austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

There is nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game

New Year's Eve saw MJS generously opening his pole barn for a pinball party. Also a tournament. This would also be a foreshadowing of the State Pinball Championship Series, as he was for the second (and, he swears, final) year hosting that. (And I agree with moving the venue. Michigan has strong east- and west-side pinball communities in the lower peninsula and both sides of the state should get time being the home venue. Also it's a bit much to ask a private person to host repeatedly.)

The tournament was to be a five-strikes match, everyone playing in randomly drawn pairs until they had lost five games. Since the tournament was to start at 7 pm we had visions of a match going on forever. The first Silver Bells was a four-strike tournament with 26 people and that went from 7 pm to 2 am. (But among other things we didn't have enough pinball games for everyone to play at once, the first several rounds. MJS has the machines to spare, and many of them are older electromechanicals that play quicker.)

What I have since learned, partly by writing a simulator to play all this out, is that the number of rounds a strikes tournament can be expected to take is surprisingly insensitive to the number of players, and it's not all that sensitive to the number of strikes either. Surprised me too. The tournament was over around 11. I started off a bit discouragingly, a loss and then a win, another loss and then another win. And then something bizarre happened. I stopped losing. There was this good stretch of a couple hours where I won often enough to stay in the running, even after bunny_hugger and MWS and CST dropped away.

I ended up in the last trio of players, and none of us were at four strikes when we got to that point. So we had several rounds of two of us playing the other while the last one got a bye. I closed the last pinball tournament of the year in third place. Which paid off, since this was a rare MJS-organized non-charity-tournament. The top four players split the prize and I would get back my entry fee.

In the hour to come the party shifted to dollar games as trios and quartets of people tried their luck. Shortly before midnight a bunch of eight people came together for a match on Dirty Harry, the first group playing before midnight and the second group after. For midnight we found a local channel that was playing a lot of commercials, right up to 30 seconds before the ball finished dropping. Then we hurried outdoors for MJS and daughter SMS to set off fireworks. Then we hurried back indoors because it was like zero degrees (Fahrenheit) outside and we didn't want to linger in that bitter cold. The second group finished playing the game and when it was over ... well, I had won.

I had a lot of good luck in the dollar games, taking first or second in each of a series. Which gave me the first-pinball-world problem that I might like to step aside, but it didn't seem sporting to quit the dollar game challenges right after winning one. And in one of the after-midnight dollar games, on the electromechanical Grand Prix, I had this crazy runaway game, one that I'd have won with just my first ball (of five). The game has these left-bonuses and right-bonuses and I was just in the groove for those. I ended up disappointing everyone by not rolling the scoreboard. But I did get the table's high score. (The machine doesn't keep scores. MJS has a menu board-style thing with adjustable letters for high scores on the electromechanical tables). I'd never dreamed I would do that.

There were side tournaments, playing one electromechanical and one modern game, until 11 with the highest scores going to finals. bunny_hugger was in the running on the modern game, Avatar (based on the popular and forgotten movie), until the last ten minutes of qualifying. Hardly seemed fair.

Trivia: Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay was built for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition to commemorate completion of the Golden Gate and the Oakland Bay Bridges. Source: Engineers of Dreams: Great Bridge Builders and the Spanning of America, Henry Petroski.

Currently Reading: Mapping in Michigan and the Great Lakes Region, Editor David I Macleod.

PS: Were Story Problems Ever Any Good? an example from my reading.

PPS: What happened after the Zoo? Coincidentally, this is the spot we spent New Year's Eve.


Tournament afterparty at MJS's pole barn, and also the spot of the 2016-17 and 2017-18 Michigan State Championships. Note bunny_hugger in the background, doing work, because she had expected to have time to do some necessary schoolwork during slack times of the tournament proper and didn't get the chance.


Rev Sir Dr Stephen T Mos Def Colbert DFA, Heavyweight Champion of the World, delighted to enjoy a narrow win on MJS's newest electromechanical, Bronco.


Every pinball player ever. (He's playing Jungle Princess, the game that would be the tiebreaker for the finals of Pinburgh D Division, sending me to second place after I'd been sitting comfortably in first for a good while.)

Tags: pinball at the zoo

Posts from This Journal “pinball at the zoo” Tag

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