(Topic ID: 144019)

I suck at competitive pinball. But I still love it. Am I insane?


By wizard_mode

3 years ago



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  • Latest reply 3 years ago by CaptainNeo
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#1 3 years ago

This is a cry for help. I love pinball! I get pretty good (B division worthy) scores whenever I'm playing recreational pinball. The problem is that when I am playing head-to-head I totally flop. Insta-drain! Outlane agony! Dam!
For example, last night I played in a small local tournament. I showed up 1/2 hour early and warmed up on Batman Dark Knight. I threw up a few small scores (3-4 million) and a few big scores (for me atleast) of 50-90 million. During the 2nd round of the tournament (round 1 was a bye for me thankfully) I won the coin flip and I picked Batman. I totally stunk it up! I didn't even break 3 million! My first 2 balls I drained quick on the outlanes and the last ball I bobbled on the flippers for a center-drain masterpiece. W..T..F!?!? So frustrating! The guy that beat me only got 6 million! Then he went on to pick ToM and dominated my a$$!
For round 3 (loser bracket), I played someone whom I have never met but I think maybe they are new to the hobby. I let her pick the machine first out of courteousy (in hindsight a mistake) and she picked Family Guy. Now, I am not very good at that machine but I can usually score into the 10 million + range at least. Nope, 5 million and I got beat by a score of 6 million! Dam! Next I picked Stern Kiss and DID NOT EVEN BREAK 1 MILLION! W...T...F?!?!?! I lost with a score of 800 thousand to a score of 1.5 million! I typically score around 20 million + on that machine!!! So, now I'm out of the tournament! DAM!
After thoughts: Especially during my round 3 games, I noticed the girl's boyfriend (or maybe just a friend)giving her tips on where to shoot (naturally), which led me to believe she is new at least to competitive pinball. Also, he was talking across me (to her) while I was playing and hovering, talking smack a little bit (like, "oh man you are making him strategize!"). And it bothered me.
So, my conclusion is that I need to work on my head game. I should be able to block out distractions such as this. Even during my round 2 performance against a seasoned player who is very respectful, I feel like I am distracted somehow and that I am not focusing properly. Or, I'm focused on the wrong thing (not the game I'm in).
So, I'm not sure why I'm posting this. I feel like my issue is in my own head and I'm the only one who can fix (or at least improve) it. But, maybe (just maybe) I'm not the only one with issues like this? I've only been playing competitively for less than one year. So, my plan is to just keep with it. But, DAM! It sure would be nice to win at least one round some day! LOL
Thanks for reading...

#2 3 years ago

If you figure it out, please let me know!

In general I am similar and have not figured out how to bottle the right stuff during playoffs.
It is double bad for me as I run many of our local events so I am already distracted with the running of the events. I am utterly amazed at the people that can channel theri focus and play well during playoffs.

It is beyond frustrating but for some reason I keep doing it over and over again.

I have realized that I need to figure out a way to influence others to not distract me during actual play. Twice last night at our monthly I had other players actually interupt me during my active ball being played to ask a question about the game they were playing. You would think it would be common courtesy to not interput anyone while they are in the middle of a ball but amazingly it happens nearly every event.

I know a bunch of guys do the noise canceling headphones but I like to hear the audible cues during competitive play.

Have you tried headphones yet?

#3 3 years ago

I love pinball but cant do the competitive, I don't like waiting around and its always the same players winning. plus I have the pins I like at home.

#4 3 years ago

Whysnow thanks for the response! Maybe I'm not insane (or maybe its just you and I and we are both insane)! I have not tried headphones but maybe it would help. I'm not sure its even just the noise that distracts me. I think maybe it is just the spirit of competitition and the pressure to perform that I am just not good at.
For example, one guy that runs one of our leagues has the keys to all the machines. I see him getting bothered and tapped on the shoulder during his games, but he still manages to dominate. He is able to focus and must have a mind of steel.
I want this mind! When people bother me, it is ok and not their fault if I fail because of it! Right? I can't control the people around me. I can only control myself. But, I have not figured out how to control my mind and FOCUS!

#5 3 years ago

Competitive pinball sucks, but I do enjoy a game with friends/family and bringing games to shows. I have never encountered such a salacious smell and I work in all types of hospitals.

#6 3 years ago

Competition is half mind game and half skill. If you master the mind game, then the skill will follow (eventually). You need to learn how to zone out distractions and focus on your current activity. People may or may not know they are a distraction, but your at a social event/competition so it will happen. Best to learn how to focus and you will be a pinball ninja. You should also know the game rules as each one has a different strategy for good scores. I play for enjoyment so I tend to not know all the rule sets. However, these videos can help you. http://papa.org/learning-center/video-resources/tutorial-videos/

just some advice. hope it helps

#7 3 years ago

Do you nudge a lot? Nudging = winning.

I've always meant to video record myself playing and then watch it later on to really be able to analyze where I am going wrong... or right.

#8 3 years ago

You might try yoga or a martial art to help practice your mind focus. I think your competitive game will improve when you can do that. You need to ZEN. Its not an easy skill to learn or master, but you already notice examples of it during play.

Good Luck

#9 3 years ago

I am definitely a nudger and try to use it (but sometimes I tilt) to help save the ball when I can. I like the idea of yoga as funny as it sounds. I bet I could youtube some yoga and do it at home since I barely got time to get out to play pinball let alone a secondary training class to become a Pinja!
Thanks for the tips guys!

#10 3 years ago

PINGA!!! I like that!!!

#11 3 years ago

I have been in similar positions in league and tournaments and have a suggestion.......try less. Seriously, try and go into it with no expectations, have fun, and try less. Easier said than done, but it seems to work for me whem i can pull it off.

#12 3 years ago

Try chewing gum while you play. Seriously. It helped me a ton for some reason. Maybe it is mental, but it seems to relax me a bit when I play.

#13 3 years ago

Only one person wins so everybody else is gonna be frustrated. I try to just go with the flow. Some good nights some terrible. It's only pinball said the dummy.

#14 3 years ago
Quoted from foureyedcharlie:

I have been in similar positions in league and tournaments and have a suggestion.......try less. Seriously, try and go into it with no expectations, have fun, and try less. Easier said than done, but it seems to work for me whem i can pull it off.

Quoted from Gov:

Try chewing gum while you play. Seriously. It helped me a ton for some reason. Maybe it is mental, but it seems to relax me a bit when I play.

Quoted from Cdoubleu1:

Only one person wins so everybody else is gonna be frustrated. I try to just go with the flow. Some good nights some terrible. It's only pinball said the dummy.

Seems like some good tips and ways of approaching the situation. I like the gum idea! Thanks again for all the tips! Glad I posted this!

#15 3 years ago

sounds like you are just too tense. just flow with it, if you miss a few shots and feel tense, cradle for a few moments and collect yourself then go for an easy shot to get you back in the groove

#16 3 years ago

I don't play competitively. I'm not a skilled enough player to even come close to going head-to-head with a regular tournament player. So, tournaments with an entry fee are a waste for me. I'd rather just play a normal game or informal multi-player games.

However, silly tournaments like this sound fun: https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/suggestion-for-funny-side-tournament-formats

#17 3 years ago

If you have a machine at home, have someone intentionally interrupt you during game play. This would give you time to test what works/doesn't work.
I have machines at home and it seems the only time I get interrupted is when I'm in the middle of a hot game. I typically yell to whoever (usually my wife) and ask her to wait because I'm in the middle of a great game. But that didn't always work so I had to stop trying to play pinball and using the grill at the same time. Interruptions aren't as frequent but they still occur so my next test is to stop the ball in play and try to refocus. I also need to improve my God given talent of selective listening.
Good luck.

#18 3 years ago

I've never played competitive pinball (outside of my gameroom ), but I could see it becoming addictive regardless of my performance.

#19 3 years ago

The guy talking across you while you were playing is an asshat. That bull shit is not allowed in tournament play. I would politely ask the person to move. Once.

Coaching really is unacceptable too, during a tournament.

Outside a tourney - whatever, but in tourney that guy should shut the f up.

#20 3 years ago

Just be the ball...

#21 3 years ago

Get wasted. Sober up before you drive home.

#22 3 years ago
Quoted from Azmodeus:

The guy talking across you while you were playing is an asshat. That bull shit is not allowed in tournament play. I would politely ask the person to move. Once.
Coaching really is unacceptable too, during a tournament.
Outside a tourney - whatever, but in tourney that guy should shut the f up.

100% AGREE. Thinking back though, even if I would've asked him to stop I think it would've messed my head up. I need to be a Pinja. I really don't think I have the mind-strength (yet) to pull that off. The point is, whether or not I say something to whoever is bothering me, I need to not let it distract me. Still, I 100% agree and thought about saying something...

#23 3 years ago

I'm a decent player, but I often overestimate my own skills. When you play 50 games at home or on location, you tend to remember your longest, best games. Suddenly in a tournament you have added pressure and one game to perform. So yeah, in my head I think I can get 1bn in TZ because I can have a great game at home every once in a while, but put into a tournament I'm much more likely to have a 23m minute long game.

It sounds like your competitors were bothering you, which is pretty poor sportsmanship whether intentional or not. But on the other hand you were in the round 3 losers bracket with the players who had the worst games. You're probably playing with the players 100% just there for fun and not taking anything too seriously. You could call the couple out to the organizer for the boy coaching the girl and tell them to step back and leave you alone, but if this was the low end of a local tournament with new players I'd probably just roll with it and have fun.

#24 3 years ago

I'm not bad, but do not like competitive pinball. Playing a game is zen-like to me. I want to play a game alone. Me against the machine. And no, I'm not a loner. I enjoy a good pinball party. I'll play for bucks in a social situation. And, I'm very competitive in all other areas of life. Makes no sense to me, but it is what it is...

#25 3 years ago

I have found ZERO caffine and a good nights sleep to help with my focus.

Problem being that I still get very excited for fun pinball competitions so sleep the night before does not always happen.

I tried to make a device which allowed me to wear headphones that attach to a bluetooth microphone that I would attach directly to the speaker. In other words a device which would allow me to listen to the game sounds and also block out others, but so far I have not found anything that works for this.

Soem games have the headphone jack but that is far and few in route play.

#26 3 years ago

pLayIng cOmpetitioN pinball Machines is All about the zeN

#27 3 years ago

Just keep at it. The more you do it the more comfortable you'll be at it and the stress and pressure won't be an issue. It may still creep in from time to time (in finals, or at bigger events), but experience definitely helps.

#28 3 years ago
Quoted from Whysnow:

pLayIng cOmpetitioN pinball Machines is All about the zeN

Stop writing like Mike.

Anyway, I did my first competition at Pinburgh last year. Met some great guys...and that's the best thing I can say about it. I didn't care enough to pick my order number in each round (I went last each time, but some guys seemed to really care what number they were), and although I nearly made B division, I wound up in C, where I eventually bombed out. About halfway through--after only one day--I told my wife I was sorry I had signed up.

The good part was it forced me to play and appreciate tables I might have otherwise just walked by, but that bad part is that it was the first time I hated playing pinball. I don't like worrying about the score and approaching a game that way. I play for the love of the game. Now, if a bunch of my buddies are standing around playing and trash talking, sure I go for points (if I had any friends, that is...). But it became almost uncomfortable when you'd be stuck in a round with that one over-competitive douchebag that acted as if he just lost the super bowl every time he drained his ball. That really sucked.

I may do it again, but not on such a large scale. I'd rather just play at home.

#29 3 years ago

I want to wear a set of headphones while playing competitively but don't want to "that guy." I tried it once (not in a tournament) and not 2 minutes into playing heard someone in that background say "Oh this guy must be a pro." I wish more machines had headphones jacks for game sound so I could do it without trying to look like I'm Mr. Professional Pinball. I haven't heard a callout or sound effect on location in years...

#30 3 years ago
Quoted from beelzeboob:

Stop writing like Mike.

Check for the hidden word--it escaped from another thread

#31 3 years ago
Quoted from ForceFlow:

Check for the hidden word--it escaped from another thread

i saw the hiDden wOrd. jUst Can't fatHom why hE has to Be like thAt. Go figure.

There's a word for guys like that.

#32 3 years ago
Quoted from beelzeboob:

i saw the hiDden wOrd. jUst Can't fatHom why hE has to Be like thAt. Go figure.
There's a word for guys like that.

#33 3 years ago

boob you Do lIke to f*C& with folKs

#34 3 years ago
Quoted from Skypilot:

boob you Do lIke to f*C& with folKs

I take as good as I give, so it's all good. Hey, Skypilot...see if you can find the hidden words:

YOU'RE A DICK.

Good luck!

#35 3 years ago
Quoted from robotron:

I love pinball but cant do the competitive, I don't like waiting around and its always the same players winning. plus I have the pins I like at home.

Same here. There always in bars and I'm drunk before the second game.

#36 3 years ago
Quoted from beelzeboob:

i saw the hiDden wOrd. jUst Can't fatHom why hE has to Be like thAt. Go figure.
There's a word for guys like that.

Lmao!!!

I'm far from a good player, I love the social aspect and fun playing with better players that give pointers and help. Plus feeling that little rush of playing a close game is an awesome thing.

#37 3 years ago

Still working on it ,can yoU send me a better Clue.i liKe games,If They're not to hard. BOOB!

#38 3 years ago

I tend not to do well in tournaments, but I still like playing in them (I didn't start until this year). I have no particular trick on my good games versus my bad. I'm more comfortable on certain pins (pintips helps so I don't feel totally blind on anything) of course, but sometimes the ball drains fast on me no matter how well I know the game (and I feel worse when I do poorly on a table I think I know well, but I imagine most people are that way).

Worst "psych out" situation I ever found myself in was my opponent kept chanting "drain drain drain" over and over again. I don't think he was speaking *to* me per say (I knew he was autistic and assumed this was just a quirk), but another player had just lost to him and mentioned it was very distracting to them while they were playing (so I wasn't surprised it came up, but didn't realize just how distracting it could be until it was happening to me real-time). I remember getting control of the ball, pausing and thinking "don't let the mind game win, embrace the chant as a challenge" and I just starting thinking "drain drain drain" along to his words (I guess turning it into a quasi-crowd chant thing, like a singalong in my brain). I beat him, politely shook his hand and thanked him for playing me, and moved on (to lose to someone else in the next round and wash out of the rest of the tournament).

So, as head-games go, that's really been it. To embrace the annoyance as a challenge. Not sure how well it worked (I definitely would have preferred not hearing any chanting), other than I didn't choke or do worse than normal, so I consider it a success. Overall, when I'm at tournaments I like to tell myself that I'm just playing to have fun (and yes, winning is the most fun, but pinball is fun and so if I get to play pinball then I better be automatically having fun... otherwise I'm doing it wrong).

#39 3 years ago
Quoted from Skypilot:

Still working on it ,can yoU send me a better Clue.i liKe games,If They're not to hard. BOOB!

I lik speling, wen its not "to" hard.

#40 3 years ago

I am interested in this topic. I love pinball, but I'm just not very good. I've owned games for five years, but can't progress far in most of them.

In any endeavor, be it sports, music, arts or business, there are certain requirements to excel.

1. Talent/aptitude. You just can't elbow grease a substantial lack of it. As I recently read about being a navy seal, "There are miles between perception and reality".

2. Commitment/practice. Those who work at it regularly will improve and sharpen their skills.

3. Luck/timing. A small but important factor in competition and performing.

Regarding the first two, those who have an abundance of both are rare and legendary. Those with at least some of one and lots of the other will frequently stand out and excel.

Those with little appritude and no commitment will only occasionally get lucky.

So what's my issue. I don't seem to have natural ability. Realistically, I only play my games about once a week for maybe 15-20 minutes. Despite that, I really enjoy the social aspect of pinball. I've decided to start entering tournaments and participating when I attend shows. Watch out pinball world!

#41 3 years ago
Quoted from DennisK:

Worst "psych out" situation I ever found myself in was my opponent kept chanting "drain drain drain" over and over again.

Awesome success story! Thanks for sharing. I like the idea of recognizing the situation and accepting it as a challenge. Now I need to remember this!

#42 3 years ago

No you are not insane. It's only when you get better at competitive pinball that it becomes less fun

#43 3 years ago

I think it would be hilarious if competitive pinball was treated like any old dollar game I play with my buddies. Full of psych outs shit talking and good old fashioned fun.

#44 3 years ago

OP! I was the same. Going in to tourny's or league night really hoping to do as well as I could, or am used to, but just flunking out. Then I changed my mind about the nights and use it as an excuse to just hang out meet people. When it's my turn, it just gets in the way of conversations. Now I actually do a lot better and have more fun, for both the social and competitive aspects. I've found out who I can really focus on trying to beat, who I can give/take trash talk with and who is there that takes it seriously so I just leave them to their night.

Also, I wear a shirt that says "Don't talk to me when I'm playing PINBALL!" on the back.

#45 3 years ago
Quoted from Whysnow:

I tried to make a device which allowed me to wear headphones that attach to a bluetooth microphone that I would attach directly to the speaker. In other words a device which would allow me to listen to the game sounds and also block out others, but so far I have not found anything that works for this. Soem games have the headphone jack but that is far and few in route play.

I wonder if just putting on headphones and tucking the cord into your pocket would help cut down on interruptions while you're playing? Of course you'll never hear the end of it once people figure out what you're doing ...

#46 3 years ago

I think I should also add that I love the social aspect of pinball. I often only play my games when someone comes over. I love the casual over the competitive any day of the week.

Me and my friends often play dollar pinball.

I recently played in the pinball at the lake tourney here in SoCal.

I did very poorly but managed to get in a 3 way tie for the last spot in b.

It was the last game of the night and probably the most stressful game I've ever played.

I took 2nd and missed qualifying.

That said I guess I liked the different more intense competitive play as well, for some reason. I think if I bone up on some games I might get deeper into b.

Long live pinball!

#47 3 years ago
Quoted from Whysnow:

I am utterly amazed at the people that can channel theri focus and play well during playoffs.
It is beyond frustrating but for some reason I keep doing it over and over again.
I have realized that I need to figure out a way to influence others to not distract me during actual play. Twice last night at our monthly I had other players actually interupt me during my active ball being played to ask a question about the game they were playing. You would think it would be common courtesy to not interput anyone while they are in the middle of a ball but amazingly it happens nearly every event.

Whysnow just needs to borrow a toddler to distract him while he practices at home. I've had some great games at home while my 2 year old screams and distracts me by trying to push the buttons while I play. The distractions of fellow pinheads is nothing compared to a screaming toddler .

I also find I play the best when I am well rested. I do much better in daytime tourneys than night events when my focus isn't sharp and my mind is tired.

#48 3 years ago

1. If you get nerves, don't drink coffee within a couple hours of the tournament.
2. Lots of water - hydrate, so your muscles don't start doing weird things when the pressure is on.
3. Don't drink to calm your nerves. It will work, but it will kill your reaction speed.

4. Headphones helps for a lot of people. You can even just wear the headphones with no music and it will shut up the people asking questions in the middle of your game because they'll assume you can't hear them.

5. Focus just on your next shot or objective. If the other guy has 50M and you only have 5M, the only way you catch up is one shot at a time.

6. If a shot isn't working, don't force it. On Monster Bash, for example, sometimes right Bride ramp is just a non-starter, or right wolf man orbit. If creature isn't working either, I shoot the spinner all day. Maybe once you've got decent points on the board, try that hard shot again.

7. Don't be afraid to chat with other players about the game, but it's not always considered cool to do this with your match opponent, and never cool to talk to them while playing. While I'm waiting for my turn on Game A and not really watching closely because I know it well already, I will watch other games. I'll watch how the game is feeding from kickouts or half ramp shots, or how tight the tilt appears to be, or if the mystery awards are on tournament mode, etc. If a player is playing a different strat than my own, I'll ask him/her about it. "You didn't go for x...." "Yeah, I prefer to go for y because..."

8. A mental exercise you can try: at your next tournament, when your nerves are off the charts, take a "mental snapshot". Look around, remember the visuals, the games, the score display, the lights, the other players, the sounds, the smell of the bar, the feel of the floor beneath your feet. Really burn it into your brain. Next, when you're playing casually, close your eyes and vividly recall that memory, and then play a game and imagine you're playing against someone right at that moment. Sometimes it even helps to start a two-player game and play against yourself. If done correctly it can help get you used to playing "in fear" and maintain focus despite the pressure.

Hope this helps.

#49 3 years ago
Quoted from jonnyo:

7. Don't be afraid to chat with other players about the game, but it's not always considered cool to do this with your match opponent

I always discuss strategy with my opponents. I'll freely give advice and always ask how to play games I'm not familiar with tournament strategies. If I give good advice and my opponents blows up the game, then at least I know I have a good strategy

#50 3 years ago
Quoted from arpman:

Competition is half mind game and half skill.

And half luck... For a given ball, pick 2 of them. Sometimes I can throw up a high score of the day on a game for no apparent reason, and other times I can't keep a ball alive for more than 13.5 seconds no matter what I do, ball after ball after ball. Inconsistency is the name of my game, more bad than good, and even worse in a competition.

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