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Tim Arnold – Stop playing a boy’s game

September 11, 2014

The never-bashful Tim Arnold, the mind behind the Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas, drops an interview with

The full article and interview is here



Power of Four Pinball Tournament – Results

September 11, 2014


Last weekend I competed in The Power of Four pinball tournament.  I had a great time!

The format was something new, and I always like to see this kind of innovation.  The basic registration of $5 was coupled with $1 per entry for each game.  All games were on free play.  There were eight games to qualify on, but the twist this time was that if you scored top 4 on any game, you were guaranteed a spot in the playoffs.  That really changes the expectations of players entering the event.  If you know even one of the games, you have a shot at the whole thing.

The $5 registration fees were divided to the host and those who voluntarily brought potluck food.  They weren’t expecting it, and it was  pretty class move.

Damien Charlety was Tournament Director and his wife Holly deserves a lot of thanks for doing the scorekeeping and registration.  Michael Hosier hosted at his home with an excellent collection of games and was also the grill master for the event.

Amazingly, I finished qualifying as 2nd seed.  I didn’t expect this at all given guys like Walter Hurwitz, Jeff Fehervari and Damien Charlety were in the mix.

Buck Rogers was positioned directly opposite the side tourney in a tight hallway configuration, and moon-landings (i.e. when butts collide) were a guarantee for all punters.  I think Buck Rogers got a bit less play because of that, but that’s exactly why I played it until I got the highest score.  Will I brave man-ass for a higher seed?  You better believe it. 

Newcomer Amanda Kunzi brought her A game. We faced off in the Finals.

I was the higher seed and chose Gorgar for our first game.  It was probably excitement, but I ended up tilt-failing, whereas I got away with some nice bumps in previous matches.  Next game went to Star Trek LE, which Damien set up very tough.  No ball save and no tilt warnings.

I knew Amanda knew this game very well.  She was top qualifier on it with over 50M and dealt a thrashing to her previous-round opponent in the semis.  I know ST okay, but I knew she was the better player going in.  My main hope was a mistake on her part to take it to game 3 on F14 Tomcat, where I felt I had the advantage.  At the end of her 3rd ball she put up a respectable 20M to my tilted-ball 2 of only 2M.  I was in a tough situation, but not impossible.  I started to mount a comeback with a stacked-Vengence and a Klingon ready to go, but tilted it all away like a chowderhead to end at 10M.  Thems the breaks. But good for her.

Congrats to Amanda Kunzi!

Full Results Below

1    Amanda Kunzi – GRAND CHAMPION
2    Jonny O.
3    Izzy S.
4    Adam P.
5    Walter H.
6    Jeff F.
7    Brad G.
8    Damien C.
9    Mike B.
10    Ann B.
11    Mike H.
12    Cassidy T.
13    David H.
14    Jenn C.
15    Bobby W.
16    Brandon T.
17    Juan B.
18    Avery H.
19    Debra H.
Party Back in Time:
1    Damien C.
2    Walter H.
3    Adam P.
4    Jeff F.
5    Jonny O.
6    Amanda K.
7    Mike H.
8    Jenn C.
9    David H.
10    Bobby W.
11    Juan B.
1    Avery H.
2    Alex C.
3    Hannah B.
4    Matthew H.
5    Zabrina
6    Katrina C.

Pinball Map T-Shirts – Look Cool and Support Pinball

August 25, 2014

YOU could looks this handsome if only you had this shirt!

In 2010 I started the Bay Area Pinball Map.  It began after a BAPA league night when a discussion among players started that it was hard for people, especially casual players, to find places to play.  And there were so few places.  The next day was slow at work and I’d dabbled with custom Google Maps a bit, so I figured, eh, why not?

I knew of about 20 locations and put them on the map.  I asked other players through the league grapevine to send me locations.  I searched Yelp for pinball and found around 20 more, and called the businesses to confirm.  The awkward conversations went something like: “I know this is weird, but I’m compiling a pinball map and your Yelp reviews say you have one…”  I found some odd surprises, such as a couple Auto Body shops (usually with car-themed games, of course), and a children’s dentist with a Pirates of the Caribbean in his waiting room.  A bead shop in San Francisco had five games, including some 1940s pre-flipper games.  The owner explained that beyond it being his personal hobby, most of his customers were female and he figured it would give their spouses something to do.

Local top-flight players Andrei Massenkoff and Neil Shatz added another several dozen locations in SF and the East Bay.

Then a guy named Eric in SF contacted me.  He started flooding me with locations.  He and his wife Louise had been going around the city and sticking their heads in every storefront on the off-chance there might be a pinball game.  In addition to the usual bars and pizza places, I got tons of locations of dive, leather and lesbian bars.  Eric and Louise were brave indeed!

While all this was going on, Josh Lehan had a ‘parked’ domain called ‘’, and he very generously pointed it at the map (still does today).  Now instead of a crazy long URL to access the map, people had a simple way to find pinball machines.

All in all, I was surprised, but in a very good way.  It was endeavor I thought would confirm my (negative) suspicion that pinball was a dying thing.  I thought the map would top out at around 40 or 50 locations.  Remember, in 2010, many were sounding the death-knell of pinball, that STERN, the last pinball manufacture, would soon go out of business.  But within two months we were over 150 locations and 300 games.  Pinball was not dead, we just needed to know where to look.

Fast forward several months, I got a message from Ryan Gratzer of Portland.  Pinball was/is still thriving in Portland and he and some other super-smart programmer types made a pinball map web site and mobile apps for the iPhone and Droid.  The Portland Pinball App made my Google Map look like small potatoes.  They said they were thinking of expanding it to other cities.  They asked if I was interested.

Eventually, through the Portland folks’ hard work, the Bay Area Pinball Map joined the Portland map system.  We inherited their awesome iPhone and Android apps and it created a ton of visibility.  Now they have dozes of cities on their map.  Check them out here.  It’s incalculable what their map has done for location, operator revenues and the growth of pinball these last few years.

The updates and new locations continued to flood in as a result.  A couple years ago I asked Eric W to take over the map because I was running tournaments and feeling a bit overwhelmed.  He did, and has been doing an amazing job ever since.  And now he’s started running his own tournaments in SF.

The pinball map was built for, by and of the people.  Now it’s time for you to give a little back for all the use you got out of it, and look cool besides.

Go here any buy one:




Show off your pinball skills and win a pinball game! (and a stack of money!)

August 19, 2014


TJ Beyer sets up Ironman at RadioShack. TJ is a bay area amusement operator who supplies pinball, video games, jukeboxes and more. I’ve worked with TJ to put on over 20 pinball tournaments. If you’re a business and looking for Amusement Services, TJ is your guy. Contact him at

If this isn’t proof that pinball is getting bigger and better, I dunno what is.  To commemorate the official lifting of the ban on pinball games in Oakland, CA, RadioShack will host an ongoing tournament to win an Ironman pinball machine.  This is a real, commercial, take-any-abuse, power-bill-increasing, official machine with coin slots and all the bells and whistles.

Details are still forthcoming so I’ll post them when I’ve got them.

[EDIT: Game is on free-play and unlimited entry for the tournament]

[EDIT: The winner will also receive $2500]

Check out the Wired Article

Learn how to play Ironman:

Ironman Competition Game

Ironman Video Tutorial

The location is in the RadioShack in the shopping center adjacent to the Fruitvale BART station:

Fruitvale Station
3040 E 9Th St Suite A
Oakland, CA 94601

The Power of Four Pinball Tournament

August 18, 2014

The Power of Four Pinball Tournament

Note: WPPR Points awarded (this tournament is sanctioned by the IPFA:

The Power of Four Pinball Tournament
Saturday, September 6th
What Time:
Main Tournament Qualifications: 10am-4PM
Main Tournament Playoffs start around 4:30pm
Side Tournament All Day!
Register with the web-link and get the address.  Location is in Folsom, CA.

Main Tournament

The Power of Four
  • 8 machines set up for the main tournament.
  • Open qualification will be from 10AM to 4PM.
  • Playoffs will follow afterwards, with a 30 minutes break prior.

Players are ranked by their score on each machine.
On each machine, the scores are ranked as follows, with only the top 4 scores getting points:

  • 1st: 4 pts,
  • 2nd: 3 pts,
  • 3rd: 2 pts,
  • 4th: 1 pt,
  • 5th and below: 0 pt

Any player that has at least 1 point at the end of the qualification period is in the playoffs.
That means that up to 32 people can make the playoffs!

Playoff seeding will be based on the number of points accumulated by each player, with the highest total being given the higher seed.

  • Players seeded 1-8 will be given 2 byes.
  • Players seeded 9-16 will be given 1 bye.
  • Players seeded 17-32 will meet in the first round.

Playoffs will be best of 3 match play on any of the main tournament machines (no repeat in a round within the same match), without reseeding, until a winner emerges.

$5 registration fee for tournament operations
$1 per entry will give one try on one machine.
Players can enter and make the playoffs on only one try!

Top 8 receive payouts:

  • 1st 40%
  • 2nd 30%
  • 3rd 20%
  • 4th 10%
  • 5-8: $5

Side Tournament

Party Back in Time

This is a “hurdles”-style tournament on multiple machines

Starting with Party Zone, go back in time through Bally’s party set

One entry for $1, must complete the progressively more difficult goals on each machine to advance.
Fail at any level and this will be your score.
To improve your score, you’ll need to get a new entry and try again.


  • Get 2 million on Party Zone
  • Get 4 million on Dr. Dude
  • Get 8 million on Elvira and the Party Monsters
  • Get the highest score you can on Party Animals
$1, as many entries as you want to/can play.

Top 4 receive payouts:

  • 1st 40%
  • 2nd 30%
  • 3rd 20%
  • 4th 10%

Follow Bay Area Players at the Pinball World Championship Live!

August 15, 2014


The Professional and Amateur Pinball Association (better known as PAPA) is holding their annual World Championship tournament this weekend in Pittsburgh, PA.  Actually, it’s a bunch of tournaments.  From their page:

The World Pinball Championships includes three major divisions for competitors of varying skill levels, three classics tournaments featuring older machines, and a juniors and seniors division for our younger and older participants.

The first three days of the tournament consist of qualifying for the three main divisions, followed by a fourth day of final rounds where final placement for the top-sixteen qualifiers is determined.

Two local players are in attendance this year:  Andrei Massenkoff of San Francisco won the A Division in 2011 to be crowned World Pinball Champion.  Damien Charlety of Sacramento took 2nd earlier this year at Pinburgh (the other major tournament PAPA hosts each year, and the largest tournament in the world).


A fan-made poster of local legend Neil Shatz (NES) has been spotted at PAPA.

The format of PAPA is considered a brutal undertaking.  Like many large, regional events, there is an open qualifying period (in this case, three days, from Thurs to Sat) during which players can purchase entries and attempt to qualify as many times as they want.  PAPA adds an additional twist, though: each entry consists of five games and your score is based on how well you do on all of them.  It’s not enough to get one lucky game. You need to put together a solid run to advance.


Three really, really good ones plus two, really, really bad ones = bad entry.

I used this format when I ran the tournament at the Pacific Pinball Exposition in 2011 and saw the endurance and mental toughness it takes.  It’s very common for a player to be in the following scenario: their first few games go well and they just need an average or better game to close out a solid entry that will get them into the finals.  Then they play their last game and tank it, and realize they have to start all over again.  Woe to the scorekeeper and anyone else nearby at the conclusion of that game.

During the three days of qualifying for the main tournaments, PAPA also runs Classics tournaments each day.  Players have to budget their time (and money) between qualifying for Classics and the main tournament (and sleep is occasionally nice).  Oh, and if you manage to qualify and make the finals, you have to play at your best for a fourth day to try and win!

It’s a meat grinder but when the best of the best make it through on Sunday, no one will utter the phrase “so-and-so just got lucky”.

The finals will be live-streamed with overhead cameras and live commentary on Sunday but I was unable to find the schedule details.  They generally go live early on Sunday and with the time zone difference, it’s likely they’ll be on air by 9 AM PST and finish around 2 PM PST.

Live-stream (Sunday) here  Previous Tournament Coverage here

PAPA Web Site here

Live Standings here

Local News Video here

San Francisco Pinball Needs Your Help!

August 11, 2014


As a few of you know, Gestalt bar in San Francisco has six pinball machines.  Eric W, who took over the Pinball Map for me, contacted the operator with the idea of starting up some pinball tournaments.  The operator obliged and now Gestalt has six pinball machines in great shape, including A-listers like Medieval Madness and Metallica.

Shortly afterward the place got raided by the San Francisco Police Department and shut down.  I don’t know all the details, but basically they’re in violation of local law under permit grounds.

The fallout is they need to go before the City Council and plead their case.  That’s where you come in.

Email and let her know you support Gestalt.  Be respectful.  Be truthful.  Be tactful.  I know you all love pinball, but this isn’t the time when you should fire off that angry email saying ‘get with the times!“.  Pinball is about the positive, and that’s what will convince them.

My email to Cammy Blackstone, the Deputy Director of the Entertainment Division of San Francisco, is below.  You don’t need to elaborate on your thoughts as I did if you don’t want to.  A short, simple note in support of Gestalt also makes a difference.

So take a few moments and spend a few keystrokes to make sure this pinball thing we all love doesn’t get bamboozled for all the wrong reasons.  Once the setback is in, it’s twice as hard to undo.  The deadline is August 14, so don’t wait, do it now!

Oh, and get the word out.


Hello Ms. Blackstone,

I’m writing in support of the permit for Gestalt Haus.

My name is Jon Olkowski and I run the website ‘’.  I’ve run over 40 pinball tournaments in the bay area since 2010.  Several of my tournaments have benefited charities and non-profits such as the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, Dixon Team Center, Boys/Girls Clubs, Playland not at the Beach, and the Pacific Pinball Museum.

The current role of pinball in the community has departed since the laws were created.  It’s now a retro-nostalgic pastime that creates it’s own unique community of participants from all walks of life. It includes all social, economic and gender backgrounds, and gender preferences.  It’s a ‘positive’ for the community.  Additionally, it adds to social, progressive image of San Francisco.

Best Regards,

Jon Olkowski




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