at 9,999,999,990 points.
b. Any player whose machine "rolls over" to a zero score is responsible for immediately advising the scorekeeper, both when this is imminent, as well as when it happens. The score keeper will then make a note to record the appropriately increased score. If the player fails to notify the scorekeeper, he or she may not receive the increased score.
c. On the game NBA Fastbreak using basketball-style scoring, each championship ring collected by the player shall cause their recorded score to be increased by 1000 points.

2. Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License These PAPA Tournament Rules by are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

The intent is that the rules can be adapted and reused, with attribution, with the license preserved.