What makes a great competitive pinball player?

(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 2 of 2.
    #51 1 year ago
    Quoted from Frippertron:

    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

    I agree. After owning EBD, I get it now. Got to play Firepower a few weeks back at the newest Pinballz location in Austin, and got hooked hard. I've got my eye out for one now. That one more game feeling is what I'm enjoying these days over the long quest type games. Don't get me wrong, I've got a short list of DMD games to add to the collection....Love them all, but early SS is a pretty damn fine era.

    #52 1 year ago

    Right on Blitz. Have you are anyone else played a firepower with the drop target "MOD". I was wondering if it a big impact on game play?

    #53 1 year ago

    CrazyLevi if you are around I would like to hear your take on the topic question. Thanks.

    #54 1 year ago

    I'd offer my opinion but since nobody in my state thinks I'm any good, what's the point?

    #55 1 year ago

    Frax, my Red Dwarf friend. What's up?

    #56 1 year ago
    Quoted from Frippertron:

    CrazyLevi if you are around I would like to hear your take on the topic question. Thanks.

    I've been avoiding this thread as I can't stand most prog rock but here goes:

    Everybody has talked about the skills you need so I don't need to add to any of that. I'd just say be willing to try these skills out while practicing, and work that stuff in very quickly into your competition play. What's the point of buying a new vette if you are just gonna keep it in the garage?

    One thing I'd offer is don't be afraid to think for yourself. Competition pinball is absolutely filled with people who only play the game how "they are supposed to." That is they'll hear about a strategy, and they'll copy it. Pinball players all copy each other, and they don't want to look stupid by playing the game their own way.

    If you hear that the only way to play X-files is by banging the cabinet and playing in multiball, that isn't necesarilly so. I did pretty well in buffalo playing for Modes, and so did Tim Sexton. We both got over 11 million playing X-files the way your "aren't supposed to play it" and beat one of the top ranked guys in the world Robert Gagno who was playing it the way you are supposed to. In fact I screwed up my final 4 match by decided to go the multiball route, for no particular reason. Wasted my first ball - still did enough to barely beat the #1 player in the world Zach on that match, playing it "the wrong way." There's usually tons of ways to play a game, and for whatever reason, most people are convinced that they have to "play it like Elwin" or do the "Cayle strat" or they aren't gonna win.

    I got news for you, you aren't Cayle or Elwin and what works for them might not work for you.

    The other thing I'd say is pay attention. I learned more in losing one match to Ray Day at pinburgh than I did in the previous two days of beating people. I learned that I needed to shed on my drop catch - a month later this paid off huge in Buffalo. If you are playing in a match against a good player, even at a bar, don't F around with your phone the whole time. Don't double dip and go play another game because the guy you are playing with is having a good ball. Watch these guys play and see what you can pick up. A lot of people I know think that if they just play a shitload of pinball, they'll get better, and that's not so. Yeah it helps you make a big jump from scrub to competitive all-around player, but it's not gonna take you next level. You need to work on your skills and identify what is working and what isn't, and think about how you can get better. I have a lot of friends who are good players but haven't improved in 2 years. That shouldn't happen. Unless you are Cayle and Elwin.

    And while I'm at it, get off the dicks of guys like Cayle and Elwin. They are great guys and good players. But they are just like you - slobs who like to hang out in bars and play pinball. There's no reason you can't get better and compete with them. there's no reason if you draw them at pinburgh, you have to assume you are gonna lose every match to them. There's no reason you have to try to copy everything they do and not come up with your own ways to play the games and win. I have one friend who is so in awe of these guys and so on their jocks it's ridiculous. You think some utility player on the Nats sucks up relentlessly to Bryce Harper? I doubt it. We're all pinball players.

    Quoted from Frippertron:

    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.

    Again, for many players, yes. For Bowen, yes. You know how I like to play AFM? On the fly a lot of the time. Back to Buffalo...Robert Gango spent his entire Total Annhilation cradling, trapping, separating, stopping, and repeating. He got around 500 million. I spent mine shooting on the fly, getting into the groove, nailing shots. I ended up with 2 billion. I like to control when appropriate, and shoot on the fly when appropriate. It's more fun for me, and it works for me. I see guys all the time who try to play like Gagno but just don't have the same control and skills. they are always losing their balls on trap separations, and wasting time during multiball when the ball save is still lit not bothering to shoot at jackpots, instead trying to find zen-like control. Find your own style and embrace it.

    That's all I got from you from the 3rd floor. Maybe some guys in the top 20s will have better advice!

    #57 1 year ago

    Thanks Levi it is much appreciated. I knew you were going to have a unique outlook. If it wasn't for guys like you pinball would be boring.

    #58 1 year ago

    You love prog, Levi, everyone does they just don't realize it. If you like drum or guitar, bass or , keyboard solos, you like prog!

    #59 1 year ago
    Quoted from Frippertron:

    You love prog, Levi, everyone does they just don't realize it. If you like drum or guitar, bass or , keyboard solos, you like prog!

    I also like staying awake while I rock out

    #60 1 year ago

    Ouch! Go to a Dream Theater concert and tell me it's dull.

    #61 1 year ago

    Levi , you are always welcome on the Prog is Awesome thread. We like to convert the misguided!

    #62 1 year ago

    I tend toward classic rock and metal. Saw Roger waters last night.

    And no floyd isn't prog!!!!!!

    #63 1 year ago

    If you like Roger Waters, you like prog!!. It's OK Levi. It's like AA. You like prog and it's OK, we can help.

    #64 1 year ago

    Oops, wrong thread.

    #65 1 year ago

    I'm a big metal fan myself. I don't know if you're familiar with a great NY metal band called Fates Warning. Check them out if your not.

    #66 1 year ago

    I dont think anyone has mentioned how some players can adjust to the machine very quickly. Different machines play so differently and you don't have much time to find the shot. Levi touched on that watching other players- you can find out what works on kick outs and rolling passes, etc., but some stuff you have to flip to find out. I hear folks will change things on their home games frequently to make it more difficult. You can switch from new to old flipper rubber, move posts, angle, tilt, or even set the game to fewer balls to make location games feel easier and adjusting more natural. But I can't say I've done much of that, but you can sure tell when the game at the bar gets some changes/tune up. It's like starting over, hopefully for the better.

    #67 1 year ago
    Quoted from dookski:

    I dont think anyone has mentioned how some players can adjust to the machine very quickly. Different machines play so differently and you don't have much time to find the shot. Levi touched on that watching other players- you can find out what works on kick outs and rolling passes, etc., but some stuff you have to flip to find out. I hear folks will change things on their home games frequently to make it more difficult. You can switch from new to old flipper rubber, move posts, angle, tilt, or even set the game to fewer balls to make location games feel easier and adjusting more natural. But I can't say I've done much of that, but you can sure tell when the game at the bar gets some changes/tune up. It's like starting over, hopefully for the better.

    True. You have to adapt quickly.

    I'm pretty thrilled if I can do that by ball 2.

    #68 1 year ago
    Quoted from dookski:

    I dont think anyone has mentioned how some players can adjust to the machine very quickly. Different machines play so differently and you don't have much time to find the shot.

    Haha my favorite is "cool I own this machine this will be easy." Ends up burying you.

    #69 1 year ago
    Quoted from TheLaw:

    Haha my favorite is "cool I own this machine this will be easy." Ends up burying you.

    I've been able to avoid this trap lately. The mistake is when people go into a game they own and really think it gives you any kind of real advantage.

    Against scrubs, maybe, but you just have to assume any good player is going to know a game as well as you do.

    #70 1 year ago

    I think it's more to do with your brain thinking you have the shots down, but the different example in front of you shoots slightly differently, and your brain is too used to your own to adjust quickly enough.

    #71 1 year ago
    Quoted from DanQverymuch:

    I think it's more to do with your brain thinking you have the shots down, but the different example in front of you shoots slightly differently, and your brain is too used to your own to adjust quickly enough.

    I'm over that too. You just have to expect it to be different.

    A good thing to do before you plunge your first ball is snap the flippers a few times - I know this seems obvious but I've always been chomping at the bit to just plunge. Make note of if they are high or shallow, and keep in your mind you'll have to adjust accordingly - for all games not just ones in your basement. But if you have an AFM with a high/normal flipper stroke, and then step up to an AFMr you'll notice the stroke is shallower and the flippers don't go as high. So, basically, remember to flip earlier. And you'll know that ski passing is easier and preferred in some situations.

    Yeah it'll still take you a ball to get everything down but at least you'll have it in your head.

    #72 1 year ago

    Thanks for posting guys! It's very interesting to hear from the competitive players out there. I've never grown the silver balls to play at local tourneys or anything. I guess I'm afraid that making it competitive would take the fun out of playing pinball altogether, or that I would be to hard to myself for not scoring well on a particular game. But all of these different insights have been very interesting to read.

    #73 1 year ago
    Quoted from CrazyLevi:

    Against scrubs, maybe, but you just have to assume any good player is going to know a game as well as you do.

    Oh I meant more the game playing diff'rent, not knowledge of it.

    #74 1 year ago

    Regarding all the "rules knowledge" posts, I think that a lot of players consider this a static thing, like for every game you're just adding more rules to your brain. But this is a skill just like drop catching that you can work on and improve. Players who want to get good at learning rules should try to go out on all these new games and try to learn as much as possible without consulting friends/rule sheets/tutorials and then go back to those resources and see how much they were able to pick up.

    A big reason that top players play so slowly is that they often take breaks in the middle of the game to execute a strategy for the next few shots based on the status of the game. I see Zach Sharpe look at the status report way more frequently than I see local players check it, even though I'm sure he understands the rules better than most of the local folks I play with.

    Also, the top competitive pinball players do not fear shots ever. They all believe that they can hit every shot on the game. Going back to crazylevi with the X-Files example: that's a game with 7 shots, and all players would shoot was the biggest one up the middle. Then, by the time they got to multiball they hadn't found any of the other shots yet. I love picking Kiss in our local league because I do not see a single player aim for the right ramp, even though it's a great feed to the right flipper.

    Practicing other ways to play is key for this too. It's really easy to get stuck in the same pattern for a game, which is why it's nice to have the opportunity to play in the circuit final because you get to see everyone step up to the challenge. It's easy to start Multiball 1 on Funhouse, get 1 jackpot, drain, and spend the rest of the game dying as you shoot the bumpers. Take things up a notch by trying to max out the millions plus shot, or bring an extended timer super frenzy into multiball, or play 3 multiballs in a single ball.

    #75 1 year ago

    Thanks Tim. That's definitely food for thought. I'm not a competitive guy but I never understood the multiball all day strategy in AFM. Unless you know where the shots are, how are you gonna find those jackpot shots. I like to work on a Total while I work on the first multiball. Half Total then start first multiball then start Total multiball. From a successful competitive player as yourself, I'm I looking at this the right way?

    #76 1 year ago
    Quoted from CrazyLevi:

    You just have to expect it to be different.

    I like how you're thinking. Seeing as how I think I've been getting results from simply willing my brain to process the action faster, almost trancelike, I ought to be able to add that to the mix!

    #77 1 year ago
    Quoted from Frippertron:

    Thanks Tim. That's definitely food for thought. I'm not a competitive guy but I never understood the multiball all day strategy in AFM. Unless you know where the shots are, how are you gonna find those jackpot shots. I like to work on a Total while I work on the first multiball. Half Total then start first multiball then start Total multiball. From a successful competitive player as yourself, I'm I looking at this the right way?

    As long as you are generally avoiding the saucer, you are looking at AFM the right way. And avoiding Super Skill shots.

    Whenever I play against someone on AFM and they are doing Super Skill Shots I know I'm going to win.

    #78 1 year ago

    Why is it wrong to go for the super skill shot?

    #79 1 year ago
    Quoted from Frippertron:

    Why is it wrong to go for the super skill shot?

    You lose your ball save. A beefed shot can easily drain. This Applies whether or not ball save is turned on.

    And for what? 100 million points? Wipe out a whole set of ramp or orbit shots? Big deal. You also lose +5 bonus from easy skill shot, and the ability to cash in hurry up billion.

    Better off playing it safe, getting regular skill goodies, and starting you ball in control.

    For me anyway.

    Every game seems to have stuff like this. Learn how to play the games they work best for you. Watch what scrubs do and figure out why they always lose.

    #80 1 year ago

    Thanks for the response Levi. Definitely gives me something to think about.

    #81 1 year ago

    I am an average player, but in short I play better when I "care the right amount"

    Caring too much and I get in my head. I am also not much fun to be around so I try to care less.
    Caring too little and I just dont give it the effort it needs to actually focus.
    Caring the right amount means I just play pinball but do it with a goal.

    To be better I think you need to:
    1. play/practice a skill and then go do it on a variety of games. I got much better when I started actually practicing set skills and stopped playing pinball. It is boring but the reps are important. After you get good at drop catching on a bally with regular rubber then switch to silicone and practice. Then do it on lighting flips. Then carrots. Then GTB. You get the idea
    2. Learn rules for the games you hate. I still tend to avoid the games I like but if I concentrate on learning the rules for the crappy stuff then I do better on it. It helps wash away the mental block.
    3. ADJUST on the fly. This is the single most important thing that I see top players do. They can watch a ball bounce a single time and adjust the shot the next time. They use small nudges and it looks like they are just spastic till you realize they are constantly making minor fine tune adjustments to impact ball movement in subtle ways. I call this "playing active" and I can do it by myself when practicing but rarely with tournament distraction. Others may call it the zone, but basically things slow down for me and I just control the game. My brain moves faster than the ball and sounds ceases to exist.

    For multiball, I am a flow player with some mix of control but my best tip is to focus here (see pic)
    I train my eyes to this small box and turn up reaction time. I put the skills that are practiced into play and already know where the shots are on a game so my eyes dont move from the box (unless I have control and want to aim better). I shoot when the ball is on the right place of the flipper and after it leaves the flipper there is little for me to worry about. Mis the shot and readjust but keep your focus in the box. As I get better in multiball then the box gets bigger and I can train my brain to impact more ball movements and predict more movements as it all happens.

    multi (resized).JPG

    #82 1 year ago
    Quoted from CrazyLevi:

    The other thing I'd say is pay attention. I learned more in losing one match to Ray Day at pinburgh than I did in the previous two days of beating people. I learned that I needed to shed on my drop catch - a month later this paid off huge in Buffalo. If you are playing in a match against a good player, even at a bar, don't F around with your phone the whole time. Don't double dip and go play another game because the guy you are playing with is having a good ball. Watch these guys play and see what you can pick up. A lot of people I know think that if they just play a shitload of pinball, they'll get better, and that's not so. Yeah it helps you make a big jump from scrub to competitive all-around player, but it's not gonna take you next level. You need to work on your skills and identify what is working and what isn't, and think about how you can get better. I have a lot of friends who are good players but haven't improved in 2 years. That shouldn't happen. Unless you are Cayle and Elwin.

    Came to post exactly this. Yes, skills are important and there's a ton of great advice here. But I've watched some online videos, and I've done the 'I'm gonna play this till i figure it out approach' and neither have gotten me a fraction of what watching other players has. Also - I'd also add that it doesn't have to be a good player to get something out of. Especially in an unfamiliar location/tournament situation - watching any player can clue you in the machine tilt, specific shot angles, weak flippers, malfunctioning switches, etc that you might have to adjust for. I know this saved me a bunch at Pinburgh (and I'm from PGH, so I play these machines pretty often... still a different set up at the convention center). Plus, you just might have someone totally flailing around that makes some crazy backhand shot and you think "I never even thought to try it like that".

    Quoted from TheLaw:

    Haha my favorite is "cool I own this machine this will be easy." Ends up burying you.

    If you're in the position to - modeling your collection around your issues can help. My biggest issue is consistency, so I've tried to begin building my collection to cover different system generations (Gottlieb sys1, williams 3-7, williams 11, Bally 78-84, etc) to get exposure across generations of games. Also some other little issues I have (aiming/narrow ramps, shots through pops, improving outlane control, etc) influence my decisions on games to buy. When I first started, I used to flat out hate Paragon with a passion (beast lair + newb scissoring). I found one in a garage, bought it, restored it, and now it's one of my favorites and an owned game I consistently play well on.

    #83 1 year ago

    Focus, reflexes, and love of the game.

    Dammit, at least I love the game, lol.

    #84 1 year ago

    And being a good sport.

    Pinball includes an element of luck, so occasionally you will get a bad beat. A good player accepts it and gets over it.

    #85 1 year ago

    well, just being a "good" player (now under 400th at IFPA) i will reply to the OP with 2 things i have (for myself) to improve :

    1. stay calm... as the more i'll go further in a tournament, the more i'm becoming nervous, the more i'm losing my mind and doing stupid things/controls

    2. (as said by Levi) watching your opponent playing is very important, even more when you did NOT know the pinball (and for sure you feel he knows it very well)... nothing is more frustrating than playing a long ball time (and thinking having done well), and than seeing your opponent crashing you by just making a few "right" shots

    #86 1 year ago
    Quoted from Pinslot:

    A good player accepts it and gets over it.

    Unless something way wacky happens the golden rule is to hate the game & not the player

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