(Topic ID: 197503)

What makes a great competitive pinball player?


By Frippertron

1 year ago



Topic Stats

  • 86 posts
  • 36 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 1 year ago by TheLaw
  • Topic is favorited by 5 Pinsiders

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    There are 86 posts in this topic. You are on page 1 of 2.
    #1 1 year ago

    After a few years of playing. I started to watch a lot of competition pinball. I'm just a casual player. I can play a bit, I can live catch, drop catch, post pass and I'm finally getting comfortable with the alley pass. I can't tap pass to save my life. I guess I'm wondering what the top competitive players have that we mere mortals don't. I'm guessing shot accuracy is the most important thing, if you never miss a shot you'll win everytime. From what I have observed in top players like Keith Elwin or Daniele Acciari is their incredible multiball control. They don't call it the Elwin pose for nothing. I'm comparing these two players because they are very different and both very successful. Keith plays a controlled game, always cradling up and measuring his shots. The man has total flipper skills and sick control. Daniele is fast and loose, doesn't cradle much, doesn't tap pass but he is also very successful, he has amazing accuracy. The thing they both have in common other than ice in their veins is their innate ability to control multiple balls it's superhuman. Watch Daniele play Jackbot against Cayle George and you will see what I'm talking about. So I pose the question to our best players here like Levi and Colin . What is it that truly separates a great competitive player from a great arcade player?

    #2 1 year ago

    Any thoughts?

    #3 1 year ago

    A couple things you left out...

    - Ball Saving skills - especially nudging, slap saves, etc.
    - Game knowledge - knowing what's safe to shoot for or not, and then avoiding the dangerous shots

    #4 1 year ago
    Quoted from T7:

    A couple things you left out...
    - Ball Saving skills - especially nudging, slap saves, etc.
    - Game knowledge - knowing what's safe to shoot for or not, and then avoiding the dangerous shots

    These were my thoughts exactly after reading the initial post. I'm looking forward to seeing what others think on this topic.

    #5 1 year ago

    Consistency to me is huge. You can be a great player but if you aren't consistent you wont make it to far. You don't have to win every game but getting last will kill you.

    Another thing that goes along with the above. Tournament players vs the causal good player look at games differently. What always hurts me is I still walk up to a game and look to go through it (get to wizard modes) where the good players will find safe shots that are repeatable and will build points.

    #6 1 year ago

    I was just focusing on multiball ability on my post. I agree nudging and the ability to get the ball out of dangerous situations is incredibly important. Keith has to be one of the best subtle nudgers in the game, his outlane shakes are epic. Another great nudger I have noticed is Andy Rosa, he is so good controlling the balls trajectory a master of the quick powerful nudge.

    #7 1 year ago

    The main thing I've noticed is that the best players stay as cool as a cucumber, even when they get robbed by a house ball. I gather that getting rattled is counterproductive to staying focused and concentrating. My fellow league members may be surprised to hear that I've been trying to stay cool myself! I think it's helping, but I'm not all that successful in the attempt as yet.

    Those that wear headphones, what do they listen to? Is it their favorite music? White noise? A calm voice repeating "stay focused" or such? Are they simply eliminating distractions from other games and players, or does their tuneage help them stay in the groove? Does anyone just wear earplugs? I've never tried anything like these things. How are they supposed to know when to "Shoot the Pyramid!"? Seriously, I'd love to hear different takes on this.

    #8 1 year ago

    Maybe Xanax is the pinball player's steroids ?

    #9 1 year ago

    Being good at pinball is actually a collection of a bunch of disparate skills. In no particular order -- and this is not a complete list -- a great player must:

    1. Have excellent shot accuracy, as you noted.

    2. Have a deep database of pinball rulesets committed to memory, complete with exploits / best strats / quirks / variations for hundreds of games.

    3. Have good physical nudging skills -- the ability to nudge without tilting, while affecting the ball in the desired manner.

    4. Have the ability to instantly recognize and in fact predict danger before it occurs. This is a two part skill:
    a) ability to predict ricochets and bounces so that you know when a ball will head to danger.
    b) knowledge of machine tendencies that often result in lost balls (recognizing dangerous orbits or pops, etc).

    5. And of course there are flipper skills aside from simple accuracy -- subtle ball movements, like post pass, tap pass, various catches and techniques for calming the ball down and so forth.

    This is by no means a complete list at all. Just a few of the more obvious discrete skills. But the point is any one of these vectors can be independently pursued or neglected. To become outstanding, you have to have high marks across all of these dimensions and more. There isn't "one thing" that sets great players apart from good ones.

    #10 1 year ago

    A couple more:

    Be lucky as hell!

    Apparently have a different set of physics apply to them!

    (I'm only half kidding!)

    #11 1 year ago

    I'm by no means a great player but to answer DanQ, I have noticed that if you turn the sound off on a machine (or wear headphones I guess) you'll do alot better. I think it pulls the excitement out of it, you're just flipping balls at lights then.

    Also, I think to be a good tournament player you have to be able (or willing?) to take the fun out of pinball. Don't go for beating the game like someone else said just find that one safe shot that will build for you and shoot it over and over. I would hate to play like that but I've watched people just pick a shot and loop it over and over to slowly build points, that doesn't seem like much fun to me but it does seem to win tournaments.

    #12 1 year ago

    I think luck is a factor in an individual game or tournament but you always see the same top guys tournament after tournament. It's kind of like golf or tennis. A player can beat Roger Federer or Tiger Woods in a given tournament on a given day but over time the cream rises to the top.

    #13 1 year ago
    Quoted from ArcadeUpkeep:

    I would hate to play like that but I've watched people just pick a shot and loop it over and over to slowly build points, that doesn't seem like much fun to me but it does seem to win tournaments.

    Worst tournament player ever.
    Unless the tourney is on police force or something like that I can't see how that can win anything.

    #14 1 year ago
    Quoted from TheLaw:

    I can't see how that can win anything.

    I don't remember the game it was on but it was a ramp shot where X shots started a mode then X shots completed it, never had to shoot anywhere else. He just shot it over and over, starting and beating the mode for points, it was painfully boring.

    #15 1 year ago

    Years of practice and a good buzz.

    #16 1 year ago
    Quoted from o-din:

    Years of practice ...

    That. As with most skill based things. You have to do it a lot.

    #17 1 year ago

    A lot of older games are light the spinner, rip the spinner but those shots don't return to an inlane so they are not infinitely repeatable.

    -2
    #18 1 year ago
    Quoted from ArcadeUpkeep:

    I don't remember the game it was on but it was a ramp shot...

    Right, so that's one specific game you're pulling a generalization from which doesn't really work is my point.

    #19 1 year ago

    Bitching & Moaning

    I have yet to experience a single tournament where at least one top player didn't complain about something. Molehills become mountains as the slightest little thing sets someone off. It could be just a natural response to gameday pressure mixed in with a bit of healthy ego. When it happens some just can't recover while it clearly fires up others. I've seen many top players turn anger inward and use it as a positive force to produce some truly spectacular performances.

    #20 1 year ago

    I hafta state that, for the same reason professional golf gets boring, when a competition player boils play down to ball control mechanisms like ball trapping on the flippers, it has a tendency to kill game enjoyment. I like my MMR for rolling shots alternating between the Peasant and Damsel ramps, have made 8 in a row before. Now trapping the ball on the flipper, lining up and making 8 ramp shots under a controlled methodical process seems stale in comparison. I think selective trapping is definitely a good thing but limited in the arsenal for sure. IMHO.

    #21 1 year ago

    Consistency and clear understanding of rule set.

    #22 1 year ago
    Quoted from KozMckPinball:

    ...lining up and making 8 ramp shots under a controlled methodical process seems stale in comparison. I think selective trapping is definitely a good thing but limited in the arsenal for sure. IMHO.

    it is stale...and the fact that it's stale works in the players favor. I have played people like that and it's kind of frustrating to you waiting...which is good for them.

    #23 1 year ago
    Quoted from DanQverymuch:

    The main thing I've noticed is that the best players stay as cool as a cucumber, even when they get robbed by a house ball

    Can I introduce you to Josh Sharpe?? Sean Grant? Bowen (at times..)..

    It's kind of what made Elwin stand out so much early on... he was so 'flat' all the time, where a lot of the other players were a lot more animated.

    #24 1 year ago
    Quoted from TheLaw:

    it is stale...and the fact that it's stale works in the players favor. I have played people like that and it's kind of frustrating to you waiting...which is good for them.

    But is it fun? That's what each of us has to answer for ourselves.

    10
    #25 1 year ago

    Baggy cargo shorts and ugly sneakers

    #26 1 year ago
    Quoted from KozMckPinball:

    But is it fun? That's what each of us has to answer for ourselves.

    To be honest, it's another form of control ie self control. Some people cannot play that way...I know I cant for too long.
    There comes a point where I just have to get some shit moving and make on the fly shots etc etc...both to my benefit & detriment.

    You can have your fun when you win

    #27 1 year ago

    telekinesis

    #28 1 year ago

    I think this helps Keith a lot. Other players play like their is an everlasting hurry up to collect and Keith is cool, calm and collected. Keith doesn't feel like he is on a timer and it pays off

    #29 1 year ago

    frippertron : if your focus on this dialogue is multiball, I think you've already nailed it: being willing to play in more control in multiball (consistency), and understanding risk vs reward. When I first got into competitive pinball in 2011, it had never crossed my mind to cradle a ball during multiball (or dead bounce, or post pass, or tap pass, or or or...), and I didn't think I needed to do so, because I could put up big scores already. But when you get in a tourney situation where you MUST execute well on THAT multiball of the ONE game you're playing where it's not your 5th consecutive solo game on the pin, consistency is crucial and on-the-fly multiball play won't consistently deliver the performance and score that you need to win. When you're at home or on location playing casually, and you triple-drain out of multiball and have a bad game, you can just press the start button again, or drop some more $ in to try again. No harm done other than your time and perhaps $1. My first TPF tourney experience taught me a lot about this as I lost to the likes of Trent and Donavan

    So I made it a point to learn how to play multiball under control -- and I SUCKED! Bad. Really BAD. I don't recall how many weeks/months it took to make the change, but it was not a fun experience. Further, playing cradle/control multiball effectively is much easier said/watched than done. Once you've watched someone else execute techniques, then you've got to put in the time to practice them. Patience is a big component of this style of play.

    #30 1 year ago

    I believe that like elite athletes, there is an inherent difference in truly competitive players that just makes them better than most. Hand-eye coordination, reflexes, etc.

    For example I've been playing for over 20 years and I'd say among regular players I'm in the middle of the pack, and my skills have peaked. There's a couple of people locally that only started playing a few years ago and they are 100x better and consistently so than I am, despite my experience. No amount of practice is going to make me as good as them, just like no amount of practice at basketball would make me Michael Jordan.

    #31 1 year ago

    I watched a Bowen tutorial a while back. I think it was Fathom. He said on that game he didn't feel comfortable EVER taking a shot while the ball was still moving. He also said the difference between a player that is getting good to a player that is good is their willingness to forgo the desire shoot the moving ball, every shot other than bail out type shots should be taken from a position of complete control. Food for thought.

    #32 1 year ago

    Thanks for that Colin and congrats on the Pinburgh win. I was real impressed with your play. I don't know how you kept your cool on Andromeda.

    #33 1 year ago

    Nudging...ball control...being relax...knowing the game rules...patience.....a lot of practice...playing with good players will help you out a lot.....and a Littile luck...

    #34 1 year ago
    Quoted from Frippertron:

    He also said the difference between a player that is getting good to a player that is good is their willingness to forgo the desire shoot the moving ball, every shot other than bail out type shots should be taken from a position of complete control. Food for thought.

    I'd like to see him try that on 4 Roses. lol.

    4Roses (resized).jpg

    #35 1 year ago

    Having consistently good games. It's all well and good blowing 1 game out the park in a tournament but if your other games stink it's worthless. A better player doesn't just have 1 amazing game, all their games are reasonably good. Might not all be number 1 scoring spots but will be top 5.

    #36 1 year ago

    The part I struggle with is self discipline. My play style is different depending on whether I'm playing for fun vs. in a tournament. When playing for fun I'm more "on the fly" and don't concentrate on squeezing every single point I can out of a game.-Instead I focus on other goals such as attaining the Wizard mode or sub wizard modes and trying to actually enjoy the game I'm playing. In competition you have to usually scrap all that and just shoot for what scores the most points. Even if that means shooting the same shot over and over or playing through a games video mode many times throughout a game. In competition I constantly have to remind myself to slow it down, trap up, and play conservatively to just focus on points. I think the higher level players just naturally do this all the time and play every game like it is a competition. My rules knowledge and ability to grasp a rule-set quickly also isn't anywhere near what the top player's are. It really doesn't surprise me that someone like Bowen is a math teacher as it takes a special brain to process the rules and the multipliers and all the math that is going on within a pinball game like GOT or even SW. It's no wonder really smart guys like Keefer and Lyman are great players because they truly understand all the rules and can focus all their energy just on playing.

    #37 1 year ago
    Quoted from Snailman:

    Further, playing cradle/control multiball effectively is much easier said/watched than done. Once you've watched someone else execute techniques, then you've got to put in the time to practice them. Patience is a big component of this style of play.

    well said. I've always been an "on the fly" player and I've started to try and slow things down and cradle during multiball. But if I try and really force it I fall apart. I played Whirlwind at pinburgh and did horrible. I played it in a tourney monday and did pretty good. I think the difference was playing it very calculated and controlled. So I think it just depends on the game. A game like MET or AC/DC you can score decent points just randomly hitting shots. But Whirlwind can be brutal and the points are tough to find if you just flail around.

    Like Colin I've been playing for a long time but only in the past few years did I start to play competitively. One of the toughest things for me to overcome is the mindset of maximize fun vs maximize points. I'll be playing a game with a worthless multiball but I will still be trying to get it because multiball is FUN. Also learning rules is not fun (for me). So that is also a struggle.

    #38 1 year ago

    I'm going to go out on a limb and say all the playing I have done on two inch flipper games over the last few years has made long flipper games much much easier. Either that or they were just plain easy to begin with.

    #39 1 year ago

    Odin I think the three inch flipper games seem easier because they were designed to have longer ball times. When you play the old 60'S style games you can't trap up and the smaller flippers create more randomness. These games require a whole different skill set that most aren't use to. I love those games North Star being a personal favorite.

    #40 1 year ago

    All I know is after playing a few rounds of Trade Winds or some of the other short flipper machines, it makes Flash Gordon seem like childs play. Then I can go on to have an epic game on BSD.

    Which shows me it is better to practice on all different eras of games if you really want to get good. I've heard in competition some of these DMD wizards end up floundering on the older EMs because they don't get the practice.

    #41 1 year ago
    Quoted from o-din:

    Which shows me it is better to practice on all different eras of games if you really want to get good.

    Well there's no doubt aboot that.

    #42 1 year ago

    That precisely what makes Pinburgh the ultimate tournament. You have to do well at all styles of play. EM , early SS, system 11 thru Dmd and beyond.

    #43 1 year ago

    We need more threads like this....playing techniques, tournament success skills, having fun or going for points....thank you for starting this one.

    IMG_8573 (resized).JPG

    #44 1 year ago

    Let's keep it going. I love hearing from these guys. Where's Levi? Hot date night maybe?

    #45 1 year ago

    Has anyone said "balls of steel" yet?

    #46 1 year ago

    I like my balls a little softer

    #47 1 year ago
    Quoted from Frippertron:

    I like my balls a little softer

    So does brady

    #48 1 year ago

    Great competition pinball players tend to have a strategy. I've been a slow learner, just now finding success after 5 1/2 years of playing tournaments, and my biggest help has been having a strategy.

    My first strategy is establishing a foundation score to avoid last. This means on games like iron man I will often start bogey even though the true path to high scores is do or die because I am not likely to get to do or die but if I put 5 million points I will beat the one guy who will guaranteed get housed on Iron man because someone always does.

    My next strategy is recognizing my position in the game and doing only what I need to move up one position in the finishing order. This means if I am in 3rd I think of what I need to do to get second and as long as that's not a crazy risky tactic I'll go for that. I'm never thinking of blowing up the game, only about surpassing each opponent.

    The last part is remembering all facets of the game. Watching others to recognize the feeds out of certain areas to get control. Knowing how far you can nudge and when to nudge. It's not easy, you get caught up in playing your own game that it's easy to miss the information other players can give you.

    I think my favorite part of competitive pinball so far has been going from hating game types to loving them. Used to hate early SS now I love them. Starting to really respect and enjoy EMs. Been a fun ride, so much so that I almost hate playing pinball if it's not competitive

    #49 1 year ago

    Great insight Rich. When I first started playing it was high speed then whirlwind, then found girls and then I remember my jaw dropped seeing the Addams family pin at the mall in Rockaway NJ. I loved that pin at the time a few years later I really liked Revenge from Mars. I know it gets ragged on now but in1999 pinball 2000 was the bomb in the vernacular of the time. Times change and the older I get the more I appreciate early solid state machines. I think they have the randomness of an EM and a decent rule set that makes the replayability off the charts. Newer games are certainly more advanced and interesting but I feel early SS games have the most replayability. I always feel I can do better next time on Flash Gordon or EBD. In my opinion they have the perfect rulesets, both simple looking and yet difficult to achieve, the pinball Othello if you will

    #50 1 year ago

    There is definitely something to be said of the mathematicians of our ilk. Bowen knows at all times what the most valuable shot is at any given time and shoots at the appropriate target. I'm more likely to drool on myself before I figure that out.

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