New horizons and old haunts

Sidenote: I may skip around a bit in the next few posts. I still have a lot of stuff to catch up on from February through April, stretching into early May and late January. I’m going to be playing often enough that there may be trips I omit completely, though I endeavor to cover all tournaments and leagues I am a part of.

After the tournament, the rest of the first half of May, at least pinball-wise, consisted of trips to Speedy’s.

Having tired of the usual, for the week of May 18-24 I mixed in visits to old haunts with a couple of new venues, both being smaller bars with only one pinball machine apiece.

The first of these bars was Darkhorse Tavern, with a Mr. & Mrs. Pac-Man pinball machine. I got to play this one only a couple of times when it was relatively new, and honestly, I was too young to know what the heck I was doing. Now, of course, it’s different. This particular machine has maze controls that are a bit glitchy (particularly the left flipper direction change). There’s also a dead pop bumper, but overall the game is quite playable. I was able to ease a relatively low high score up a bit winning a good handful of replays before busting loose with a 1.6M+. There are also apparently either no replays by score, or they come at much higher scores than I was able to achieve (high score gives 2 replays, matching as usual gives one). This game is priced at 50 cents per play despite the original inserts saying “1 Play – Quarter” (with the only clue of the pricing change being a machine-made label saying “50 CENTS BRO” on the lockdown bar).

The second was The Cellar Bar, with an AC/DC (Premium). The only small issue was apparently one of the targets on the lower playfield was dead. I was still able to put up some monster scores before it was time to head back. Pricing is $1 for 1, $2 for 3, with a bill validator (which probably only takes $1 bills), the usual quarter mechanisms, and no change machines.

A brief sidenote here: I had originally inserted into this area with the idea of stopping off at Kelvin Highlander to play a Black Knight Sword of Rage (Pro). Unfortunately, this bar was closed (the premises had been vacated, leaving only some damaged furniture and decorations behind) but at least Pinball Map got updated to reflect the new status. I am looking for another place to play this title on location in the Houston area, ideally a premium or LE. (I know Bishop Cidercade has one, but it too is a mere Pro.)

Rounding out the week was a brief stopover at EightyTwo before heading out to EinStein’s Pub & Arcade in Richmond. Since the last time I was at EinStein’s in Richmond, this location has acquired a Guns & Roses (Jersey Jack); I didn’t notice any games missing from before (the change machine had been moved into the main bar room to make space). Finally the last few days covered in this post brought a few more games at Speedy’s.

Only pictures of the highest scores on each machine at each venue for each day, plus initial/name screens where available (unfortunately at least one initial screen didn’t save properly/got corrupted), have been uploaded, as otherwise there would be way too many. This is going to become the usual format, periodic summaries, unless there’s a specific visit I’m highlighting in one post (particularly a new venue, which I’m hoping we get a couple of before the year is up).

Speedy’s May 6:

EightyTwo May 7:

Speedy’s May 10:

Speedy’s/Darkhorse Tavern/EightyTwo May 18:

The Cellar Bar May 20:

EightyTwo/EinStein’s Richmond May 22:

Speedy’s May 24:

Speedy’s May 25:

Speedy’s May 27:

Tournament at Eightytwo, 2021 May 4: Deja vu all over again?

So once again, we convened at Eightytwo for another evening of exciting pinball. It is finally starting to look like we are getting back to normal. There is still no word from the IFPA on when tournaments and leagues will be endorsed/ranked again, but tournaments are starting to happen again and on a more frequent basis. It’s not just a few people here and there, especially now that the vaccines are getting wide distribution.

This time we had a lot more of the pinball crowd from before the pandemic. In the previous tournament we saw Phil Grimaldi, Chris Low, Gina Low, and John Speights, all of whom returned for this installment, but also we would see Marc Gammons, Erich Stinson, Blake Dumesnil, Cory Westfahl, Ruben Zepeda, David Dronet, and Elizabeth Dronet, and for all I know I’ve even missed someone in there somewhere.

The lineup was more or less the same. Attack from Mars was moved from its former spot on the floor but it doesn’t look like any games were taken out. If I’m wrong I’ll update.

For me, the tournament would begin with a game of Metallica against Juan Uresti, one of the newer players. It’s good to see new players, as it means the competitive scene is growing. I would establish a pretty solid lead after the second ball and not look back, picking up a win with 10.0M+ to 7.5M+ (my only picture does not show Juan’s score, and this was my only chance to get a score photo as he did play his extra ball after the result was made official, so this is my memory of his approximate score).

Round two, Medieval Madness, versus Chris Callens. This particular table of this title is for some reason a bit harder to play. Maybe it’s the flippers that seem weak, or my memory has a hole where “how Medieval Madness is supposed to play” should be. (At least the tilt is not set to a ridiculously tight setting.) Either way, I did manage to get off to an early lead, and actually start multiball to boost my score. The final result was a no-doubter: 8.50M+ to 1.44M+.

I would draw Tron Legacy versus Chris Low for the third round. This game was competitive until the end; I pulled away with a score of 9.97M+ but Chris stayed in it until the end, finally signing off with 7.15M+. Three relatively decisive wins in three rounds. I’m starting to feel pretty good, but the memory of making it all the way to the end last month just to fall short is still fresh in my mind.

It didn’t take much to bring me back down to earth. Like the game for round four, The Walking Dead versus Jamie Burchell. I kept it close for the first two balls, then Jamie busts loose posting a 22.67M+. The best I can manage was just short of lighting the eighth digit, 9.80M+. So there’s the one strike I can afford to give.

The fifth round would see me play Star Trek: TNG against Blake Dumesnil. This game was brutal to both of us. I did manage a slightly longer second ball to eek out enough to win. Blake signed off with 52.9M+ and some choice profanity, versus my 118.5M+. Can’t say I blame him, as his tournament ended with a brutal “straight down the middle” drain. That’s been me too many times to count (though I’ve gone easy on the Q*Bert impressions as of late).

We’re now at the point of the tournament where I start looking at the other games. Especially since round six is… a bye? Apparently that’s a thing in heads-up strikeout tournaments when you have an odd number of players. I would follow the other two games eagerly, those being Cory Westfahl versus Jamie Burchell on Star Wars and Phil Grimaldi versus Erich Stinson on World Cup Soccer. Cory and Erich won their respective games.

Round seven was Attack from Mars versus Cory. Despite tilting near the end of ball 2, I would hold on to win the game, though it did come down to the bonus point countdown. I signed off with 922.6M+ versus Cory’s 859.5M+. Just enough to get it done.

And so here we are again. For the third time in a row, I would be one of the final two players in a strikeout tournament. For the second time in a row at Eightytwo, I would be playing my final game of a strikeout tournament, again on Eight Ball Deluxe. I put up some good scores on this game during pre-tournament warmups, a couple of them in the 1.6M+ range. That doesn’t always mean anything when tournament time comes.

I would play first versus Erich Stinson. The very first ball of the game went surprisingly well, nearing the 600k mark, and most importantly I made all the pool ball targets including the 8 ball target, maximizing my possible bonus for the rest of the game. Erich would come close but I would still have a comfortable lead going into ball 2, which would bring my score just over a million. Erich wouldn’t do nearly as well on his ball 2. So here I am, one ball away. I still have doubts that my score will hold up, but I play a good ball and sign off with 1,597,090, rather close to my best scores in warmups.

Erich had, as I remember, somewhere in the 580k-590k range after ball 2. The really tense moment would come next. It’s still quite possible for Erich to blow it up with over a million points in one ball. That’s more in character for someone like Phil, Donovan, maybe even Marc or Blake.

It doesn’t last nearly that long. Erich signs off with 710,210.

Finally.

There’s only one other tournament I could be said to have won, that being the B division league playoffs in 2017 November. I remember it well, and at the time it was the high point.

This was different. This was an honest-to-goodness first place finish over the entire field. Not some B division rubbish (which, honestly, is just the players who weren’t quite good enough to make A division). Furthermore, there was not a single controversial ruling in the tournament that I’m aware of, so there’s no room for anyone to try to scribble in an asterisk. Sure, it’s not WPPR ranked, but it’s not like anything is right now.

Tournament at Eightytwo, 2021 April 6

Finally, we near the end of the COVID-19 pandemic and it appears we are going to start returning to normal. In that vein, one of the new venues to have popped up during this period, Eightytwo at 1201 Saint Emanuel Street, hosted a pinball tournament on the evening of Tuesday, April 6.

The lineup for the tournament included the following machines: Attack from Mars, Disney TRON: Legacy, Eight Ball Deluxe (LE), Iron Maiden: Legacy of the Beast, Medieval Madness (Remake), Metallica (Pro), Star Wars (Premium), Taxi, The Walking Dead (Pro), Theatre of Magic, Wheel of Fortune, Whirlwind, World Cup Soccer, and World Poker Tour. Most of the competitors are people I didn’t recognize from previous tournaments/events, though notably Chris Low, Gina Low, Phil Grimaldi, and John Speights were there. The format was a two-strikes, heads-up tournament (loser gets a strike).

The first round would see me paired against Donovan Wade on Metallica. Donovan got out to an early lead, and I just never really got in a position to catch up. This was a very quick strike as I would put up a meager 3.44M+ to Donovan’s 10.7M+.

Round two would give me perhaps the luckiest break of the entire tournament. My opponent was a no-show, so I got to relax and play a single player game of World Poker Tour. I put up what I believe to be a respectable 9.83M+, which probably would have been good enough to win had my opponent actually shown up.

Next would be Taxi against Clint Warren. This wound up being an embarrassingly low scoring game, but I still wound up with the higher score: 594k+ to 310k+. (I’ll be coming back to this in a later post as I would do something absolutely amazing on this machine when just hanging out and playing one-player games.)

We’d move on to round four on The Walking Dead against Peter Ortiz. Now this is not one of my favorite titles, nor one I consider myself particularly good at playing. However, I did wind up posting a decent 13.3M+ good enough to win against Peter’s 6.8M+. Four rounds in, and I’m still hanging on with one strike. I’m starting to feel pretty confident.

Round five would bring up Whirlwind against Chris Low. (Finally, a familiar face.) In a game much too close for comfort, I put up a mere 2.69M+, which barely held up against the 2.42M+ Chris was able to manage. I can almost hear “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees in my head over whatever was playing in the bar at the time.

The close games would continue with round six, Medieval Madness against Khristian Singleton. It seemed like almost none of my shots would make, and it was starting to look like it would be a much shorter tournament for me at first as I signed off with 2.27M+ prior to Khristian’s last ball. Fortunately for me, Khristian was only able to amass 1.74M+, and so I was still in it.

On the other game in round six, Donovan Wade defeats Phil Grimaldi on Attack from Mars (I unfortunately didn’t make a note of the score). I was remarking to the other players watching that I’d rather play against Donovan, given Phil’s demonstrated skill level. This, after all, the guy that started running tournaments and leagues here only to win most of them himself in the early going. Thankfully, before I could get #sickofphilwinning trending on Twitter and Facebook, that changed…

Anyway, back to the current tournament. For some reason I thought round seven was the last one. I didn’t realize at the time Donovan had no strikes. I played World Cup Soccer as though this was it, and the score showed it: 643.2M+ to 520.4M+.

For the first time ever, I’m one game away from winning a strikeout tournament, something I’ve never been able to do. The last game would be Eight Ball Deluxe. Donovan starts out with a pretty good first ball. He would sign off with 826.7k+. I would have a much worse fortune: 67,500. All three balls would drain within about 30 seconds.

This is about as disappointing a finish as I could have. Second place beats the heck out of last place, but I’m really not in this to collect second place trophies.

(Pictures to be uploaded later.)

In memoriam: William Thornton

Recently, I learned the unfortunate news regarding the untimely passing of William Thornton in early April. I did play in a few tournaments and league nights alongside William, though his job in the transportation industry unfortunately limited his opportunities to play pinball in the Houston area. William was a great person and remained friendly to me despite our completely opposing political views. He will be sorely missed in the Houston pinball community.

If you have not already, now is a good time to go back and read:

A site about one man's quests for record videogame highscores, pinball tournament championships, fame, and stardom.

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