Official Rules

0. Quick Overview

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

The qualifying rounds run Friday evening, all day Saturday, and Sunday morning. During those rounds, each player may make as many qualifying attempts as they like, within a single division. For each qualifying attempt, the player chooses five of the eight machines available in his or her division. After completing play on those five machines, the score on each machine is ranked against the scores of other players on that machine. The five rankings contribute to the player's score for that qualifying entry. Each qualifying entry is separately ranked against all other players' qualifying entries. The top qualifiers move on to the finals round on Sunday.

In the final rounds, qualifying players play against each other in 4-player games. A point system is used to determine who advances and ultimately wins.

For more complete details, please review the official rules shown here.

I. General Information

1. Overview

Pinburgh 2001 is an official event of the Steel City Pinball Association (SCPA), and is subject to all normal rules and regulations as specified in the SCPA constitution, except where specifically overridden by this document.

The Event Coordinators for Pinburgh 2001 are Steve Zumoff, Kevin Martin, and Nancee Kumpfmiller. Event Coordinators are responsible for organizing and maintaining a smooth tournament, designating other officers and scorekeepers, handling malfunctions and rulings, and being present whenever possible in order to assist in these goals. The coordinators are not excluded from tournament play, although they will be excluded from ruling on any play situation that directly affects his or her actual or potential standing as a player. Each coordinator will be designated as the primary decision maker for a specific division of play in the tournament.

2. Structure

There are three divisions in the tournament, differentiated by player skill level.
  • 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.
All divisions are singles play only, and there is no women's division or junior's division.

Initially, all divisions are open to a newly registered player. However, once a player enters the A or B division, they may not enter a lower division without the express written permission of an Event Coordinator. Similarly, if a player moves to a higher division, his or her entries in any lower divisions are automatically voided (monies are not refunded).

At the discretion of the Event Coordinators, a player may be required to move to a higher division based on his or her performance or past league or tournament standings. SCPA strongly discourages any player from intentionally entering a division beneath his or her level of skill.

All registrants grant Pinburgh, the SCPA, and other event sponsors and organizers the right to use their names, scores, and likenesses for the purpose of promoting this and other pinball or pinball-related events.

3. Fees

All players must pay the basic registration fee of $5. An identifying number is assigned to each registered player, and this number is used to track his or her subsequent play. Players may enter in their chosen division as many times as they like. No more than one entry may be purchased at a time, and each purchased entry must be played before another is purchased. The fees for each qualifying attempt are:
  • C Division - $5
  • B Division - $10
  • A Division - $15
Any entry left unplayed at the end of qualifying rounds will be refunded. Entries that are intentionally unplayed or otherwise left incomplete through no fault of the tournament will not be refunded.

4. Prizes

Pinburgh 2001 features a fixed, guaranteed prize package. Fees paid by players are utilized to recoup tournament costs; if there is any overrun beyond costs, those monies will be held in reserve to finance the next Pinburgh event. In the event Pinburgh is disbanded, any such monies will be transferred to the SCPA general fund for league operations. In the event SCPA is disbanded, any such monies will be donated to charity.

The prize package pays the top four winners in each division as follows:

A Division
B Division
C Division
1st Place $2000 $500 $250 plus trophy!
2nd Place $750 $250 $125 and plaque
3rd Place $250 $150 $50 and plaque
4th Place $100 $50 $25 and plaque
Top Qualifier $300 $150 $50
Total Prize Package: $5000!

These prizes will be paid by cash or check at the conclusion of the final rounds on Sunday, if possible. If this is not possible for some reason, a check payment will be provided to the winners within seven business days.

Other prizes may be available for shootout tournaments, door prizes, etc, at the sole discretion of the Event Coordinators.

II. Qualifying Rounds

1. Entering a division

Before entering any division, players must be registered. Once this is done, a player may purchase qualifying round entries in a division. Players must keep their registered player number handy for use when purchasing entries. Only one entry may be purchased at a time by a player, and it must be played to completion before a new entry may be purchased.

2. Playing an entry

When a player is ready to play a qualifying round entry, he or she approaches the bank of eight machines designated for the division he or she has selected. The player must select exactly five of these eight machines to be played for the qualifying entry. No machine may be selected more than once on a single entry. These selections must be indicated on the player's scorecard before he or she begins play. The player then provides the scorecard to the scorekeeper for the selected division, and is told when to play each machine by the scorekeeper.

Players may select a different set of five machines for each qualifying entry. Players may not change their selections once they have been accepted by the scorekeeper, except in case of malfunction, or with the express permission of an Event Coordinator.

The player will play his or her five selected machines at the time and in the order designated by the scorekeeper. At the end of 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 doublecheck the transcribed score for correctness. In the event of any malfunction or other problems, please refer to section IV of this document.

When all five games have been completed, the player must sign his or her entry for the scorekeeper, who will regularly transfer completed entries to the scoring table. Players may not take their completed entry from the scorekeeper.

At any point during play, the player may elect to abandon his or her entry, effectively voiding all scores recorded for that entry. No money will be refunded, but the player has no further obligation to complete his or her entry, and is free to purchase another if they wish. Once all five games have been completed and the scorecard turned in by the scorekeeper, the void option is no longer available for that entry.

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 five 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, as the sum of the point values for the ranking of its scores on the five selected machines. Each entry a player completes has its own score, and no score is compiled based on a player's overall highest rankings on each machine. On each entry, a player is also competing with his or her previous entries on the selected machines; although this is usually not a problem, there are degenerate cases where a player's past history could limit his or her ability to do well on future entries. Note that a player may void an entry at any time during its play, but once turned in by the scorekeeper, no entry may be voided by the player for any reason.

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 following points are awarded to an entry's score, according to the rank of the player's game on that machine.

Rank Score
1st 100 points
2nd 75
3rd 60
4th 50
5th 45
6th 40
7th 39
8th 38
9th 37
10th 36
11th 35
12th 34
13th 33
14th 32
15th 31
Rank Score
16th 30 points
17th 29
18th 28
19th 27
20th 26
21st 25
22nd 24
23rd 23
24th 22
25th 21
26th 20
27th 19
28th 18
29th 17
30th 16
Rank Score
31st 15 points
32nd 14
33rd 13
34th 12
35th 11
36th 10
37th 9
38th 8
39th 7
40th 6
41st 5
42nd 4
43rd 3
44th 2
45th 1
46th or lower 0

Pinburgh 2001 will endeavor to 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.

4. Scoring Example

A player, number 45, enters the B Division, and is assigned an entry number of B-108. She plays five of the eight available machines, and the scorekeeper records her scores. At the time, her scores are ranked in the 3rd, 13th, 7th, 48th, and 31st positions on the five selected machines. Her total score for entry B-108 is therefore 60+33+39+0+15 = 147. 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, 71st, and 35th, providing a total score of 38+25+37+0+11 = 111.

III. 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 eight unique players in each division will advance to the final rounds. Only the highest entry score of any player will be considered. No player may qualify in more than one division. There is no bye for the top-ranked player, but for Pinburgh 2001, a special cash bonus is awarded to the top qualifier in each division: $300 in A division, $150 in B division, and $50 in C division.

In the event a qualifying player is not available, they will be skipped in the ranking as if they had not qualified. Substitutions or late arrivals are not allowed.

In the event that two or more players have the same score in this ranking, a tiebreaking procedure is required for those players. Because each player may have played different machines while qualifying, and any player may have multiple qualifying entries that added up to the same score, any re-examination of the qualifying rounds is problematic, at best. Therefore, all ties at this stage will be resolved by a single game on a machine chosen randomly from the qualifying bank of the appropriate division. The players will play, in randomly determined order, in a multi-player game on the chosen machine, and will subsequently be ranked in the order of their scores on that game. If more than four players are tied, more than one multi-player game will be required, and the resulting scores will be compared as if they had occurred in a single game on the same machine.

The random order of players for the tie breaking match will be determined by drawing numbers. In the event of any further tie after the tie breaker, which is highly unlikely to say the least, an additional tie breaking game will be used for the affected players.

2. Machines Chosen

The three machines used for final rounds in each division will be designated before the beginning of the semifinals round 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.

3. Semifinals Round

The eight players qualified in each division will begin with the semifinals round. In this round, players in each division are divided into two groups of four according to their rank. The first group will include players ranked #1, #2, #7, and #8. The second group will include players ranked #3, #4, #5, and #6.

Each group will play three four-player games, one on each of the three designated machines for their division. The order of play is determined by the highest-seeded player in each group; if two groups wish to play the same machine, preference is given to the group containing the highest-seeded player; the other group must select a different machine.

Each four-player game will be scored as follows:

Rank Score
1st 4 points
2nd 2
3rd 1
4th 0

When starting a game, the highest-seeded player has first choice of order of play, followed by the next highest, and so forth. This choice will be made independently on each machine, and always favors the players with higher seedings.

If the highest-seeded player does not wish to choose a machine or order of play, the decision is deferred to the next highest-seeded player within the group. For machine selection, the group with the highest-seeded player retains preference even if the highest-seeded player declines to make a choice. If no player in a group will make a choice, the choice is determined by tournament officials, who may or may not choose randomly.

When all three games have been completed by a group, each player will have a total score for the semifinals round in their division. Players with the top four scores in their division shall advance to the final round.

modified June 5, 2001
Ties between players at the end of the semifinals round are resolved by one tiebreaking game on a machine selected randomly from the machines in use for the semifinals round. Players play the tiebreaking game according to seeding order. If more than four players are tied in one group, the players with the lowest seedings are placed in their own separate game on the same machine, playing after the first group. 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 event of an exact scoring tie on the tiebreaking game, the affected players will play another tiebreaking game on a randomly-selected machine.

4. 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 semifinals round. The total scores for this round will determine the ordering of winners in each division. Tie breaking in the final round will be determined in the same fashion as the semifinals rounds.

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

IV. 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 all be perfectly compensated for. Pinburgh 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.

2. Minor Malfunctions

A minor malfunction is any event 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, 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 subsection 5 below.

3. Major Malfunctions

A major malfunction is a problem with a machine that results in the unfair 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 the machine loses track of how many balls are in the drain trough.
  • A lit kickback fails to return the ball to play, ending the player's turn. This does not apply to other ball saving devices such as timed ball savers, ball traps, gates, or "virtual" kickbacks.

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. Any malfunction that is well-known will be posted for players to be aware of beforehand, and if it occurs, it will be treated as a minor malfunction. Loss of Tilt warnings, without loss of ball, 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 event 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.

In the event that two or more major malfunctions take place during the same game, the player(s)' game(s) will be terminated and replayed. The terminated scores will be temporarily recorded, and except in any case where the original score was unfairly improved by the malfunction, the higher score for each player will be recorded as his or her official score.

4. Catastrophic Malfunctions

A catastrophic malfunction is any event not purposely or inadvertently 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.

Any event caused by a player, purposely or inadvertently, including Slam Tilts, is covered under "Player Errors" below.

When a catastrophic malfunction occurs, any player(s) whose game(s) was/were not complete must replay their game(s) from scratch. The higher score for each player will be recorded as that player's official score.

5. Beneficial Malfunctions
modified June 5, 2001

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 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. Any such behavior shall not be allowed if it repeats, meaning that tournament officials may require players to allow the saved ball to drain, or the machine may be declared disabled.

Any beneficial malfunction which credits a player with a significant scoring advantage that is not part of normal gameplay will disqualify that player's score, unless all players and tournament officials can agree on a suitable adjustment of the score. The affected player may then replay the game after the other players have finished, and the new score is used for that player. Examples include a jackpot switch that registers when a different target is hit, or a switch that scores repeatedly without the ball being in active play.

Any situation which provides benefit to one or more players over any other players should be brought to the attention of the scorekeeper promptly, who will alert tournament officials.

6. 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.

With the tournament official present, the machine will be opened, and the stuck ball freed and placed either in the plunger lane, if it is manually controlled, or on the upraised right flipper, with the flipper button held by the player. If the ball is inadvertently freed at this point and drains, 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 more than one ball is stuck, all such balls will be placed on the right flipper before play resumes.

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.

If a ball becomes stuck during a multiball mode, the player may attempt to trap the other ball(s) in play and request assistance. If the player does not do so within 30 seconds, the player assumes full responsibility for later freeing the stuck ball, and if the player tilts, there is no allowance. In some cases, a stuck ball during multiball presents an advantageous opportunity. However, this is not considered a malfunction.

7. 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 on-site, the machine may be taken out of service temporarily or permanently. During qualifying rounds, players in that 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 90 minutes is to 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 2pm on Saturday June 23, all scores recorded on the disabled machine up to that point will be voided. Any player who has previously posted a qualifying score on the disabled machine will be invited to play a "make-up" game on the substitute machine; his or her resulting score will then be used in lieu of his or her previous score on the disabled machine. In the event that a machine is disabled during qualifying rounds after 2pm on Saturday June 23 but before the close of qualifying rounds on Saturday, the scores and ranking up to that point shall stand. A new ranking will be established on the substitute machine, and no "make-up" games will be played. In the event that a machine is disabled during qualifying rounds at the end of Saturday play, or during Sunday play, it will simply remain unavailable to qualifiers, who must choose an alternate game. A substitute machine will not be required.

Qualifying entries played before 2pm on Saturday June 23 therefore enjoy a slight theoretical advantage in the event of machine failures.

8. Player Errors

A player error is any player action, purposeful or accidental, which affects the 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. 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. If a tournament official rules that the slam tilt sensor is not functioning properly, then the tilting player is allowed to play a two-ball makeup game, unless the slam tilt occurred on his or her last ball, in which case the score stands. 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. Any player who takes this action deliberately in order to employ this rule and provide a replayed game to other players will 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 the tournament setting, will receive a score of zero for the game. Two offenses 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 tournament.

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 they 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 ejected from the tournament.

Because the tournament consists 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, 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. Outside of play, players are of course free to discuss features and strategies as much as they like.

Tournament officials will be the sole determinant 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.

8. Rulings

Rulings shall be made by tournament officials, which includes Event Coordinators and any such person designated as an official by the Event Coordinators. Each official is excluded from ruling on any play situation that directly affects his or her actual or potential standing as a player. Final authority for any ruling rests with the President of the Steel City Pinball Association.

V. 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 Continuations disabled
  • Game Restart disabled
  • 2 Tilt Warnings
  • 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.

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.

VI. Player Conduct

1. 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 further pinball as a sport.

2. Abuse of Machines

Tilt sensors are employed to determine what constitutes unduly rough handling of each machine. Abusive handling such as lifting, tipping, or rocking a machine is grounds for a warning and possible disqualification for a game or the entire tournament, as determined by tournament officials.

3. Interference

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. This provision does not preclude other possible grounds for ejection, such as fraud, theft, threats, criminal activity, harrassment, inappropriate behavior, public drunkenness, etc.

4. Delay

Any player who delays the progress of his or her game for any reason other than to await a ruling will be given a warning after 30 seconds' delay. If the delay is repeated or willful, tournament officials may terminate the game in progress and record a score of zero for that player.

5. Death Saves, Bangbacks, etc

Advanced techniques known as "Death Saves" and "Bangbacks" are practiced by certain advanced players. Because the effectiveness of these techniques varies indeterminately from machine to machine, and because of the risk of injury to either player or machine, these 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.

VII. 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 will need to advise the scorekeeper when this happens. The score keeper will then make a note to record the appropriately increased score. Notifying the score keeper immediately after the "roll over" is the player's responsibility.
c. On the game NBA Fastbreak, each championship ring collected by the player shall cause their recorded score to be increased by 1000 points.

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updated June 5, 2001