Official Rules

The PAPA 21 Championship event is operated by IFPA Pinball LLC (IFPA), under license from Replay Foundation (Replay). The controlling rule set for play at this event is maintained and published jointly by IFPA and Replay and can be found here. This page provides specific information related to PAPA 21.

The event coordinators for PAPA 21 are Josh Sharpe, Penni Epstein, and Andy Bagwell. Event coordinators organize volunteers, designate scorekeepers, handle malfunctions and rulings, delegate responsibilities and authority, and otherwise work to ensure the smooth operation of the event.

Table of Contents

I. Quick Overview

The unified tournament rules, as well as this page, are quite lengthy and detailed. This reflects 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 they like, across three separate divisions: Main, Women's, and Classics.

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 Classics Division, each entry corresponds to playing one machine, and each machine played is ranked separately. Each player's composite score consists of their eight best results combined.

Playoffs (final rounds) will be held in a group elimination format using game banks and 4-2-1-0 PAPA scoring. The top two players from each group will advance to the next group until only four players remain, and the final group will determine the final four finishing positions for that division.

II. Singles Competition

1. Divisions of Play

There are three separate divisions being offered throughout the event:

  • Main Division - PAPA card format, five games selected from the bank, machines from multiple eras. Open to all players.
  • Women's Division - PAPA card format, five games selected from the bank, machines from multiple eras. Open to women only.
  • Classics Division - Unlimited entry format, best eight plays count, machines are solid state and earlier only. Open to all players.

All players, winning or not, grant IFPA Pinball LLC, 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. Similarly, all persons present at the venue consent to being streamed on the Internet, live and in replay, at any time in public areas. Players may not object to camera rig changes in between balls. Camera rigs will not be adjusted or moved while a ball is in play unless explicitly approved by the player. Any person who objects to these terms must not attend or participate.

2. Fees

Each player must pay a $150 registration fee in order to access the restricted area of the venue. This fee includes two entry cards for the Main Division. Additional entries may be purchased at the event.

Players may play as many attempts as they wish. Each day of qualifying will have a published cut-off time, beyond which no entry will be allowed. Any attempt started without tournament director approval after the cut-off time will be voided.

The fees for each entry are:

  • Main Division - $20 per entry
  • Classics Division - $10 for 3 entries
  • Women's Division - $15 per entry
All purchased entries are non-refundable, whether partially completed or voided or not.

3. Prizes

The prizes awarded to winners will be published on the PAPA 21 site at this link.

The winner of the Main Division will also receive the title "World Pinball Champion". This title remains in effect until the next annual PAPA or IFPA tournament, or will expire after two years if no such tournament takes place.

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. Each purchased entry is specific to one division. Players should keep their registered player number handy for use when purchasing entries.

Entries will not be sold for any division beyond the posted time. All entries are non-refundable.

2. Playing an entry in Main or Women's Divisions

When a player is ready to play a qualifying round entry, they approach 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. When a player is up next in the queue, a scorekeeper will call out their name and indicate that they may start. If a player's name is called three times with no response, the scorekeeper will move to the next player in the queue. 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 the 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 tell the scorekeeper whether they want to submit or void the entry.

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. This will cause all scores recorded so far to be discarded, 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. Once an entry has been submitted, 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. Playing an entry in Classics Division

All rules from the previous section apply to Classics, except that Classics is a "best game" format. There will be a bank of approximately 16 machines, and each player's eight (8) best unique game scores will count towards their composite score.

4. Scoring an entry

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. (This is simpler in Classics, where each game score is ranked and considered independently.)

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. 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. 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 (in Classics, to the player's best 8 results).

Rank Score
1st 200 points
2nd 180
3rd 170
4th 165
5th down to 168th 164 down to 1

Screens at the venue will display queue and ranking information, which will also be available online.

4. Scoring Example

A player purchases a qualifying entry in the Main 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.

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

Final rounds for each division will be allocated as follows:

Main Division A: 72 players. Seeds 9-24 receive one bye round, seeds 5-8 receive two bye rounds, and seeds 1-4 receive three bye rounds. The number one overall seed will also receive a perk. Once per round they will be allowed to choose game and have first choice of order if they wish. The number one seed must inform a tournament official before using this perk in a round.
  • First round: 48 players (#25-72)
  • Second round: 40 players - 16 byes (#9-24)
  • Third round: 24 players - 4 byes (#5-8)
  • Quarterfinals: 16 players - 4 byes (#1-4)
  • Semifinals: 8 players
  • Finals: 4 players
Main Division B: 8 players (seeds 73-80). B finals are rank restricted, IFPA rank 1-250 will be ineligible from competing in B finals. If any of the 73-80 seeds are of this rank, we will pull in order from 81+ as needed to fill the 8 spots.
  • Semifinals: 8 players
  • Finals: 4 players
Women's Division: 24 players. Seeds 1-8 receive one bye round.
  • First round: 16 players (#9-24)
  • Quarterfinals: 16 players - 8 byes (#1-8)
  • Semifinals: 8 players
  • Finals: 4 players
Classics Division: 40 players. Seeds 5-16 receive one bye round, and seeds 1-4 receive two bye rounds.
  • First round: 24 players (#25-40)
  • Second round: 24 players - 12 byes (#5-16)
  • Quarterfinals: 16 players - 4 byes (#1-4)
  • Semifinals: 8 players
  • Finals: 4 players

Playoff fields shown here assume the required number of players for each division to meet requirements for IFPA submission (50% of field must be eliminated from qualifying). Playoff field sizes will be adjusted to meet this criteria in the case of there not being enough players to properly organize the playoffs as described above. Qualifying position determines all seeding in playoff rounds, as well as choice of machine or order.

In the event a qualifying player is not available, they will be skipped in the ranking as if they had not qualified. Upon discovering at any point during playoffs that a player is not present, tournament officials will initiate a three minute timer for the absent player when it is their turn on a game. If the player does not arrive before the timer has expired, they will be disqualified on the game being played and receive a score of zero. If this happens twice for a player, that player will be disqualified from the tournament and receive zeroes for all remaining games.

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.

Finishing position for any tiebreakers will not affect qualifying seeding, it will only be used to determine who earns byes and/or who gets into playoffs. For example, if seeds 5-12 were playing a tiebreaker for the 5-8 bye spots, the four players who achieve the highest score in the tiebreaker game will be awarded the 5-8 positions based on their qualifying seeding in descending order. Their finishing positions in the tiebreaker itself will have no effect on which spots 5-8 they receive.

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 game rank will be examined. The player with the highest game rank will be given the highest seeding, proceeding through all tied players, in descending order of game rank.

2. Machines Chosen

The machines used for final rounds in each division will be the same as used in qualifying except in cases of game failures that result in a game being unavailable.

All games played in the final rounds are treated as 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.

A and B finals in Main will operate independently and in parallel, with the constraint that a B finalist with a machine pick cannot select a machine in use by A finalists.

3. Playoffs

Playoffs for all three tournaments will consist of three games played each round with each four-player game scored as follows:


Three-player games (due to absence) 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.

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. This does not apply to scheduling conflicts between Main Division A and B, however.

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 round. The players with the top two point totals from each group of four players will advance. Further rounds will be played until 4 players remain, and those 4 players will play an identical round to determine final finishing positions for the division.

Significant ties between players at the end of a round will be resolved by one tiebreaking game on a machine selected randomly by tournament officials from among the machines in the bank. 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.

4. Winners

Winners will receive cash prizes as cash or check during an awards ceremony shortly following the conclusion of final rounds. 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.

V. 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. Everyone strives 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. If a player specifically requests advice on a game feature during play, their question may be addressed only by a tournament official, and answered only in terms of whether or not the machine is functioning correctly. Players may not 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.

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.

VI. 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.

Please note that older machines may have different settings, such as allowable extra balls, five-ball play, or a Tilt penalty of "entire game" rather than "current ball".

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.

VII. Player Conduct

1. Facility

The facility is private property and must be treated with respect. We reserve 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 venue 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 bar/seating 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.

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 venue.

Any express or implied threats or actions of violence are grounds for immediate ejection from the venue, 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 venue 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 will result 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. 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.

VIII. 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.