How to Host a Pinball Tournament

 By Dwayne LaMont Collins

Seattle’s pinball community is nothing short of amazing, and hosting events has been a great foundation for learning the culture of the pinball world. It has really helped me to connect with folks. People ask me why I like to host and the answer is simple: I love what I do. I love bringing people together and watching relationships flourish from the simple catalyst of a pinball match. That stranger you just beat on your third ball of Terminator 3 could become your new friendly rival.

It’s not as easy as it looks, yet it is simple. Yeah, you could host a tournament and have people play pinball, that’s cool and all, but will the players take anything from that experience? Anyone can host, but how you host is what sets your tournament apart.

First, it helps to be patient, or at least have some form of composure. Most tournaments start off without a hitch: everyone is attentive, excited, and ready to play pinball. Most of Seattle’s tournaments take place in bars, so by round four, many players are not paying as much attention. That’s not as bad as it seems. People are drinking and socializing and having a good time. Ultimately, that’s what you want at your events. You may find yourself chasing down players to get results.

Energy is a must! Pinball tournaments always go longer than expected. A good host is able to go the distance. As badly as you wanna drink with the best of them, you have to remember that you are responsible for keeping the tourney going and making sure everyone has a fun and safe time.

A good host advertises their product. Word of mouth is fine, but people feel more included when you personally invite them to your event. I ask every new person I meet through tournament play to come play at an event I’m hosting. I’ll get contact information and even go as far as sending them a friendly reminder the day before or day of. It also helps to use social media when getting the word out about your events.  A little advertising can seriously increase your turnout! Advertise!

Can you be interesting? Charisma is a necessity in the world of pinball hosting. Take a look at some of the people who run these events: Ramsey Sierra, Brad Hayden & Gordon Ornelas, Justina Russo, Sergey Posrednikov, Maureen Hendrix, Hannah Holmberg. Each one has their own style, and their own class, which is what makes their brand their own. Alexa Philbeck’s tourney won’t have the same exact vibe as Michael Warfield’s, but you know what you are getting into when you attend either’s events. If you like it, you keep coming back for more. Pinball tournaments often mirror the personality of the host.

Humor helps people enjoy the tournament just that much more. Whenever I announce, if possible, I’ll try to throw in something witty just to keep everyone awake and get a little giggle from the crowd. I have no problem poking fun at my pinball skills (or lack thereof) in front of an audience. When I don’t take myself too seriously, it helps everyone else not take themselves too seriously either. It’s pinball and it’s fun. Those are the only two things that matter. Ultimately, we are all there just to have a good time.

How does one become a successful host? Patience, Energy, Advertising, Charisma and Humor. No, I didn’t intend to make an acronym with PEACH, but hey, if it helps you become a great host…then I guess it’s a thing.

Originally published in Skill Shot 49, August 2017