Pinball Hall of Fame visit: A much-needed redemption

Obviously, after the rather lacking performance I previously posted about, I felt in need of redemption. In an ideal world, I’d at least have made it to the finals or just missed the finals with at least a respectable showing, especially given Friday afternoon I was getting on a plane for Las Vegas. Now, the Pinball Hall of Fame isn’t the primary reason for attending, there are business reasons, but of course, there is a definite pleasure side to this trip.

We (mom and I) arrived at the PHOF relatively early in the afternoon. For a while, we beat most of the crowds. I got to play a few games I would likely never get to play anywhere else, one being Goin’ Nuts, of which only 10 are known to exist (PHOF has #3), another being Superman, a now-somewhat-rare Atari table. Unfortunately, I did not get to play Pinball Circus (it broke down right as I was in the queue to play), Q*Bert’s Qubes (I found it with 10 credits on it but it would not start a game), Mata Hari (one of my favorite Bally tables from the late 1970s), or Star Wars Episode I (one of the two Pinball 2000 games released).

The highlight of the visit was a score of 204.8M+ on CSI. I had never really played this game before, but it’s quite a fun one. This is definitely a game you do not want to rage tilt after anything resembling a decent ball: 180M or so of that 204.8M+ was my third ball bonus. Quite the SKQuashing, I must say…

Other scores from the visit (highest only):

  • Mustang: 16.5M+
  • Bad Cats: 895K+ (the 1.30M+ is my mom’s score, a lot of things on this game were not working properly)
  • Goin’ Nuts: 416K+
  • Superman: 118K+
  • Space Shuttle: 479K+
  • Cleopatra: 65K+
  • El Dorado: 11K+ (managed to tilt this one)
  • Strikes & Spares: 121
  • Black Knight 2000: 629K+
  • Arabian Knights: 3M+ (some of the score lights weren’t working I think)

I also played the remainder of a game of Transformers someone had given up on; I did not consider the score worth taking a picture of, there were quite a few things malfunctioning. There was also a Star Wars Trilogy (Sega, 1997) that was spitting out two balls at once.

Overall I not only had a great time, I also got to leave my mark behind for at least a few of the future players at the PHOF. If you want to visit the PHOF while you’re in Las Vegas, it’s at 1610 East Tropicana Avenue, just west of Spencer Street on the same side of the street as the 7-Eleven at the corner of Spencer. The OLC is 85864V29+HQ. The change machines can accept up to $20 bills and there is at least one change machine for breaking larger bills $5 at a time (i.e. you don’t need to get all of a $20 in quarters), however, there is no ATM on site.

Space City Pinball League Season 7 Playoffs: An unexpected twist

I was greeted on arrival to Eighteen Twenty Lounge by a surprise. Instead of an array of newer games that we had been playing during the regular season, I was welcomed by an array of older games, going all the way back to Black Hole, a well-known Gottlieb table from 1981. The last time I remember playing Black Hole was at the Time-Out arcade in Sharpstown Mall shortly after its release–when I was small enough that I could not see over the playfield glass without standing on a box made for the purpose. Although I did not get to play Black Hole during tournament play, I did play it during warmups and later in the night as tournament play was winding down (neither A division nor B division finals had Black Hole in the machines to be played).

Anyway, on to the tournament. As the #4 seed, I was grouped with Fred Revnew, John Carroll, and Jamie Jenkins. We would begin the quarterfinal round on White Water, a game by Williams from 1993. I elect to play first as I often do. I got off to what I thought was a pretty good start with a first ball score of 45M+. It looked really good, right up until the moment where Fred runs it all the way up to around 75M on his first ball. I’m still in second and I feel like I have a chance. After ball 2, though, I’m just short of 60M, Fred would rocket away with 121M+ and Jamie would leapfrog into second with 83.5M+. I would eventually sign off with 63.1M+ just barely good enough for third place ahead of John’s 62.2M+.

Game two would be on The Addams Family, the best-selling pinball game of all time from Bally in 1992. I felt a bit more hope as at least I was familiar with the layout and rules of this table (though it’s not like I was a complete stranger to White Water). I elect to go second this time, which would be behind Jamie and ahead of Fred and John. The first ball was rough for everyone, with only John winding up with a decent score at 10.1M+. Both Jamie and Fred put up a minimal 250K (the feed from the Graveyard scoop was a bit tricky to handle) while I managed a meek 1.0M+. Ball 2 would see an improvement, I would get all the way up to 19.2M+, staying more or less in the running, though John would run it up to 26.5M+ and Fred would leapfrog into first with 82.5M+. I would, unfortunately, sign off with 23.5M+ good only for another third place. The only lucky break I would catch here is that the standings point totals going into the final round would be 8 for Fred, and a three-way tie at 2 between the rest of us, with the top two advancing to the next round. (This is commonly referred to as 8-2-2-2 for short.)

So it would all come down to the third and final game of the round on Iron Man. I would elect to go fourth this time, as my previous strategy of going first and second clearly didn’t pan out. To make a long story short, this game would come down to the last ball. I began my ball 3 with 9.5M+ and would need to top 31.9M+ (John’s score) to advance. To say the least, that didn’t even come close to happening. I would sign off with 10.7M+ for last place in the third game. I would finish the tournament in 16th place.

The only silver lining to this cloud is that Fred Revnew would go on to take first place, and Bryce Revnew would take second, leaving third place for Phil Grimaldi. So I got at least part of what I wanted: someone else winning A division for a change. I did hang around to see this (as well as get in a few more games of Black Hole as mentioned previously).

As disappointing as my early exit was, I am more driven than ever to practice and prepare for next season as well as some of the tournaments between now and then. This is still my best finish to date in the league, but it’s not a destination, only an intermediate stopover on the way to the top.

 

Space City Pinball League Season 7 Week 8: Ending on a high note

This Wednesday night league meet was the last one before the league playoffs (more on that at the end of the post). I had one last chance to (hopefully) nail down one of the higher seeds, having already clinched A division back in week 6 if not earlier.

I did not play any warmup games for a variety of reasons, including that I arrived rather late. I would be grouped with Fred Revnew, Elizabeth Dronet, and Chris Palis. The game lineup was Attack from Mars, AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Houdini, Aerosmith, and Medieval Madness. Star Wars was out on the floor but malfunctioning.

We would start off with a game on Medieval Madness. Chris pretty much ran away with this one from the beginning, posting 3.5M+ on ball one with nobody else breaking out of six-digit territory. I was still in a relatively good position after two balls, facing a 4.3M+ final score from Elizabeth and scores of 4.1M+ and 1.2M+ from Chris and Fred respectively. I would do damned little to improve signing off with a 2.9M+ that would hold up for third place. Not exactly the start I wanted.

Moving on, we would then play on Houdini. I had an early lead after ball 1 with 55K+ to Chris’s 50K+. Chris and Fred would bounce back and leave me staring down a 159K+ and 378K+ after two balls. I would again post a third place with 136K+ finishing ahead of only Elizabeth. I’d really like to make last weeks’ controversy moot so I’m looking forward to doing something, anything, to finish with a total of 13 standings points or more. Basically, with four standings points after two games, that means at least two first-place finishes in the final three games.

We would play our third game of the night on AC/DC. The first ball was a dud for everyone with all four of us posting sub-2M scores. Elizabeth would have a slight lead over everyone with a 2.9M+ at the time I plunged ball 2 into play. I had a great ball and managed to jump out into the lead with 13.2M+, and this was without getting into a multiball mode. Even though I did not need to play it to win, I would play a very brief third ball and sign off with 16.2M+. So, nine standings points after three games, and only one more first place (or, second place and then third place or better) needed to make week 7 the other drop week.

The fourth game of the night would be Aerosmith. The game would get off to a very unambitious start for me, with a sub-1M score against Fred’s 5.3M+ and Elizabeth’s 12.7M+. Those would balloon to 22.9M+ and Elizabeth’s 13.9M+ by the time I got back up to plunge ball 2. I would get back in it boosting my score to 15.4M+ but by the time I came back up to play ball 3, I would be staring down a 45.1M+ and 37.6M+. I had a really good Toy Box Multiball but would come up just short with a final score of 34.8M+, a really high score for coming in a lowly third. I made a lot of good saves, got a lucky Lazarus bounce, and even had one ball airball right into the plunger lane (when I was afraid it would go into the outlane ending my ball instead). These are the kind of things one doesn’t see on the scoreboard; it’s easy to dismiss this as “bleh, another third-place game” without the story behind it.

It would come down to the last game of the night on Iron Maiden. I jumped out to an early lead with a 20.1M+ first ball. Fred would take a momentary lead putting up 22.6M+ after his ball 2. I would retake the lead with 28.6M+ after two balls, and then Fred would sign off with 23.7M+. So I have the lead and I’m assured of at least second place even if I just plunge my ball and walk away. Which I’m not going to do, because I’m feeling pretty hot. What happened next is the stuff that legends are made of.

I’m fuzzy on details, but I would play a very long third ball with many different multiball rounds. To put it simply, I was in the zone. It seemed like every shot I really wanted to make, I made. I would get an extra ball, which I was allowed to play since there were only 31 players. It felt like time stood still, but the score counter definitely did not. This wasn’t just any win; this was a SKQuashing. Before playing my extra ball I had surpassed 152M, and would sign off with a white-hot 173.7M+ for a new personal record. Enough for me to enter my initials, as well.

If only I had four more games like that to nail down the #2 seed. As it stands, Bryce Revnew snuck in with his own solid performance across all five of his games to post 25 standings points and bring him up to 109, one point over my 108. (Incidentally, Bryce’s scores from this week included a 159.7M+ on Iron Maiden not too far behind my own and a 53.0M+ on Aerosmith which would also have beaten everyone in my group.) Erich Stinson put up 19 standings points, bringing him up to 109 after dropping his 14 from last week (funny coincidence, that). Those would push me down to the #4 seed with a final total of 108.

It’s been a great season, and so far I’ve had a blast. But, the amazing performance which put me in the #4 seed is not going to mean much if I can’t pull it together in the playoffs and win. If you can come out tonight to Eighteen Twenty Lounge and show your support, I’d appreciate it. There is a Facebook event page with the details. I will be posting updates there later today and tonight.

Space City Pinball League Season 7 Week 7: Oops, I did it again

Before anyone asks, no, Stern didn’t release a Britney Spears pinball machine (though at this point, it wouldn’t surprise me if at one point they did).

On one hand, the standings are pretty much set and so the matches are starting to bear less significance. On the other, every player has some room for improvement to try to grab the highest seed possible. As stated last week there was still a faint hope of my grabbing the #1 seed for the playoffs going into this week.

I would be grouped with Billy Joiner, Melvin Jiles, and Cory Westfahl. Cory is the only other player in the group who is set to wind up in the A division playoffs. The game lineup this week would consist of Ghostbusters, Metallica, Houdini, Star Wars, Iron Maiden, and AC/DC. Guardians of the Galaxy would be on the floor but not part of league play due to problems (again).

We would start off on Houdini. I had what I felt to be a pretty decent game, running up 140K+ on ball 1 for an early lead. Cory, however, leapfrogged into first after his ball 2 posting a score of 438K+, and even Billy was able to move into what would eventually be a second place finish with 169K+. I would have to settle for third with 160K+ after a very lacking ball 3.

The next game on Star Wars wouldn’t go any better. I never really had much of a chance on this one after ball 2 was done, though I did have an early lead after ball 1 (54.9M+ to Cory’s 51.7M+ with the other two players much further back). I would sign off with 74.5M+ behind Billy’s 84.7M+, Melvin’s 239.8M+, and Cory’s 406.8M+. So far, that’s three standings points after two games. Not good.

Things would improve slightly during our game on Iron Maiden. I would stay competitive after the first two balls with 10.0M+, staring down Billy’s final score of 14.0M+. I ran up quite a few points during a couple of different multiball modes for a total of 52.4M+, though Cory was able to put up an astounding 185.2M+ to take first. That would bring me up to six standings points after three games, and now all of a sudden there’s doubt that I’m even going to be able to beat last week’s eight-pointer.

Next up would be Ghostbusters, the object of much of my scorn for anyone who has read more than one of my previous posts. Predictably, the game starts off low-scoring, with a whopping 607K+ for me after the first ball, with no players breaking the 2M mark until ball 2. I wouldn’t break the 2M mark until ball 3, and the 65.2M+ I’d sign off with would only be good for third place. At least, no matter what, I’d improve upon the dreadful eight-pointer I put up last week.

And then we wind up the night on Metallica. This is where the controversy begins.

The first game we play, there’s an irregularity where during Cory’s first ball, two balls are shot into play, which he argues cost him a ball save. According to the rules that’s supposed to be normal course of play. Being the pillar of sportsmanship I can sometimes be, I catch Cory’s ball when he steps away from the machine not realizing the ball save was active. The ruling Erich makes is to time 15 seconds after Cory resumes play to see if he would still have gotten the ball save… and it turns out Cory loses the ball right at the 15-second mark so it’s inconclusive. Erich also says technically according to the rules I should have been DQ’d for interference (not that it matters at this stage in the night), especially considering we’ve been down that road before.

We wind up, by agreement, replaying the game from the beginning, which gives the short end of the stick to Melvin who had run up 11.1M+ on the first ball. Amazingly, I would wind up posting a 24.3M+, most of it coming on the third ball during an Electric Chair Multiball which went very well, and Cory would come in last with 3.2M+. Melvin still took second place (though it’s conceivable he would have taken first had Cory just played out the first game normally). Still, thirteen standings points on the night is low enough to be one of my two lowest nights, and worse, it now means I am stuck with the fourteen-pointer from week 6 which I had hoped to drop.

The long and short of it is I can now forget about the #1 seed, and it’s still possible I may drop to, say, the #5 or #6 seed (or lower). I’m trying not to think about that possibility, though. I can still improve 12 points to a total of 117 on the season (after dropping the two lowest scores of 8 and 13).

As the scores stand now, I’m tied with both Cory and Craig Squires for the #2 seed; Craig has the tiebreaker over both of us, but I have the tiebreaker over Cory so that effectively puts me at the #3 seed. Craig can clinch a higher seed than mine by simply scoring equal or better than my week 8 performance if we both put up a 14 or higher. Cory can score one point lower than I do this coming week and still clinch a higher seed as long as that’s at least a 15. A number of the players below us are in a similar situation regarding being able to potentially clinch a higher seed than I have, whatever that may be. It gets harder to figure out due to being able to drop two weeks, though based on what I’ve been able to figure out, the odds start to massively thin out when we look at players on the bubble for A division as of this week’s scores.

Looking back, given some of the crazy things that have happened, I’m amazed that I’ve lasted for a majority of the season in one of the top two spots in the standings. I have to keep reminding myself it’s not going to matter if I choke in the playoffs. It felt really good to win B division last time, but I know it will pale in comparison to the feeling of winning A division. (Incidentally, that feeling is something which, until now, only two other players have experienced in this league, both of them known as frequent tournament winners.)