1. Introduction

The Pittsburgh Pinball League (PPL) rules provide a format for running a friendly league competition for pinball players of all skill levels. These rules are designed for leagues of any number of players, playing on three or more machines at a single location. Competition is designed to be exciting down to the last ball of every game, and playoff spots are often not decided until the final ball has drained. The nature of the PPL league system allows players of all skill levels to play in a single league which is fun and competitive for everyone.  The schedule consists of an 8-week season, one makeup week and one playoff date (finals).

1.1 League Officials

In these rules, SLO stands for Senior League Official. For situations requiring an immediate decision or rule interpretation, this refers to the highest-ranking league official present who is not directly affected by the decision. In particular, rulings of malfunctions or interference should be deferred to an uninvolved official. In other cases, it refers to any appropriate league officer.  The order of rank for league officers should a dispute on a ruling arise is under section 1.3

1.2 Discretion of League Officials

These rules are a guide. At times situations will arise that aren't specifically covered by these rules. In these cases, the SLO should make a decision in the spirit of the rules. This decision shall be documented for later reference, and be applied consistently should the situation arise again. 

1.3 Definition of League Officials

League officials will perform all league tasks such as scheduling, collecting dues, communications to league members, making rule changes and scorekeeping.  Rank of league officials is determined by their consecutive amount of time as a league official. Current league officials in order of rank are: Pete Hendricks, Doug Polka, Joe Scaletta, Erin Kelly, Fred Cochran, James Emanuel, Nicole Somplatsky, and Greg DeFeo.  Rank of league officials will only be used in the event of a tie to cast the tiebreaking vote.

2. Attendance and Tardiness

The League Officers must set a complete schedule before league play begins. Dates will be decided upon; however, locations may change. League players are encouraged to attend every week, but 100% attendance is not required. You can miss two weeks of the season without any penalty to your score (see the scoring section for details.)

2.1 Start Time

League start times are posted on the official schedule.  Any non-league games in progress by league players at league start time are immediately halted. Players join their assigned group and begin league play immediately.

2.2 Placement of Tardy Players

A tardy player will be put into a group containing the least number of players that has the most games remaining. The tardy player will be player 1 in all remaining games. Players may not sign in any player other than themselves. Any player not signed in by the start time will be considered tardy.  If all groups have the same number of games and players, then a player enters the last group drawn.  A tardy player may not enter into a game already in progress (the first ball has been plunged.) The tardy player receives last choice of game or order on the first game in which they are eligible to play.

2.3 Forfeits

If a player does not show up on any league night for any given week, that player will be given a score of zero. Exceptions may be made in the case of cancelled league events (see section 2.4).

2.4 Inclement Conditions

The SLO may cancel a league night, due to inclement weather or other inclement conditions, particularly if travel conditions are deemed unsafe for players. The SLO is responsible to notify all players if it is deemed that a league night cannot be held as scheduled. These notifications will be posted on www.pittsburghpinballleague.org as well as the league Facebook page.  A makeup date will be scheduled for all players affected by the League Officials.  Extra time may be allotted for tardiness in the even of inclement conditions at the SLO’s discretion.

2.5 League Cancellation

If a location should close down during league play, if less than two games have been played by any group, the match shall be cancelled and not recorded. If two or more games have been played by all groups, then scores will be recorded only for those games played by all groups. (Other games will be recorded as forfeits; these forfeits will not count toward individual player forfeit totals.) Missing games will be rescheduled by the League Officials.

2.6 Guests

Non-PPL members are invited to attend any league night, except those marked as private. Guests are not permitted to play in league matches but we encourage guests to come out to league nights and see what we are all about.

3. Machine Play Rules - General

3.1 Extra Balls

All extra balls are allowed in league play unless declared otherwise before play begins by the SLO.  When a player is required to plunge an extra ball, the player may touch the machine to set up a skill shot before launching the ball. Once the ball is set into motion, the player may no longer touch the machine. If the ball is returned to a launcher lane that requires a manual plunge (e.g. by a ball saver), the player may re-plunge the ball.  If a plunged extra ball becomes stuck somewhere on the machine, the player may attempt to nudge the machine to free the ball. If nudging fails to free the ball, and there is no operator present to free the ball, the player (or SLO) will be required to tilt the game in an attempt to free the ball. No compensation is provided in this event, nor is it considered a major malfunction.  Buy-ins for extra balls are not allowed.

3.2 Replays and Specials

No award is given for credits earned by replays or specials during league play. If a machine awards extra balls for replays or specials, they are played as prescribed in section 3.1

3.3 Malfunctions

Pinball machines are complex assemblies that can exhibit many unintended behaviors during play. To keep league play on track and prevent excessive focus on minor glitches, only a major machine malfunction can affect league play.  A major malfunction is one that results in a loss of a playable turn that is not a normal part of the game (i.e. premature loss of turn).  A "playable turn" includes the player's current turn at play, and any other balls that the player is entitled to play. This does not include "unallowable" extra balls.  Note that an active multiball is part of the "current turn at play" and therefore a major malfunction during multiball is only counted once.  In disputed situations, the SLO shall decide whether or not a malfunction is considered major.

The following are examples of major malfunctions:
A player is forced to tilt the ball in an attempt to dislodge a stuck ball (unless it is an unallowable extra ball).
A turn ends prematurely (i.e. with 1 or more balls in play as in multi-ball).
A ball is auto-plunged or otherwise shot into play prematurely.

The following examples would NOT be considered major malfunctions:
A player tilts away a stuck ball when it was not clearly necessary.
A multiball round ends prematurely but does not result in loss of turn.
A ball goes airborne and drains.
A lit kickback fails to kick the ball back into play.
A ball saver fails to work.
A player tilts another player's ball. (This is Interference.)
A game kicks 2 balls into the shooter lane and the turn ends when one drains.
A switch intermittently not registering.

If a problem with a machine is announced to league players by the SLO before league play is started, then that problem is not considered a major malfunction even if the result is loss of ball in play.  When a major malfunction occurs, it is the player's responsibility to notify the SLO, calmly and promptly. If the SLO agrees 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 may 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 game may be declared unplayable by the SLO.

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.

The SLO can declare a machine unplayable at any time if it is not functioning properly and the resulting malfunction(s) will, in his estimation, impair the ability of players to obtain fair scores. If the first ball played by all player’s result in major malfunctions, or if play cannot be continued on a machine for any reason, the machine is automatically declared unplayable for the rest of the meet, or until the machine is repaired. In these cases, the entire game is replayed immediately on a machine chosen by the player who picked the affected machine.

Catastrophic malfunctions such as slam tilt, total machine failure, fire due to overheated components, main processor halts, and similar events are handled on a case by case basis, using the malfunction rules described above if possible. Frequently, catastrophic malfunctions will invalidate all scores for that group on that machine. However, depending on when the malfunction occurs, the scores as played may stand if so decided by the SLO (e.g. catastrophic malfunctions on the last ball of the game). Any recorded scores on the machine at the time of failure will be used if the machine is brought back into service and affected players replay, or players accept agreed-upon scores.

It is recommended that the league prepare a maintenance sheet on which is noted any malfunctions that are found on the various machines during league play. This list should be passed on to the site's management to assist in the proper maintenance of the machines.

3.4 Positive Malfunctions

If a malfunction causes a player to receive an exceptionally unfair advantage over the other players, and there is no reasonable way to avoid it, then the game is stopped and a new game is started either on the same or a different machine at the SLO's discretion. If a positive malfunction can be avoided (such as the awarding of extra points by repeated tapping of a flipper button), then this behavior shall be reported to the SLO and shall be avoided during subsequent league play. At the discretion of the SLO, the game may be replayed if it is felt that an unfair advantage was already gained by one or more players due to the malfunction. In this situation, the SLO may also rule that completed scores on the game are to be discarded. It is the responsibility of all members of a group to ensure that positive malfunctions are not abused.

Note that a one ball "multiball" is not considered to be an exceptionally unfair advantage nor is a missing tilt assembly.

3.5 Additional Rulings

Any situation requiring a ruling not specifically mentioned in the Pittsburgh Pinball League rules shall utilize the most recent PAPA rules set. (www.papa.org)

3.6 Game play Promptness

When a player's turn comes up in a league match, he is expected to begin play promptly. If a league player does not begin play in a reasonable amount of time (usually but not always five minutes), the SLO may plunge the ball for him, and the player may not play the ball.

3.7 Practice Games

Once league play starts, a player may not play or practice games that he is scheduled to play later in that match. Practice games are allowed on machines that a player is not scheduled to play during that match, if it does not interfere with league play by his own or other groups. Practice games must be ended immediately if a league group is ready to begin a scheduled game on that machine.

3.8 Distractions

In general, random distractions that occur during league play (including minor physical bumps) are considered normal play conditions and no allowances are made for the effects of such distractions on a player's game.

3.9 Non-League Players

League players do not take precedence over other customers at the establishment. Having a non-league customer play your ball is considered a distraction and not interference; control of the ball should be regained as quickly and politely as possible. Close attention should be paid by league players to their game in progress to guard against this situation.

4. Illegal actions / Player Conduct

4.1 Playing Own Unallowable Extra Ball

If a player nudges, flips, or otherwise plays his own unallowable extra ball, he must stop as soon as the error is recognized, and must plunge his next "allowable" ball without playing. If the error occurs on or after the player's last "allowable" ball, his final machine score is reduced by 25%.

4.2 Playing Opponent's Ball

The violator shall attempt to trap the ball(s) on a flipper as soon as the error is realized. The violator is punished by receiving a one score for that game. That player also receives last choice during the following game selection. It is your responsibility to know what player you are. If you are unsure consult your score sheet.  If the affected ball was an unallowable extra ball, there is no additional compensation for the victim. Otherwise, the victim may choose one of two options: continue playing the erroneously plunged ball (if control can be recovered) or drain the plunged ball and play an additional ball through a new game. The player must announce a decision to all players in the group before play resumes. The deciding player is responsible for ensuring that the next player does not begin play before a decision is announced. If he allows the game to continue without announcing a decision, then it is presumed that he wishes to continue the game and play an additional ball.

4.3 Interference

Interference in another player's game is not tolerated. Interference includes (but isn't limited to) intentional slam tilts, tilting an opponent's ball, or nudging the machine during another player's ball, even if the action does not cause the victim to lose the ball. It also includes intentional distraction of a player during his play. Talking or coaching is not considered interference, unless the player at the machine specifically requests that he not be talked to during play.

If a player interferes with another player, causing a drain and/or loss of turn, the victim of the interference may either replay the entire game, or continue the game and play one (1) additional ball to replace the interfered ball (using either an earned, normally unallowable extra ball or a buy-in ball). If the next player starts play with no decision announced, the victim is presumed to wish to continue his game. The interfering player is required to pay for the replayed game or the buy-in ball, even if there are credits on the machine.

Interference is a serious violation of league play rules, and a penalty will be assessed on the violator.

4.4 Slam Tilts

A slam tilt is one caused by an aggressive and excessive shove of the machine, or by an attempted bang back or death save, and is considered illegal. The violator will receive a zero score for that game. That player will also not receive choice of game or order for the following game.

4.5 Serious Violations of League Rules

Serious violations are those so designated in these rules, as well as any conduct by a player that the SLO determines to be exceptionally detrimental to the league.

Serious violations are cumulative over an entire season, not just one match. For these violations, the following penalties are assessed:
First and second offense: Forfeit the current game with a machine score of zero.
If the violator's group does not have a "current" game in progress, this penalty will be assessed against the game of the current match for which the violator has the highest league points. If there is more than one such game, the last such game of the match will be penalized.
Third offense: Forfeit of all games in the current match with machine scores of zero.
Behavior which causes a player to be ejected from the establishment by the management will be penalized as an automatic third offense, even if it occurs before or after league play. If the violator's group does not have a "current" match in progress, the match chronologically closest to the violation will be penalized.
Fourth offense: Forfeit of season. The player's scores are wiped, and the player will be suspended from the league.
Violence of any kind against fellow players, vandalism of pinball machines or other property will be penalized as an automatic fourth offense.

4.6 Not Starting the Proper Number of Games

If too many games are started inadvertently, balls for the extra games are plunged but not played. If too few games are started, additional games are started, if possible, so that the number of games on the machine matches the number of players in the group. If the proper number of games cannot be started by the above means for some reason, the game is ended immediately and a replay of the machine by all players commences. There is no penalty for the player who started the incorrect number of games as all players are responsible to ensure the correct number of games is started on a machine.

4.7 Death saves and Bang backs

Death saves and bang backs ("biffs") are techniques used by some players to return a ball back into play that has already gone down an outlane or otherwise drained. These techniques are not allowed in PPL league play. A player that successfully performs a death save or bang back will receive a machine score of zero on that game, and must plunge any remaining balls without playing them. However, it is allowable for the ball to bounce back into play of its own accord (most common on Gottlieb games and newer Stern games).
Although these techniques are illegal in league play, because these maneuvers do not interfere with any other player's game, performing a death save or bang back is not considered a serious violation of league rules as defined in section 4.5.

4.8 Cheating

Pinball can often be frustrating, especially during competition. The PPL rules are designed to deal fairly with this fact, to encourage people to control themselves, and to compensate for various mishaps that might occur during play. On the other hand, violation of any rules with the clear intent of preventing another player from fairly playing the machine or of unfairly increasing one's own score can only be described as cheating, and is not tolerated. Penalty for cheating will be determined by league officials based on the severity of the offense.

4.9 Player Conduct / Sportsmanship

PPL players are expected to maintain a level of sportsmanship during league events. This includes respecting the location, the machines, PPL players, and other patrons and/or workers of the location.

Verbal abuse directed at an official or another player is considered a violation of league rules. Loud verbal outbursts, especially vulgar or profane ones are also considered a violation.

Pinball machine abuse is also considered a violation. Machine abuse is defined as any type of violent shaking, kicking, dropping of the machine, hard smacks on the lock bar or glass, "rage tilting" (tilting on purpose after a drain), shoving the machine etc. Note that nudging and tilting are both normal parts of pinball play, as are slap saves and any reasonable moves on a machine to try to save a ball, none of which are against league rules.

Violations: The SLOs will enforce these rules and violators will be subject to either: a verbal warning, yellow card, or red card depending on the severity of the offense. A verbal warning lets the player know they are violating the above rules. If a player has already been warned, or if an outburst or machine abuse is egregious, a yellow card will be issued. Extreme examples of the above or if any physical violence/threats occur towards another player, a red card can be issued.

Yellow card: A formal warning that gets recorded. If a second yellow card is issued in the same season, the offending player gets 10 points subtracted from their overall season score at the end of the season. Any additional yellow cards for said player eliminates them for the remainder of the season, including finals. No monetary refunds will be given in this instance.

Red card: The equivalent of 2 yellow cards. The player gets 10 points subtracted from their overall season score at the end of the season. Any additional yellow (or red) cards for said player eliminates them for the remainder of the season, including finals. No monetary refunds will be given.

5. Scoring

It is each player's responsibility to be sure that their machine scores are recorded correctly on the score sheet as each game is finished. Any possible scoring errors should be brought to the attention of the scorekeeper (either the group member who recorded the scores or the Senior League Official) as soon as possible. Once notified of a possible error, the scorekeeper shall contact all the players in the affected group to determine their recollection of the scoring. If all players are in agreement, then the scoring will be corrected. However, if all players in the group do not concur with the reported error, then the scores as written on the score sheet shall stand.

5.1 Player Groups

All of the players' names who are in attendance at the recorded start time of a league night will have their names drawn by the scorekeeper and will be placed into 2, 3, 4 or 5 player groups. 2 and 5 player groups will not be used unless absolutely necessary.  If, based on the number of players in attendance, groups of different sizes are necessary (for example 7 players in attendance would call for a 4 and 3 player group) the four player group is drawn first, followed by the 3 player group.

5.2 Scoring

Points available are based on the size of your group:
2 player group
1st – 5 points
2nd – 1 points
3 player group
1st – 5 points
2nd – 3 points
3rd – 1 points
4 player group
1st – 5 points
2nd – 3 points
3rd – 2 point
4th – 1 points
5 player group
1st – 5 points
2nd – 4 points
3rd – 3 point
4th – 2 point
5th – 1 points
If a player does not compete in a match, either due to showing up late or leaving early, that player will receive a score of 0 for that game and the game will be scored by the number of people who played in the game.

5.3 League Standings and Dropped Scores.

Your weekly points are added to your season total every week. Each day of the week (Thursday, Friday, Sunday) will have its own standings.  As a means of evening the play field for players unable to attend every week, all players will have their lowest two scores from the season dropped from their final standings.
Additionally, a makeup week is scheduled that players may play in if they missed any of the previous 8 weeks.  If a player has played all 8 weeks they are not eligible to play in the makeup week.

6.1 Machine Selection and Play Order

For the first game of a match the first player drawn for the group gets pick of game or position. The 2nd player then gets to pick game (if not chosen by player 1) or position then the 3rd player gets to pick game (if not yet chosen) or position, then the 4th player gets to pick game (if not yet chosen) or position, then the 5th player.  For all subsequent matches after game 1, the player who finished last gets first selection of game or position followed by the player who finished next to last. The player who finished 1st in the previous game will get the last choice.  Any player that receive a disqualification in the previous game will receive last available option (game or order) for the following game.
NOTE: No machine may be chosen to be played twice unless there are less than 3 playable machines at a location. If there are two of the same title at a location, only one may be selected by any group.

6.2 Machine Replacement Selection

If a machine should become unplayable during league play, a replacement machine must be designated by the SLO, subject to as many of the following constraints as possible.
The replacement machine:
Should be in good working order.
Should not be already scheduled for play by the affected group.
Should be chosen to minimize group backlogs.

7. Playoffs (Finals)

7.1 Playoff Divisions

To provide a fair chance for players of all skill levels to compete in the playoffs, the league is separated into playoff divisions based on league size. Division determination and breakdown is finalized after the final week of the season.

Players per division

League Size            0 - 9       10 - 17         18 - 25        26 - 33    34 - 50          51+
A qualifiers              all             8                  12               12            12             32
B qualifiers                0         remainder   remainder  12            16             32
C qualifiers                0              0                   0         remainder remainder  32
Team  qualifiers       0              0                   0                0               0         remainder

All players who do not qualify for the A, B, or C Divisions will be put into a Team Division (X Division). The X division will be a three strikes team tournament where players team up based on their World Pinball Player Rankings.  Highest ranked players will be paired with the lowest ranked players.

Pairings for 32 players are as follows:  (1, 16, 17, 32); (2, 15, 18, 31); (3, 14, 19, 30); (4, 13, 20, 29); (5, 12, 21, 28); (6, 11, 22, 27); (7, 10, 23, 26); (8, 9, 24, 25)

Pairings for 16 players:  (1, 8, 9, 16); (2, 7, 10, 15); (3, 6, 11, 14); (4, 5, 12, 13)

Pairings for 8 players:  (1, 4, 5, 8); (2, 3, 6, 7)

7.2 Playoff Division Restrictions

Players ranked between 1 and 199 in the World Pinball Player Rankings are restricted to A division.
Players ranked between 200 and 599 are restricted to A or B division.
If a restricted player does not qualify in their restricted division they will be placed in the X Division Team Playoffs.

7.3 Awarding Playoff Spots

All league players will qualify for the playoffs.  The winner of each final match is named Division Champion for the season.

7.4 Playoff Format

Any division consisting of less than 12 players will be split into two groups and have one semi final round before the finals.
Any division consisting of 12 players will have one semi-final round before the finals.
Any division consisting of 16 players will have two rounds before the finals.

Any division consisting of 32 players will have three rounds before finals.
The exception to these rules is the X Division.
2 players from each group will advance to the next round. Playoff seeding is determined by the final season standings throughout the playoffs.

7.5 Ties in Playoff Qualification

If there is a tie in divisional standings based on total league points, the tie is first broken by the average score for the weeks played by each player. If the tie is still unresolved, the next tiebreaker will be the highest single week score. The third tie breaker will be the 2nd highest single week score attained by the player. If a tie still exists, then a playoff game must be played between the players. The machine will be decided by the SLO not affected by the tie.
A tie breaker game will occur for divisional designation or the right to receive a bye.  The game will be selected by an SLO, and game order will be in reverse of the standings (4, 3, 2, 1).

7.6 Playoff Scoring

Playoff scoring will be 5, 3, 2, 1 (5 points for 1st, 3 for 2nd, 2 for 3rd and 1 for 4th place).  In 3 player groups, scoring is 5, 3, 1.
In each round, two players with the highest point totals from that round in each 4 player group, will advance to the next round.

If 2 or more players are tied to determine who advances, a playoff game is held.  The top seed of the affected players gets choice of game or order.  The winning player(s) advances.

7.7 Playoff Machine Selection

The 3rd seed of each group will get choice of game or position for game 1, followed by the 1st, 2nd, and 4th seeds. The 2nd seed in the group gets choice of game or position in game 2, followed by the 1st, 3rd, and 4th seeds. The 1st seed gets choice of game of position for game 3, followed by the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th seeds.  For the entirety of the playoffs, if there are 12 or more games available for selection, no machine may be selected by the same player more than once. This number may be adjusted by the League Officials based on the number of games available.  Also, no machine shall be repeated in any given round (two different players may not choose the same game title in the same round).

7.8 Ties in Playoff Results

If two or more players in the same group are tied in points after a round has been played, then a one-game playoff will break the tie. The machine choice, or order, will be given to the highest seeded player followed by 2nd, 3rd, etc.

7.9 Tardy or Missing from Playoffs

Players are required to sign in for playoffs at a designated time. The SLO may choose to delay playoffs for a reasonable amount of time if a player is tardy. If a player is absent from the finals then the next unqualified player may move up into the division. If the player is absent from the lowest division no adjustment will be made.

8. Dues

8.1 Cost

Dues are $20 per season. SLOs will collect dues from all league players. All dues must be paid in full before the player is allowed to play in a league match.

8.2 Payouts

All league dues will be spent on league activates. League officials will not receive any kind of compensation for their duties.

The expenditures for league per season are listed below.

Percentages are approximate.
50% will be spent on prize payouts.
25% of dues will be spent on the season ending party (food for finals).
15% of dues will go to support the clubhouse, or be retained for future use.
10% will go towards the giveaway game drawing and other league expenses.
The 50% prize pool is divided as such:
            40% to A Division
            35% to B Division
            25% to C Division
X Division, if necessary, will receive no cash prizes.
Within divisions 25% - 20% - 15% - 10% - 7.5 – 7.5 – 7.5 – 7.5 will be the payouts for positions 1-8. Any cash prize that would be lower than $20 will be converted into a free season for the winner.