This. A million+ times this.
Knowing specific rules for each game, as opposed to generalized skills like live catching, drop catching, etc.
Quoted from timballs:
A top 10 player knows things about how to bump a ball off a guide rail that a top 150 player doesn't know. A top 10 play can fit the ball onto a different part of a flipper than a top 150 player can. A top 10 player can aim at a more precise part of a pinball machine than a top 150 player can.
Then they probably don't deserve to be in the top 150, IMO, and likely won't remain there for very long at all under the current points system, unless they have 15+ friends that are willing to tank big tournaments for them on a monthly basis.
Quoted from timballs:
Also, Colin was ranked 50. Not 150. That's a pretty big difference. A top 150 player might not be taking the initiative to line up every single mode in Aerosmith with a 6-ball multiball to figure out which gave the most points, but Colin was. It was clear to me that Colin had been working on "breaking in" to the elite level of pinball players in the world, and wasn't just going to accept his fate as a top 50 player for the rest of his pinball career, and that's cool, and I doubt he's done trying to improve still.
I have absolutely no clue where you're going with this. As someone that's been in the top 100 previously (most would question if it was warranted given the IFPA's point system at the time, but I really don't care, because as I've stated, the "general skills" difference between these players is so 'meh' it's almost a nonfactor...), and played against Colin far more than most people on here have, I feel like I'm pretty qualified to present a salient point as to why ranking doesn't MATTER...or shouldn't, I guess. I'm sure it MATTERS in the sense that it's a great way to pysch out your opponent if they're having to go "ERMAGERD, I'M PLAYING *WHO*?! ISN'T THAT GUY IN THE TOP 50!? I HAVE NO CHANCE OF WINNING THIS!" But.....if (and I realize this is a big if, okay?) you've been lucky enough to play with high level players consistently, as I have been, you start to realize that the margins between success and failure are very often razor thin. It's absurd that people consistently fail to recognize this, and I really feel like it holds a lot of people back from the competitve scene because they feel like they have no chance at all. They have no faith in themselves, or their skills, and instead of making the maximum effort, they submit to the anxiety and pressure and perform at a level far below what they're capable of. All it takes is one nervously flubbed shot to go wildly out of control and cost you a game, and possibly a tournament. That crap is just *depressing* the first few years... at least, it was for me.
It's absolutely not a big difference IMO. Case in point: https://www.ifpapinball.com/tournaments/view.php?t=11767#
Colin was 61st, I was 149th. I think we can both agree that this is basically identical to the premise you're claiming, yes, that I should've lost horribly due to the skill gap? Fact is, I didn't. I blew him out the first 3 games, he blew me out the last 4 games. This was after I went through Garret, Bob, and Jon to get there. (83, 86, and 40th at the time..) You know why I lost to Colin? See above. After he got Portal on ball 1 on Tron for game 4, I was *crushed*. Tron is usually a great game for me, I couldn't do anything with it, and he just DESTROYED it and I lost my nerve. I had a mental meltdown, and there's nobody to blame for my poor performance in those 4 games except for myself. He won, I didn't, we both (as far as I know?) had a great time. It was my best run to date against players that I consider frequently better than myself. My point is that if you're only relying on a ranking number to assess someone's knowledge or skills...you're doing yourself a huge disservice as a competitive player, and putting yourself at a disadvantage by psyching yourself out or vastly understimating someone else.
But hey...what do I know, I'm just a lowly 355, I probably don't know anything at all, lol. I'm sure that I can't win Pinburgh -right now-, but I don't feel like I'm uncompetitive, or COULDN'T EVER win Pinburgh at some point. If I had the time and money to dedicate to travelling and playing in big tournaments frequently, I fully believe that would be an achievable goal for me..but after seeing Colin do it, I'm just kind of happy with the knowledge that a guy I already felt like I could go toe-to-toe with (I'm sure he'd disagree if he can even see my posts..lol... we don't talk outside of tournaments because we are vastly different personalities that conflict...which is fine..) WON PINBURGH, and that's an extremely satisfying feeling to have, as opposed to it feeling like it's something that's completely insurmountable no matter how hard you try, which is far more in line with how I felt several years ago about pinball competition.