Pinball Champion

After my stunning loss two weeks ago at the Shorty’s Annual Pinball Tournament in Seattle (88 people entered — I lost my first match, won my next two, and was eliminated in the fourth), I came back to Portland a sullen, broken (my wrist is broken) man.

But then the week after — last week — another tournament took place. This time it was in Portland, at Ground Kontrol. It was the finals for the Portland Pinball League‘s latest season. I had only attended one meeting this past season, and the points I earned that night didn’t even get entered into the scores. Therefore, I was entering the tournament with a last place ranking. Thus, my first match was against the points leader!

This tournament was of much more modest size: eight entered. But, like Shorty’s, it was 1-on-1, best 2 out of 3, double elimination.

Here’s a picture I took a few months ago. Jacob in Ground Kontrol:

Jacob and Ground Kontrol

So I vanquished the points leader. The co-owner of Ground Kontrol was the referee. He said, “Do you come in here a lot? It seems like you do.” I told him (not totally knowing he was the co-owner at the time) that I come in about once a week. But that’s not all the way true. I come in closer to twice a week.

Portland is a wonderful place for pinball. Many of the bars have machines. I play pinball, either at bars or at Ground Kontrol, about five days a week. As a result, I dream pinball nearly every night…. Anyway, in general, the bars have a more limited range of machines — there’s Family Guy, Spiderman, Lord of the Rings, Medieval Madness, Sopranos… and so on, at so many places. I love all those machines. But Ground Kontrol carries a fresh batch, and they are so well maintained. Lately I’ve been big on Star Trek: TNG, The Shadow, and Fish Tales. And Ground Kontrol is smoke-free!

Anyway, after the jump is my play-by-play of the tournament. If you don’t want to read it, here’s the end: I won!

I started out versus the PPL’s leader. He picked Haunted House. It’s a wide, slow, old game. Huge open middle, and lots of weird areas for the ball to go (including an upside-down area underneath glass in the middle). I’ve played it a few times, never to stellar results. I figured he was great at it. At any rate, I creamed him. My third ball killed, and he couldn’t catch up. It was my pick next (the 2 out of 3 games are each on different tables), so I picked Fish Tales. I’m pretty comfortable on this table. It’s fun. It takes a skilled shot to lock balls for multiball, but I’m good at it. Once again, my third ball killed, 200 million, and I beat him (and replayed). So that dropped no. 1 into the losers bracket. I had, obviously, been very worried against him. I’ve seen him play at meetings, and he’s done really well. But everyone has not-so-good games. Beating him seemed to relieve a burden from my shoulders — the burden of doing bad.

Next up I played Danny from CFF (Crazy Flipper Fingers, the pre-eminent Portland pinball gang). He picked High Speed. I’ve played this once, and it’s fun. Very fast. But my god, he totally destroyed it. It was brutal. I ended up with about 419 million, and he had 4.5 billion. He got initials, first place. He told he’s been playing the table for 20 years. For the second game I picked The Shadow. This game’s cool, but tough. But I sometimes do well on it. We had a tight, exciting game! He finished with 210 million, and I started ball 3 at about 140 million. I did pretty well, but I was short, BUT my bonus pushed me to 211 million. Seriously! We couldn’t believe it. So that put it 1 to 1. Surprisingly, Danny picked The Shadow for game 3 (which was allowed, since I was the one who picked it the first time). We both had good games, but I did better. I scored about 450 million, I don’t remember his, but it was like half that.

Next up was Herb (from CFF also), the only other undefeated player. I picked Theatre of Magic. I destroyed it. I scored 890 million. He had around 200 million. That was a fun game. For the second game he picked Black Knight 2000. Somehow, I won. I didn’t know this table nearly as well as him. But he didn’t play very well. I did decent, but it was enough.

So I won the winner’s bracket.

Then I had to wait a while for the losers bracket to narrow down to one. There were many exciting games. And Herb ended up winning the semis. So it was us again. Since I was undefeated, he had to beat me twice. We started on Star Trek: The Next Generation. We both played well. It was a tight game, but he pulled ahead and took it. Then we played Radical. He destroyed me. We had both been tied around 2 million, and suddenly he got a 10 million jackpot. It was crazy. My third ball went immediately into the gutter. It literally lasted 1 second. So that was my first loss. And this started the official finals.

I picked Fish Tales. We both played well. I was first player, and ended with 198 million. He had 75 million starting ball 3. And he did great, and for a moment it really freaked me out. But he ended just short, at 188 million. It was exciting.

Then he picked Black Knight 2000. I ended up doing really well on it — my best game on that table, and a good score by anyone’s standards: 3.6 billion. He played well; he knows the table really well, and I watched him kill it earlier while playing another guy. But he fell short. Thus, I won the tournament! Yay!

It was 7:30pm at this point. And we were all dizzy from all the pinball (note: until about 20 minutes ago, all I ate all day was half a slice of cheese, and a super dark chocolate cookie… I am not a healthy eater/person. I just ate a toasted cheese, and now I feel sick. so I’m going to heat some refried beans, and drink lots of water). Joe was there the entire time, rooting me on (when not leveling his character in Gauntlet Legends).

I can’t believe I won! The competition was tough. I know some of these guys are better than me. But I really pulled it together and played some solid ball. It was a lot of fun.
Prize: The owner of Ground Kontrol awarded me with a two-hour private party, with all games free of charge! Yeah!!! That’s a great prize.

Tomorrow I’m heading off to visit my parents for Thanksgiving. In the garage we have a Paragon machine. They got that the year I was born. So that’s a machine I’ve been playing for 20+ years. I’ve never seen it in public, though. Some day…

One thought on “Pinball Champion

  1. Just to be clear, the prize is a two-hour public rental of the “VIP” stage area, not a private rental of the entire location. It does include some free games, though; you’ll get a stack of ‘kredit kards’, each good for 4 credits on the game of your choice. That might be why you thought it was a “free play” rental.

    Anyway, I’m glad you enjoyed the tournament. Thanks for participating, and congratulations on your win!

    -Anthony R., Co-Owner
    Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade

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