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The Professional & Amateur Pinball Association

Competition Rules

Circuit Standings:

Competitive pinball players will participate in a circuit of 20 tournaments, with all results during the Circuit season contributing to their final qualifying point total. At the end of the Stern Pro Circuit season, the top 40 ranked players will be invited to compete in the Stern Pro Circuit Final tournament.

The Stern Pro Circuit Final is an invitation-only, no-entry-fee-required event where all contestants who qualify win prize money. The Stern Pro Circuit Final is a unique competitive event that pits each season’s best performers against one another in a last-man-standing tournament format.

All players who participate in an SPC event will be awarded SPC points towards the overall standings. These points will be based on the WPPR points earned at those events.

Circuit Final:

At the end of the Stern Pro Circuit season, the top 40 ranked players are invited to compete in the SPC Final held in Chicago, IL. Twelve machines will be made available for the duration of the tournament. The machines will be a mixture of classic and new Stern pinball machines.

In the first round, all players will be grouped by seed into 10 groups of 4 players. Each group of 4 players will compete on 4 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 4-game round, 2 players will advance out of each group into the second round, which will function similarly to the first.

At the start of the third round, the remaining 10 players will be placed in a ladder-style bracket based on their original seeds. The bottom 4 players will compete in a single game, with the lowest scoring player being removed from the contest and replaced by the next highest seed. When only 2 players remain, they will compete in a best two-games-out-of-three series to determine the SPC Champion and decide who takes home the Stern Pro Circuit Belt along with a brand new Stern Pinball machine!


I. Introduction

The Stern Pro Circuit is a series of pinball tournaments promoted by Stern Pinball, Replay Foundation and the International Flipper Pinball Association. This document specifies the official operating rules and regulations of the SPC. The SPC coordinators are Doug Polka, Mark Steinman, Elizabeth Cromwell, Josh Sharpe and Zach Sharpe.

II. Stern Pro Circuit Events

Players who participate in any of the SPC events will be awarded points for the Circuit standings, as described below.

III. Points and Rankings

Each Circuit event will produce results once they are submitted to the IFPA. The WPPR points earned at these events will be applied towards the SPC standings for that season. For example, the results from the Louisville Arcade Expo 2017 would have awarded the following points:

1  Trent Augenstein 62.73
2  Andy Rosa 51.44
3  Chris Warren AL 45.17
4  Andrew Rosa II 40.29
6  Brian Shepherd 32.75
6  Steven Bowden 32.75
6  Ed Zeltmann 32.75
6  Jon Replogle 32.75
92  Paige Ilsley 0.33
93  Glenn Kunkel 0.26
94  Mike Schulz 0.2
95  Dale Nunn 0.13
96  Scott Holdren 0.07

For rules on how the WPPR points for each event are calculated, please click HERE.

All SPC results for each player will be credited to his or her total for the Circuit standings for that given season.

Please note that only players with registered IFPA profiles are eligible to participate in the Stern Pro Circuit Final. All players will be able to participate in any SPC event, regardless of their IFPA status. Players must be active in the IFPA database the entire year to be eligible for the SPC Final that season. For the 2018 season, any suppressed players have until 12/31/17 to activate their profile and reinstate their eligibility.

IV. Stern Pro Circuit Final

The Circuit Final event is operated as a coordinated effort between PAPA and IFPA, and therefore the latest version of the PAPA/IFPA unified 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.

The winner of the Circuit Final will also receive a brand new Stern Pinball machine, the Stern Pro Circuit belt, and the title “Stern Pro 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. The top 15 of the 20 PAPA Circuit events held in 2017 with the highest average WPPR point value over the past 3 years will be invited to be on the Stern Pro Circuit for the following season. The lowest 5 events of those 20 based on average WPPR point value will be dropped from the Stern Pro Circuit the following season, and replaced with the next biggest 5 events. Tournament Directors are welcome to pass on having their event included in the Stern Pro Circuit, in which case we will move down the list to the next biggest event until the schedule is filled.

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

4. Must use IFPA/PAPA rules to determine stuck balls and malfunctions.

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

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

7. 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.

8. Circuit Fee – there will be 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 Stern Pro Circuit promotion, Circuit Final prize pool, as well as providing some prizes for each event.

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

1. Access to a SPC representatives 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. SPC events will receive banners to be displayed at their event. These banners will let people know that the event is a Stern Pro 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, IFPA website, Stern website and SPC calendar.

4. Front page promotion on the PAPA website, IFPA website, Stern website leading up to your event.

5. Coordinated help in generating local media coverage for your event by SPC staff.

6. SPC staff will create and manage a survey with you to help you gather more information about your attendees and your event.

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

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

9. The SPC 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

The Stern Pro 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.

The top 15 events with the highest average WPPR points awarded over the past 3 years will be invited to remain on the Circuit schedule the following season. The 5 events with the lowest average WPPR points awarded will be removed from contention for the following season. The next 5 largest tournaments with respect to average WPPR points awarded the past 3 years will then be invited to fill those 5 spots for the following season.

Please note that two Stern Pro Circuit events cannot be held within 50 miles of one another less than a week apart.

Please note that event selection is at the discretion of SPC staff, and that any event may be included or excluded for any reason.

VII. Circuit Notes

SPC will not “take over” events or force them to conform to PAPA’s or IFPA’s own formats or use specific games from any manufacturer in these events. SPC staff 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 SPC staff involvement. SPC staff 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.