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.