What do you wish you had known before your first big tournament

Pinburgh will be my first big tournament (although, with as many people as we get in the New England Pinball League these days, maybe that’s starting to count too!). I was wondering, what do you wish you had known before you had played your first Pinburgh, or PAPA, or equivalently sized tournament? What’s the one thing that makes you say “man, if someone had told me that, I would’ve had so much more fun?”


Control what you can. To the extent possible, enjoy your opponents’ high quality play instead of letting it make you grumpy. Drink lots of water.


for Pinburgh specifically, comfortable shoes!!!


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Excellent advice, but definitely challenging at Replay/FX! For whatever reason, there didn’t appear to be any water fountains in or outside the Convention Center at all, and the nearest bathroom to the tournament area was a non-trivial “hike” away.I would always let people in my group know when I went to refill my water bottle during a round, but man I clocked A LOT of WBFMs (Water Bottle Fill Miles) last year!


Before my very first big tourney? PAPA B div in 2009. I wish someone had told me to just relax and that every game is not life or death!

Before Pinburgh? Wear 2 pairs of socks at all times. Sit whenever you get a chance. Enjoy the journey 'cause it’s a long one!

At Pinburgh, you’re going to encounter a ton of games you’ve never seen before or possibly have even heard of. It is better to go into the games having a small idea of what some of the goals are.

https://pintips.net/ was not around last year, but I expect it to be a great resource for almost every competitor this year. Keep a smartphone handy and try to get to your bank of games early to look at the playfield a little bit and compare it to the notes on pintips so that you have a plan.

I always enjoy a game more when I know what I’m doing and I always enjoy life a little bit more when I’m playing well.

… and if you are a consumer of information on pintips or other resources, consider adding your own information to pay it forward :slight_smile:


point 1 Don’t move the chairs :slight_smile:
Point 2 Every single point counts so you might not get first place for 3 points but make sure you fight for every point in each round

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My plan for Pinburgh last year (which worked out great)…

  1. I practiced almost exclusively on older machines leading up to the event, since most of my play is on modern stuff. I borrowed a Joker Poker from a friend and played several games every day. The majority of my opponents were uncomfortable on older machines…and I ended up getting most of my points on the older stuff.

  2. I find it generally is worse for me to watch my opponents during competition (because I know the games well, and it psyches me out when they have great balls), but I broke this rule at Pinburgh. It was rare that I knew even 2 of the 4 games in a bank well, so I intently watched all of my opponents play, just to see what they were doing.

I did not pay too much attention to their actual scores, which was easy because I didn’t even know what constituted good scores on many of the games. More importantly, I was watching very closely to see how the feeds were, how the ball bounced, what things were safe/dangerous, etc. In four player groups, you often had multiple players going before you, and I found that I was able to confidently do things (control feeds, bounce pass, etc) on my very first ball even though I had literally never played the game before.

  1. I’ve been working on the mental stuff, but it’s pretty important. Last year, I tended to either do well in a round, or terribly…there was very little in between. As mentioned above, every point is very important, but that doesn’t mean you need to carry your number around in your head, obsessively check the standings, think about what will happen if you get win a game vs getting last, etc.

Step up to each ball with a clear head…nothing you did on the previous ball matters. Nothing that happened previously in your round matters. Worrying that you’re not “playing well” is not going to help you turn things around. When it feels like things aren’t going your way, or your game is off, the solution is to not think about that stuff, and focus on the ball you are playing.

Recently I’ve started listening to music while I play sometimes, simply to shut up the voice in my head that makes judgements about my play. It has definitely helped.


For Pinburgh, if you can possibly be sitting, then do it. Be super conscious of it. Always Be Sitting. Beyond that everyone else’s advice is great.

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Wear new or close to new really comfortable shoes.

As I recall, there were water fountains next to the bathrooms "near"est the console game area and maybe the stage (one of those for sure). Not sure if the layout for Pinburgh is the same this year with the extra space (!!). A high capacity water bottle is a good thing to bring as everything is further away that at PAPA.

Dr. Sholls is your friend!

Bring a container for water if you can and it doesn’t hurt to bring some quick eats like jerky or cliff bars etc. Save a soda bottle for water if you can’t. Last year at pinburgh all of the soda machines were either sold out or broken before the end. PINBURGH!!!

How to play pinball!