Tournament Circuit: Official Rules

I. Introduction

The Tournament Circuit is a series of pinball tournaments promoted by the Professional and Amateur Pinball Association. This document specifies the official operating rules and regulations of the Circuit. The Circuit coordinators are Doug Polka, Mark Steinman, and Kevin Martin.

II. Circuit Events

Players who place in the top 40 at any of the Circuit events will be awarded points for the Circuit standings, as described below.

III. Points and Rankings

Each Circuit event will produce results indicating its top 40 players. Points are then awarded to each player based on those results, as follows:

PAPACircuitScoring   
Major Circuit Event
RankPointsRankPointsRankPoints
1st15011th5221st27
2nd12012th4922nd25
3rd10013th4623rd23
4th8014th4324th21
5th7515th4025th-40th20 Then Decrease by 1
6th7016th37
7th6517th35
8th6018th33
9th5819th31
10th5520th29
Circuit Event
RankPointsRankPointsRankPoints
1st10011th2421st8
2nd7512th2222nd7
3rd6013th2023rd6
4th5014th1824th5
5th4515th1625th-32nd4
6th4016th1433rd-40th3
7th3517th12
8th3018th11
9th2819th10
10th2620th9

In the event of a tie, which may occur when an event does not clearly distinguish each of the top 40 positions, the points available to the tied players will be averaged, and any fractional point will be rounded up to the next whole point, for each tied player.

Only the best ten results of each player will be credited to his or her total for the Circuit standings.

IV. Circuit Final

The Circuit Final event is operated as a PAPA event, and therefore the latest version of the PAPA World Pinball Championships rules apply, in terms of handling malfunctions, player behavior, official rulings, and all other guidelines. The Circuit coordinators are the designated tournament officials for the Circuit Final.

The Circuit Final will feature a group of pinball machines selected by officials. Machines outside this group may not be selected for play. Officials may make machine substitutions as they deem necessary.

1. Qualified Players

Final Circuit standings will be determined promptly after the last Circuit event. Any player in the top 40 of the rankings will be invited to the Circuit Final. The tiebreaker for the 40th position will be determined by whichever player has the highest finish in a Circuit event in that season. If a tie remains after a single event, the next highest finish will be considered. This process will proceed until the tie is broken, or a coin flip is required.

Qualified players will be notified promptly by Circuit coordinators. If a player cannot attend, their opening will be filled by the next highest seeded available player who has participated in the Circuit. Players who do not attend will not receive any prize from the Circuit Final.

2. Rounds One and Two

All players will be grouped by seed into ten groups of four players. Each group of four players will compete on four different machines, with the highest seeded player given the choice of choosing the game to be played or determining order of play. At the end of the four-game round, two players will advance out of each group into the second round, which will function similarly to the first.

Both of these rounds will function as if they were the final rounds of the PAPA World Championships, with the only differences being the number of four-player groups competing and the use of four games per round in the Circuit Final instead of the typical three used in the PAPA World Championships. Scoring will be traditional PAPA-style 4-2-1-0.

3. Ladder-Bracket

Round 3 consists of a series of four-player games. The first game is played by the four lowest-seeded players. The highest-seeded player has choice of machine or order of play. Choice proceeds through the remaining players in descending order of seeding.

The player who has the lowest score is eliminated from the Final, and receives the appropriate prize. The next lowest-seeded player, who has not yet played, is added to the group for the next game.

In each subsequent match, the highest-seeded player (who will be the player who just joined the group) has choice of machine or order of play. The next choice is given to the winner of the previous game, and choice proceeds in descending order of score on the previous game.

No player may choose the same machine more than once, but any player may choose a machine already played, including the most recent machine played. Officials may remove any machine from consideration at any time.

Players will compete until two players remain. At that point, a best-of-three match between the final two players will take place to determine the champion. The highest seeded player has the choice of machine or order of play for the first game. From that point forward, the loser of the previous game has the choice of machine or order of play.

4. Operational Details

Each player participating in the Circuit Final must provide a cellular phone number where they can be reached. Exact times for each round are not guaranteed. Any player who is missing when his or her round is set to begin will be allowed no more than 5 minutes to appear. Play will then continue, with balls being plunged for any missing player or players.

Collusion and deals are not acceptable in the Circuit Final.

5. Prizes

The Circuit Final features a guaranteed package of monetary prizes.

Prize Money   
1st25007th225
2nd10008th200
3rd7009th175
4th50010th150
5th30011th-20th100
6th25021st-40th50

The winner of the Circuit Final will also receive the title “PAPA Circuit Player of the Year”.

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.

V. Criteria for Eligibility

1. Tournament must have already been held for a minimum of three years prior to applying. Exceptions may be considered if a PAPA representative attends and takes a greater role in overseeing the event in the first year.

2. Must collect e-mail addresses of tournament players to be used in a survey that will gather opinions on your event. All information gathered from these surveys will be shared with the relevant tournament director in order to help improve the event in future years.

3. Tournament must have a running 3 year average of 30 players or greater in the highest division.

4. No age-restricted or private locations without a PAPA representatives approval. The tournament must not discriminate against anyone on the basis of gender, race, sexual orientation, political preference, or religion.

5. The location must have secondary offerings. A second or third competitive opportunity for each player outside of the main division, or an attached convention or festival is preferred.

6. Must use PAPA’s rules to determine stuck balls and malfunctions. Please note for 2015-16, PAPA and IFPA have coordinated and both handle these situations with an identical ruleset.

7. Must be willing to cross-promote all other events on the PAPA Circuit by hanging flyers and linking to the Circuit calendar on relevant websites and promotional posts.

8. Must have a workable scorekeeping calendar no closer than one week to the start of the event.

9. Must have enough technicians, parts, tools, and a game replacement plan available to deal with problems that arise on the tournament machines. At least one designated technician capable of handling minor problems must be available at all times in addition to the overall tournament director.

10. Circuit Fee – During the first 5 years, the non-profit Replay Foundation funded the PAPA Tournament Circuit and all related Circuit activities in excess of $100,000. For the 2017-2018 PAPA Circuit, we are instituting a $5 fee per player at each event. It is up to each event how they collect this fee. For example, an event could place a $5 registration fee per entrant, or take it out of the overall prize pool. 100% of the money collected will go towards PAPA Circuit promotion, Circuit Final prize pool, as well as providing some prizes for each event.

11. If your event does not meet all of the requirements above, you may still be considered for Circuit inclusion if there are no Circuit events within 100 miles of your event. Events submitted under this restriction will each be reviewed by PAPA staff and if approval is given the event will be added to the voting process.

As a part of the PAPA Circuit, tournaments will receive the following:

1. Access to a PAPA representative who will answer questions on game choice, game setup, format, and any other issues where a collective knowledge gained from attending multiple high-level tournaments may prove useful.

2. PAPA will mail banners to all circuit events for display. These banners will let people know that the event is a PAPA Circuit event and will also serve as advertisement and schedule for all other circuit events.

3. A description of your event on the PAPA website and Circuit calendar.

4. Front page promotion on PAPA.org leading up to your event.

5. PAPA will create and manage a survey with you to help you gather more information about your attendees and your event.

6. Free 1/4 page promotion in the ReplayFX Arcade & Gaming Festival program.

7. Each event will receive a package before their events with some PAPA Swag that can be used at the event as giveaways or prizes.

8. The Replay Foundation / PAPA will be creating a unique medal for each event during the Circuit season to be awarded to the winner of each event. These medals will be mailed to tournament directors prior to each event.

VI. Tournament Selection Details & Tournament Classifications

The PAPA Tournament Circuit will consist of 20 pinball tournaments. All tournaments throughout the world are eligible to participate if they qualify based on the criteria listed in section V. Tournaments will be separated into 2 categories each season, with 8 events being designated as “Major Circuit Events” and the remaining 12 events being designated as “Circuit Events”. Events designated as Majors will receive a 50% bonus in the total number of points awarded to players.

The 8 events with the highest rated survey results from the previous season and who also have an IFPA player count of 70 will become majors (the median player count for 2016 was 77.5). If there are not 8 events that meet these qualifications, then the next highest player count event in the top 15 will become a Major Circuit Event, guaranteeing the schedule will include 8 Major Circuit Events and 12 Circuit Events each season. This system was specifically generated with the intent of allowing tournaments to move between the Major Circuit Event and Circuit Event designation frequently.

The top 15 events with the highest-rated survey results will remain on the Circuit schedule the following season. The 5 events with the lowest-rated survey results will be entered into the voting process alongside any new events that have applied to join the Circuit. No tournament is automatically removed based solely on survey results, as any tournament that is removed from the Circuit schedule must be voted out by the players themselves during the annual voting process.

VII. Circuit Notes

One common misconception in early years of the Circuit is that PAPA representatives would run all of the events on the calendar. While this has happened under certain circumstances, it is by no means the standard and should not be the expectation. PAPA will not “take over” events or force them to conform to PAPA’s own formats. PAPA also has no desire to supersede the authority of local tournament directors. Our purpose is to provide guidance and advice on relevant topics, occasionally provide equipment upon special request, and to help promote.

Tournament directors are free to use their discretion as to what formats or strategies will best grow pinball in their areas, and ultimately whether an event succeeds or fails will be based upon their decisions, not PAPA’s involvement. PAPA believes that local tournament directors know their players, people, games, and locations better than we ever could, and so we respect each director’s ability to weigh any concerns and make decisions that best suit the event in question.

Please note that whether an event is accepted onto the PAPA Circuit has no bearing on whether it will be broadcast on PAPAtv. The PAPAtv Broadcast calendar is run independently of the Circuit, has its own separate requirements and its own expectations as to what makes a positive broadcast. If you are interested in becoming a PAPAtv broadcast, you must contact Mark Steinman directly via the contact page on PAPA.org to discuss those separate requirements.