How to balance fun and a desire to compete

Lately, I’ve been feeling a bit frustrated with how I’ve been doing in local tournaments. It’s starting to take away some of the joy I usually get from playing. Do you have any tips on how to balance having a good time with still wanting to compete? I think if I focus more on enjoying myself, I might not feel as tense and be able to play better.


Stop considering your performance for the entire event, or your entire season, etc.

Focus on winning the game you are currently playing, and when that game is finished (win or lose) reset everything in your mind. Winning one game at a time is all that matters anyway, and carrying your losses around in your mind sucks for yourself and others.

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This is a very difficult question for me to answer, but it is an excellent question! So much of how you find this balance depends on your core motivations, your personal nature, and your attitudes.

For me, I’m happiest when I win, but I can’t win all the time. When I don’t win, it’s disappointing, and sometimes even emotionally devastating. I have not been able to find this balance, but I have drawn closer to it in recent years.

What you ask is no easy task. Good luck in striking the balance that you seek!


Maybe try concentrating on getting to know the people you’re playing with more, help TD, something else to take your mind off the game. Some people just take a break to help recharge their batteries.


Playing in a league is generally the least stressful way to compete. The weekly routine literally becomes routine. Most people in league are there more for the social aspect, so less people stressing the wins and losses. And because you usually play the same games at the same locations, you usually don’t get any surprises from the games other than new games.

And since leagues typically don’t award a lot of points, you won’t sweat your ups and downs from week to week.

Good luck getting a handle on it.


Somehow playing in tournaments is more enjoyable no matter how well I do. It’s the same local group of players. I am having trouble pinpointing why tournaments don’t give me the same frustration.

I played with you in Pinburgh and you had the best attitude for our 4 games.

Generally most of us are playing competitions because we enjoy pinball and enjoy competition. Not many of us actually make money doing this, once you take expenses into account. So if the joy disappears I have no problem stepping away for a while. After a break it goes back to being fun.

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Thank you for remembering, and for saying that about my attitude at Pinburgh! I must admit that I must have been winning in that round, otherwise my attitude would have been worse.

Here are a few gems of wisdom about pinball competition attitudes that everyone here can learn from, from two very young Little Flippers presenting at the GSPF last month (with me, and I caution others to not be like me!).
Pick it up at the 55-minute mark, and watch for about 5 minutes if you’re interested:


Treat pinball like golf. Assume failure more often than not, set lower thresholds for personal satisfaction. Expecting to win every game or tourney you play is a surefire way to get extremely frustrated. I also try to remember all the good moments I’ve had in pinball as a way to tamp down on my frustration. When I first started competing I’d freak out over almost every drain and mistake. I’ve gotten better about that but I’m human and still slip up sometimes…not proud of it. Important to remember that you aren’t perfect but you can always improve, both in how you react to competing and how you actually play.


I like this perspective. I think of it as “try, but don’t care about the outcome.”

I felt the same way recently. I am very competitive. I went to a tournament and when I got back my wife asked if I had fun. My response was not to the point I would expect. Which got me questioning things. And it wasn’t necessarily the way I played because i finished better than expected. So I have taken a step back for the last four months to recharge, only playing in league and local tournaments. I am now ready to get back at it (I hope).

As for league, I also find that stressful at times. Everyone expects me to win and somehow the creeps into the back of my head. I know I just need to forget about that stuff, but it’s not that easy. I’m working on keeping my emotions at an even level all the way throughout.