Space City Pinball League Season 6 Playoffs: A November to remember

So, a bit of a background on this one. I normally don’t make details like this part of these posts, but a lot happened between week 8 and the playoffs, some of it specific to me, some of it shared with a large part of the city. Specifically, the Houston Astros won the World Series on Wednesday. I was there for the watch party at Minute Maid Park; I got there early enough to not only be fourth or fifth in line for face painting (and before anyone judges, I was far from the only adult in line) but scored a front row seat (section 107, row 1, seat 6 and later seat 5; tickets were general admission). The euphoria from being a part of that, and things like making it onto who knows how much TV coverage (a nice side effect of being in the front row), took a good couple of days to die down.

The celebration parade for the World Series win was on Friday, which I was also in attendance at even though I wound up not really seeing much. The following Saturday was an Extra Life gaming marathon event, during which I got in quite a bit of Quake, some OpenArena, a little Heroes, and of course, quite a bit of Pinball Arcade on my tablet. Then Sunday morning, I did a volunteer assignment, helping with the takedown at Walk MS on the UH campus.

That brings us to the evening of Monday, 2017 November 6. I arrived well in advance of the announced 6:00 pm start time, getting in a couple of pretty good games on Star Trek (the majority of the score I posted a picture of is mine, though Phil had to make an adjustment and did the favor of starting Vengeance Multiball for me). I only played two warm-up games before deciding to just relax, take it all in, and savor the moment. I didn’t know then just how special it would be.

Phil went over the rules and the format at around 6:10 pm: Standings points scoring was 4-2-1-0 (as opposed to a normal league night’s 5-3-2-1, though both effectively have the same end results), all extra balls must be plunged due to the potential length of the event, and how the exact machines we played would be selected. The machines, in order, were Ghostbusters, Aerosmith, Metallica, Medieval Madness, Dialed In, Star Wars, AC/DC, Star Trek. The starting machine was drawn and we would play that one and the next two down the line from it (wrapping around from Star Trek to Ghostbusters if need be). These were referred to as, for example, the Ghostbusters bank for Ghostbusters, Aerosmith, and Metallica.

There were technical issues with Medieval Madness which delayed the start slightly. I let my anxiety to hop in and start winning games show through. This is arguably the biggest mistake I made on the night, which should tell you something.

For the quarterfinals, I was grouped with Chris Gonzales, Lisa Shore, and Brittany Torres (nee Rodgers, and still listed as the latter name on matchplay.events). We began on Dialed In. I chose to go first, as I would throughout the night when I had the chance. What would happen on my first ball of Dialed In would set the stage for the remainder of the evening; I somehow managed to rack up 234K+ points. I would finish up with a solid 265K+, with Chris making a valiant effort but winding up short with a 179K+ second-place score.

The next game was Star Wars. After putting up a 73.8M+ first ball, I led through the entire game, really busting it open on the third ball and signing off with a healthy 214.2M+, good for first place (and R2-D2 champion). I’ve clinched advancing to the semi-finals at this point (top two in the group advance), so I can relax a bit.

The set would conclude on AC/DC. I led the entire way during this game as well, putting up 13.8M+ through two balls and signing off with 15.1M+. Brittany made a valiant comeback attempt on the third ball, and was technically still in it until the end of the last ball, ultimately coming up short with 10.3M+. So it would be Lisa Shore advancing to the semifinals along with me, and we would be joined by Matt Quantz and Bryce Gilbert. Here’s where things start to go sideways a little.

Our first game was on Aerosmith. I had a really bad game, simply not making enough my shots to post a decent score. I would settle for a third with 5.51M+ behind Lisa’s 17.29M+ and Matt’s 6.98M+.

My troubles would only continue on Metallica. Normally I play this game well, but I never really had a realistic chance to win after Matt’s absolutely spectacular first ball, in which he scored 28.84M+ to my 3.51M+. I would ultimately sign off with 18.79M+ behind his 31.53M+ good for a second place, putting me in the precarious position of really needing a first place to advance.

The set would conclude on Medieval Madness. Ball 1 concludes and I barely have 907K to Lisa’s 4.0M+. Ball 2 concludes and I’m sitting at 3.2M+ to not only Lisa’s 4.4M+ but Matt’s 11.7M+ as well. Fortunately, I had a fairly massive Multiball Madness stacked up. I think maybe once or twice I came dangerously close to losing the ball, but ultimately I was able to make the multiball and then make enough super jackpot shots to leapfrog my way to a very respectable score of 28.08M+.

I felt relatively confident that my score would hold up, but you never can count out Matt Quantz; I’ve seen him put up some pretty damn good scores, usually when it’s least expected. I wasn’t counting my chickens until I saw the final scoreboard where Matt signs off with a 13.30M+ and the other two players scored less than half of that. This set up a grouping for the finals where Matt and I would be joined by Bruce Hilty and Charles Hoogner. We would draw the bank beginning with Metallica and continuing with Medieval Madness and Dialed In–two machines that I had just played (the latter of which I did very well on) and one on which I had put up an A division quality score on at the start of the quarterfinals.

Metallica came first. I put up what I felt was a relatively decent first ball, with a thin lead over Matt (4.21M+ to 4.04M+) going into ball 2. What happened during ball 2 is the kind of stuff legends are made of. I somehow managed to rack up quite a few points, a good chunk of them from scoring combos on the ramps if not an outright majority. I would finish ball 2 with a score of 22.9M+ to Matt’s 5.2M+, and if I remember right this was without even starting multiball! Now I don’t necessarily need to finish in first place here, but it would be a huge help. I sign off with 25.1M+ and wait for Charles, Bruce, and finally, Matt to finish. Again, Matt makes one hell of a comeback attempt here, ultimately signing off with a 17.5M+. So far, so good.

Medieval Madness would come next. I don’t have nearly as good of a game as I’d like, but I do carry a commanding lead into ball 3 and sign off with 12.60M+. This isn’t entirely out of reach of any of the finalists, Matt in particular (who at this point is the biggest threat given he has the second place finish). It’s a very tense moment as first Charles signs off with …, then Bruce signs off with 7.75M+, and finally, Matt plays a very good third ball, signing off with 9.39M+. That makes the standings scores going into the last game 8 for me, 4 for Matt, 2 for Bruce, and 0 for Charles.

An 8-4-2-0 score going into the third game of a three-game set is common, and it’s as follows: The player with the 4 (Matt) has to get first place (4 points) and the player with 8 (me) has to get last place (0 points) to force a tiebreaker. If the player with 8 (me) gets third place, that’s enough to for that player to clinch first for the round; there are only 4 points available to anyone else. If the player with 4 (Matt) finishes second or worse, that’s enough for the player with 8 to clinch first for the round, as all 4 points from finishing in first place are needed just to tie. Phil summed this up nicely: “Don’t come in last.” I prefer to think of it as “don’t let up now, play your best all the way through to the end.” Or, “play like you need first, even though you really don’t”.

I put up a decent score on Dialed In through two balls. However, during his first two balls (primarily ball 1), Matt blew it open and it’s a good thing I did not need first on Dialed In to win the tournament. The score going into ball 3 was: me, 70.8K+; Charles, 18.8K+; Bruce, 36.5K+; Matt, 341.5K+. So what I really want to do here was run my score up enough past Matt that he can’t catch up. I would need to double-check but I think that would have required setting a personal record high score. Failing that, I want to put up a score that, realistically, at least one of Charles or Bruce will not be able to catch.

I would sign off with 136.3K+. The most dramatic moment of the B division playoffs would be Charles Hoogner’s last ball. If he catches up to my score, it would then fall on Bruce to do the same and force a playoff between Matt and me for first place. Charles begins to play, and I watch anxiously for a few moments.

And then Charles would drain way too soon. I knew it was too soon, but the way things have gone in the past, I felt it best to wait until the bonus count finished to be sure. And then I saw his score: 34,030.

BOOM!

The moment I had been waiting for had finally arrived: my first ever first-place tournament finish. While it’s hard to really get worked up about winning a B division tournament or pretending the players are of the caliber of Keith Elwin (or even Phil Grimaldi or Erich Stinson, for that matter), it was still a borderline euphoric feeling to finally be the winner, somewhere, after so many second, third, and worse finishes.

I don’t have a picture of the trophy yet because it’s still in transit. I will add that picture when it arrives. To the fans I have out there, thank you for your support. To those of you who aren’t yet following this blog and the Facebook page, the time is now. I have a great feeling about the next year as it relates to my competitive pinball (and video game) efforts.

Space City Pinball League Season 6 Week 8: Look out pinball, here I come…

If you don’t get the reference, read through to the end…

To recap the situation: Coming into tonight I had 70 standings points, and I needed at least 21 tonight (four firsts, or three firsts with two seconds) to have any hope of making A division.

The best thing that could possibly happen to me was to be placed in a group of three, making first place finishes that much more likely in theory. The reality, of course, was going to be a lot different, because the two players I was grouped with were Rob Torres and Jeff Mleynek. Jeff had an A division slot nailed down already. Rob needed 14 points to be assured of an A division slot. I needed, realistically, a 25 or maybe a 23. Basically, most of the points I needed would come at Rob’s expense if I was able to convert, and vice versa.

There was a light turnout with only six groups. There were only six machines in play: Wrestlemania, Attack from Mars, Medieval Madness, Star Wars, AC/DC, and Metallica. Our group got assigned the five excluding AC/DC.

We would begin on Wrestlemania. I was able to keep up with Rob for the most part. After the second ball, I was behind by only around 1.65M, but he blew it open on the third ball, leaving me a nearly impossible gap to close. I needed to come up with around 40M points on ball 3, and needless to say, I didn’t get them. I would have to be content with a second place with 13.5M+ to Rob’s 50.9M+.

Next up would be Medieval Madness. This game was a disaster all around. I tilted the first ball trying to save (I still think the tilt on this game is way tighter than it needs to be, as Jeff tilted at least one ball in this game as well). I would not even break the 2-million mark, meaning I’d easily take last place. BOOM! This last-place finish mathematically eliminates me from qualifying for A division, at least if all the A division players show up to play.

I stick around to play the remaining three games, with the first of those being Star Wars. Amazingly, I manage to manufacture a first-place finish here. It’s funny how all of a sudden it’s easy to win now that it no longer matters. My 73.6M+ would be cannon fodder for the likes of Phil, Erich, or Bryce, but tonight, in this group, it was good for first place. Two games to go, 9 standings points.

We would play our fourth game of the night on Attack from Mars. I kept this one close but would come up short after my third ball, signing off with 1.41B+ versus the 1.57B+ from Jeff. So I’m at 12 standings points going into the last game. Every point still counts, even if now I’m just defending my seed at the top of B division.

Finishing up the night would be a game on Metallica. Realistically, I never really had a chance in this game. I put up a 4.5M+ which wasn’t even going to be close to either of the other two scores. So I sign off for the night with 13 standings points and an apparent third seed in B division.

Congrats to Rob Torres for making A division. He needed 11 standings points to do so (he had the tiebreaker over Jamie Jenkins and Joe Cuellar with 20 points in week 2); he got 17.

In case you were wondering, the reference in the post title is a parallel to the opening lyric of the old Houston Oilers fight song, which begins, “Look out football, here we come! Houston Oilers number one!” On one level, the comparison between the Houston Oilers and my pinball league performance is tongue-in-cheek. On the other, it’s spot on and intended to encourage me to do better going forward.

Space City Pinball League Season 6 Week 7: This ten was anything but perfect

This league has an eight-week season, so week 7 is where the games start to have a bit more of a playoff feel to them. Well, they are supposed to, anyway.

I was grouped with Erich Stinson, Bryce Revnew, and Jason Cortez. Going into this week’s games, Bryce was sitting in first with 113 standings points, Erich was in third with 107 standings points, and Jason Cortez was in eighth with 89 standings points. Meanwhile, I’m sitting way down there tied for 23rd with 60 standings points. A big night here would not only help my chances of making A division, but would be a huge psychological victory as well.

The game lineup: Attack from Mars, AC/DC, Medieval Madness, Metallica, Star Wars, Star Trek, Spiderman Vault Edition. Spiderman would be taken out of the lineup due to a malfunction (scoring phantom points due to a chattering switch) but one group did finish their game and submit a result before the malfunction happened.

We would begin the night on Metallica. I had just posted a 51.0M+ on this game during warmups, so I was eager to get on with it and repeat that performance. If only I could actually get it done. I would settle for third place with 8.9M+, saved only by Jason’s even worse 3.9M+. I feel like I had a decent game, it’s just that Bryce and Erich had better games than I did (12.3M+ and 19.0M+ respectively). Two standings points after one game…

Next up would be AC/DC. I can’t say I hate this game, but I feel like it’s just not a game that is a strong fit for my style of play. Nevertheless, I have to play every game to the best of my abilities. My 21.9M+ was a respectable score until Bryce puts up 35.6M+ and Erich blows it open with 84.3M+. Four standings points after two games. I’m starting to get a bit frustrated, but holding out hope things will get better.

Our game on Star Wars would bring more of the same. Erich takes first with 493.3M+, Bryce takes second with 228.9M+, and guess who would take third place yet again with 148.3M+? Yep. That’s me. (Jason finishes last with 114.5M+, but this is hardly comforting to me.) Six standings points, but if I can put together a couple of decent games I might finish with as many as 16 on the night, I was thinking.

Medieval Madness would be the next game. I have a couple of the Madness multiball rounds lit, but I drain before I can get multiball started. I sign off with a 1.9M+, good for another third behind Bryce’s 4.5M+ and Erich’s 2.3M+. Eight standings points, and at this point, I’m just playing the last game for pride.

As a further example of just how badly the night is going, I’m only able to put up a 440 on Ice Cold Beer in between games. Usually, I do better than that…

Attack From Mars would finish out the night’s contests. I get a decent start to this game but falter and wind up with 530M+. This time it’s Jason who would eek out a second ahead of me with 540M+, with Erich taking first place with 1.438B+.

Five games. Five third-place finishes. Ten standings points. One disappointed pinball player with the initials “SKQ”.

If I hadn’t already skipped two weeks, this was easily my drop week. I’m in a three-way tie for 21st with Chris Dyer and Chris Gonzales with 70 standings points going into the final week. Realistically, I need everything I can get to have any realistic hope of making A division, preferably a 25 but definitely no less than a 21. Mathematically, it might be possible with a 20, or maybe even a 19, but I’m not counting on it.

So far this season, the best I have put up is an 18 back in week 3. I have put up a 21 before back in week 2 of season 5 (spring 2017), but nothing higher. Here’s hoping that changes in week 8.

Space City Pinball League Season 6 Week 5: Holy high score, Batman

I never got around to writing the post for this week when it was fresh in my mind, so this one’s going to be a bit light on details. Groupmates: Bryce Gilbert, Jamie Jenkins, Brad Berryman. Games assigned to us: Batman 66, Medieval Madness, Attack From Mars, AC/DC, Star Wars. Games not assigned to us: Aerosmith, Ghostbusters.

As of the night these games were played, I had not yet decided to forgo playing in the following week, and I was at 45 points, good for 20th place, still well in the running for A division assuming we eventually met a 34 qualified player minimum to have 16 players in A division (between 18 and 33 qualified players, A division is 12 players).

Before I get into this, this was the week that Bryce Revnew ran up an absolutely insane high score of 1,570,153,460 on Batman 66. This happened toward the end of the night if memory serves me correctly; Bryce had topped the 1 billion mark when I looked over in the middle of the game we were playing, then our group finished, and then I looked over again and he was still going at it, much to my surprise.

Anyway, on to our games in order of play:

Attack from Mars: I would barely eek out a third with 773M+ in front of Brad’s 732M+. Not exactly the ambitious start I wanted, to say the least. (Standings points so far: 2.)

Medieval Madness: I took first with 13.0M+ in front of Brad’s 7.6M+. As much as I hate this game and its notoriously flat flippers and tight tilt (as set up here, anyway), this is two weeks in a row where I would do well on it. (Standings points so far: 7.)

AC/DC: I only manage an 8.7M+, Bryce scores 11.8M+, and the other two even higher, giving me my first last-place finish of the night. I think this one came down to not being able to make the shots when I needed to, with a couple of really bad misses that didn’t exactly help. (Standings points so far: 8.)

Star Wars: Somehow my 233.4M+ is good enough for first place, with Brad taking second with 104.3M+. I don’t even feel like I had a particularly good game, but I’ll take the win any day. (Standings points so far: 13.)

Batman 66: I put up 55.0M+, good enough for third in front of Brad’s 35.7M+. I just couldn’t keep it in play long enough to really pile up points. This is a very close second for the most disappointing performance of the night.

That leaves me with 15 standings points on the night, good enough to bring my total to 60 where it would remain until the start of week 7 because I decided not to play week 6. At the end of week 5, it’s good for 16th place, still putting me squarely in the running for A division. After week 6, however, I would drop to 23rd tied with Chris Dyer. Not out of it, but not really in the thick of the race, either.