Another second Sunday, another drive out to Mason Road in Katy for the monthly tournament. I was feeling pretty good about this one going in, given I put in at least a halfway decent performance the month prior. I came with a fresh haircut and had enough time to spend a few minutes at Starbucks prior to the tournament to decompress.
The tournament started a bit later than the nominal 1 pm start time, but I enjoyed the opportunity to get in a few extra warmup games (I am intentionally omitting some score pictures, and there were a couple I simply forgot to take, but the ones posted do reflect the best I did during warmups). We had a crowd of fifteen at the start, plus two more that would late-join after the third round. No changes were made to the game lineup, it was the same nine machines that we had last month (and really, that’s about all there is room for).
Round 1 went up, and I would find myself assigned to The Walking Dead, playing first and grouped with John Carrol, Catherine Gammons, and Tim Hood. It was a pretty ho-hum game through the first two balls, but during the third ball I got Well Walker Multiball started which I played very well, which accounted for most of a score of 137.1M+, easily the best score I’ve ever put up on this game (at least, I don’t ever remember breaking 100M before if I did). I didn’t get make the high score list or anything, but it was easily enough for first place. John was only able to put up a 7.7M+, which Catherine easily surpassed. That left who would get the other strike down to Tim’s last ball. Catherine had 26,363,460, and Tim had a good 24M+ before the bonus countdown, but would ultimately wind up short with 26,115,440, just 248K+ short (not all that many points on this game).
On to round 2. I would be on Champion Pub, playing fourth grouped with John Speights, Craig Squires, and David Pollock. Craig got off to a commanding lead with 44.3M+ on the first ball. He would only expand upon that lead by the time I played my ball 3, with a total of 89.4M+. I didn’t actually need to play my third ball, as I was able to scrap together 10.6M+ which was good for second, but I would sign off with 16.4M+ after playing out. So far so good.
My fortune would change rapidly in round 3. The game was AC/DC, and I would be playing third, behind Marc Gammons and Catherine Gammons, and ahead of Craig Squires. Going into ball 3 I was facing Marc’s 26.9M+ and Catherine’s 10.6M+, with a score of 9.9M+. To ensure escaping without a strike, I needed to top Marc’s score clinching at least a second place. I was only able to put up 18.4M+. Craig had 13.4M+, so I needed Craig to have a relatively dud ball for my score to hold up for second place. Well, Craig’s third ball was no dud. He would surpass not only my score but Marc’s as well, signing off with 39.8M+, and there was strike one.
The fourth round would send me to Ghostbusters, playing second behind Catherine Gammons, ahead of Jeff Cook and Joe Cuellar. As usual, it came down to who could get the video mode and max it out (worth about 60M, which is a lot harder to earn actually playing pinball on this particular pinball machine). As is becoming usual, I would get an impossible to max out video mode. Strike two comes down to luck. Sorry, but this isn’t poker, and it’s a load of crap to get one step closer to elimination on what amounts to pure chance. I don’t have intermediate ball scores for this one because they are nearly impossible to get without delaying the game (thanks for that too, Stern Pinball). But in this case, it’s not like they even matter.
Moving along to the fifth round, I’m on Ironman as the first player of a group rounded out by John Speights, Jeff Mleynek, and Cory Westfahl. First ball: 878K+. Not great. Jeff puts up a 7.2M+ and Cory a 2.0M+ by the time I’m up for ball 2. I’m only able to get to 2.50M+, and by the time I’m up to play ball 3, I’m looking at needing to beat Jeff’s 8.3M+ to have any hope of not getting a third strike. That doesn’t even come close to happening, as I’d sign off with an embarrassingly bad 3.6M+.
Game of Thrones would be the sixth round game I was drawn for, with Jeff Cook and Tim Hood being the first two players in the three-player group. On my ball 1, before scoring a single point, the ball would get stuck in the lane feeding the bumpers (which has always been flaky on this particular playfield but I’ve never actually gotten a ball stuck there before). I’d get the ball on my right flipper and quickly drain after scoring a mind-numbingly low 187,800. This was after Jeff and Tim put up scores of 79.3M+ and 34.2M+ respectively. Ball 2 didn’t get much better, and after racking up two tilt warnings trying to unsuccessfully save the potential last ball of the tournament, I’d get a ball save only to tilt with a score of 4.1M+ (to Jeff’s 80.0M+ and Tim’s 60.5M+). And that’s the end of the line. I would finish fourteenth out of the field of 17.
Arguably, the events of this last game could be called bad luck as well. If so that would make two out of four strikes from luck as opposed to pinball skill. Even setting these aside, I should have been able to keep winning after the first game instead of just petering out like a candle in a rainstorm. I definitely can’t let slumps like these define who I am as a player, and it’s obvious by now one good game on The Walking Dead or Guardians of the Galaxy will not win an entire tournament. It’s going to take consistency over 12 to 15 games (according to history) to win an Einstein’s Drainiacs tournament in the current four strikes format (possibly more than that if we have more people show up). By contrast, putting up 20+ standings points in a league night only requires consistent performance over five games (with room for one really bad game if the other four are first place finishes).
Oddly enough, my inspiration may come from the golf world, more specifically from the recent second-place finish of Tiger Woods at the Valspar Championship (his best performance in five years, matching his tie for second place in 2013 at the Barclays tournament). For those unfamiliar with the backstory or who just don’t follow golf, Tiger has dealt with injuries from a car accident, the fallout from the public revelation of an extramarital affair, and more recently, legal issues stemming from a prescription-drug-related DUI. I will expand upon this in a later post.
The good news is, since I’m not going to the Texas Pinball Festival, I have a good week and a half before the start of the new season of the Space City Pinball League on Wednesday, March 22. I will also expand on this with more details later in the week.