Regular season rules

  • At each meeting, players will be drawn into groups of 4, and play 5 games. We use MatchPlay software to run the league, and it is set to have players play as many new opponents as possible during the regular season.
  • Each player will choose 1 machine per meeting.
  • In addition to this, whoever has the fewest points after 4 games will choose the 5th game.
  • You earn points each round and we count the 8 best (out of 10) rounds for your total adjusted score.
  • Each group will fill out a paper score sheet and submit results online on the MatchPlay app. It is the responsibility of the entire group that the submitted results are accurate.
  • Extra balls are to be plunged, and after that no further action other than mind control can be used to affect the ball. A player may use the flipper buttons to lane change before plunging. Should the ball end up in the plunger lane again after it having left said lane, the same rules as described above will apply.
  • To remain in good standings, members need to attend at least 50% of our regular season meetings unless there is a compelling reason for the absence. Each such case will be determined by the commissioner. We keep score and report the standings to the IFPA for world ranking points. NEW: To be included in the standings submitted to the IFPA, members need to attend at least 4 out of 10 meetings. 
  • Guests are welcome to play as long as there is space, but are limited to participate in up to 4 meetings per season (note, only 2 for the shorter Fall season). Rounds 1&10 will only be open to members, i.e. guests will not be allowed to participate in those two rounds. Guests competing in minimum 4 rounds will be submitted to the IFPA for world ranking points as per IFPA rules.


The winner of each machine gets 7 points, second place gets 5 points, third place gets 3 points and fourth place gets 1 point. For example, if Forrest wins on Iron Maiden, gets 2nd place on Pirates of the Caribbean, 3rd place on Royal Flush & Doodle Bug, and 4th on Paragon, he will earn himself (7+5+3+3+1) 19 points for the evening.

If the of number of participants is not evenly divided by 4, some groups will consist of 3 players. The winner of this smaller group gets 7 points, 2nd place gets 4 points and 3rd place 1 point. Whoever has the lowest score after 3 and 4 games respectively will pick the next game.

The maximum score for a someone would therefore be 35 points and the minimum score would be 5 points per meeting for someone who plays all 5 machines.

Tardy players

If you are going to be late to the meeting, don’t panic, communicate! Let a friend know and have them put your chip in the bag, as well as alert Per about it. The deadline is when we start drawing the names out of the bag, which usually is shortly after 7:30 PM. If your chip is not in the bag at that time, you will unfortunately not be able to participate in that round. So tell a friend will ya! 🙂

Once a late coming player arrives, this is the procedure: The tardy player will enter the group upon arrival. Should the late coming player arrive when the other 3 players have already begun play on a machine, he/she will receive a zero for that machine. The other 3 players will receive points as if they had been a 3-player group for each such occasion. For example: Should the tardy player arrive in time only to play 2 machines, only those two machines will be scored as 4-player groups. The other 2 machines will be scored as 3-player groups.


A player who plays out of turn, plays an extra ball more than is allowed, and/or does something else to earn him/herself a disqualification will receive last place and 1 point for that machine. Always make sure it’s your turn before you plunge! 🙂

Post season Format  

The winner of the A-division will be appointed guardian of the Ball & Chain trophy. All top 4-finishers in each division will receive a plaque.

There are 3 different playoff divisions: A, B, and C.

  • NEW! The top 24 players qualify for the A-division playoffs. The top 8 players will get a bye round and go straight into the head to head phase.
  • NEW! Players ranked 25-44 qualify for the B-division playoffs.
  • NEW! Players ranked 45 and below qualify for the C-division playoffs as long as they have attended regular season meetings.


  • If two or more players have identical adjusted scores, the higher seed will go to the player with the highest total score. If their total scores are tied, whoever has the highest score from a single round will be the higher seed. If that is also tied, the second highest score in a single round etc., will be used. If the tie can not be broken in this way, a coin flip will decide.

For A division

  • There will be 2 different  stages; Group stage, and head to head stage.
  • In the Group stage, players will be divided into 4 groups. Each group will play 4 games and the top 2 players will advance. Scoring will be 7/5/3/1.
  • In the head to head stage, players will face off in best 2/3 games. The winner moves on, while the loser will play a consolation match. (Only for places 3-8.)

Group stage

  • The regular season seeds determine which players go into each group.
  • Group A: Seeds 9, 16, 17, 24
  • Group B: Seeds 10, 15, 18, 23
  • Group C: Seeds 11, 14, 19, 22
  • Group D: Seeds 12, 13, 20, 21
  • NEW! Each group will play 4 machines.
  • Machine choice will work similar to regular league play except that only 4 games are played.
  • Play order will work the same way like in the regular season with the caveat that we use seeds to determine the respective order in each group, instead of using a random draw. I.e. the highest seed is player 1 on game 1, etc.
  • You can only pick a machine that is open or where the last ball is being played.
  • The top 2 players from each group will move on to the head to head stage.
  • The bottom 2 players from each group are eliminated, and will get placed anywhere between 17-24th place in their respective division depending on their point total.
  • Ties that impact whether or not the involved players will make it to the head to head stage will be settled by a 1 game tiebreaker. The highest seeded player will get the choice of machine or playing order.

Head to head stage

  • The remaining 16 players (with the top 8 entering the tournament at this stage) will play a head to head bracket, best 2/3. (Except finals, which are 3/5.)
  • The bracket will be constructed based on the remaining regular season seeds.
  • Seed 1 vs 16, 2 vs 15, 3 vs 14, 4 vs 13, 5 vs 12, 6 vs 11, 7 vs 10, 8 vs 9.
  • The highest seed (from regular season) will have the benefit of picking the first machine.
  • Subsequent machines will be chosen by the loser of the previous game. Any machine can be chosen, including a machine that someone is playing on, unless someone already is waiting in line for that machine.
  • Whoever has machine choice may defer that choice and instead choose playing order.
  • Players are not allowed to pick the same machine more than once during the head to head phase unless they have already chosen all available machines. You must choose, but choose wisely…
  • NEW! You can only pick a machine that is open or where the last ball is being played. I.e. As soon as player 1 has started their last ball, this is considered an OK time to line up for this machine. (To ensure that we finish in a timely manner.)
  • The winner of each pairing will advance.
  • The loser of each pairing will tie for 9th place.

Quarter finals

  • The remaining 8 players will play head to head, best 2/3.
  • The winner of each pairing will advance.
  • The loser of each pairing will play 1 game for 5-8th place.

Semi finals

  • The remaining 4 players will play head to head, best 2/3.
  • The winner of each pairing will advance.
  • The loser of each pairing will play 1 game for 3-4th place.


  • The remaining 2 players will play head to head, best 3/5.
  • The winner rocks! The loser is pretty good too!

For B & C-divisions

  • B & C-divisions will be played as two separate 8 strikes (NEW! To ensure that we finish in a timely manner.) knockout tournaments.
  • Players will be put in groups of 3 or 4 people.
  • Pairings will be balanced.
  • 3 strikes will be given to the 4th placed player, 2 strikes for 3rd place, 1 strike for 2nd place. The winner does not get a strike.
  • When a player receives their 10th 8th strike, they are out of the tournament.
  • Play continues until only 1 player is left standing.
  • In case of a tie for 2nd, 3rd, and/or 4th place, one game will be played to determine those places. The higher regular season seed will have the choice of position or game.

Player Conduct

The purpose of this document is to help players better understand certain rules and the rulings made by officials during the tournament, as well as help officials penalize poor player conduct and/or breaking of rules. Player conduct has to be sportsmanlike and if it isn’t, it will be acknowledged and penalized.

All players are expected to conduct themselves in a sportsmanlike manner. Loud outbursts, especially those including curse words, are not something we want at this tournament. Conduct including but not limited to: distracting other players by yelling, slamming and/or moving the machine is also something that will not be tolerated. Think of how distracting it is when this happens on a game next to you. People react to the intensity of playing in different ways but need to be considerate of the other participants. Basically, we want a positive atmosphere at the tournament!

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

Should a player not adhere to these guidelines, they may be warned, disqualified, and banned from participating in future events.

1st offense – Warning
2nd offense – Suspension from 2 future league rounds
3rd offense – Expulsion from the league

Examples of offenses: A player yells profanities/uses offensive language at an official/player. A player has a stuck ball, and instead of calling an official over, he finds a key to the game and removes the glass and subsequently the ball from its stuck position. A player who is waiting her turn to play is interfering with an active player by talking to them against their will. A player abuses the machine by kicking it.

Should someone display such egregious behavior that a warning is insufficient punishment, the tournament director may instead issue a suspension or expulsion right away.

Be ready to play

Whenever a match starts, the players are expected to be in the vicinity of the machine that is being played. It creates unnecessary delays and irritation when players leave their match to attend to personal business. Should this happen, it is the responsibility of the other players in the match to notify tournament officials, who will then take action. The official may plunge the offender’s ball, give a warning, or disqualify the player from the match/tournament for repeated offenses.

Any player who has an emergency should notify a tournament official, so that accommodations may be made.

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.

Interference, Collusion, and Cheating

Any player who knowingly 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.

Death Saves & Bangbacks

Techniques known as “Death Saves” and “Bangbacks” are sometimes employed by players. 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 if it happens once. This may require a ruling from tournament officials if there appears to be abusive force employed by the player.

Extra balls

If a player gets an extra ball, they may use the flipper buttons to lane change before plunging. Once the ball is plunged, no further action to affect the ball or machine is allowed. Should the ball return to the shooter lane, the player may yet again use the flipper buttons to lane change before plunging. Example: On TAF, any number of EB’s may be skillfully plunged to get points.

Beneficial Malfunctions

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 occurrence 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.

Stuck balls

A stuck ball is an unmovable ball that is trapped by any object in the machine that isn’t in control by a player. If the stuck ball has not been freed after three ball searches, or if the machine is not performing searches for some reason, the player must alert a tournament official. 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. Example:

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 generally not deemed to be a stuck ball, but part of skillful play.

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.

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.

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.

Any ball that comes to rest in an outlane, where any portion of the ball is below the outlane post, is not deemed a stuck ball.

At no point is a player allowed to open up the machine to unstuck a ball. Always call an official over for this. Breaking this rule is cause for warning and/or dq of the offending player and/or anyone encouraging said player to do so.

Since it is impossible to cover every situation that may occur in competitive pinball, it is at the discretion of the TD and officials to make rulings to the best of their ability if a situation is not covered by these rules.

Final authority for any ruling, including rulings that contradict or vacate anything written in this document, rests with the commissioner of the SFPD, or any of his agents.