A Different Kind of Baller

Could Oregon’s next pinball champ come from Eugene?

Anyone who’s ever played pinball knows what I’m talking about: those damn chutes at the side of every pinball machine that seem to magnetically attract your ball, trapping it forever, sucking it back down into the underworld of the pinball machine.

When I play, I call them the Devil’s Slide, or Satan’s Trapdoor. What’s for sure is that for a not-great pinball player like me, they’re a good way to lose some quarters.

Game over.

Matt Walton of Emerald City Pinball League tells me they’re actually called “outlanes.” It’s nice to hear competitive pinball players hate them, too.

“They’re horrible,” he says. “Everybody hates them. They’re nobody’s friend on a pinball machine.”

There’s big news in the Eugene pinball scene, Walton says. The IFPA (International Flipper Pinball Association) Oregon State Pinball Championship is coming to town.

According to the IFPA website, the organization seeks to support pinball as a “legitimate form of competition as well as leisure time entertainment for both skilled and novice players.”

“The IFPA State Pinball Championship series is in its sixth year,” Walton says, and this is the first time the event will be held outside Portland, widely considered to have one of the biggest pinball scenes in the county.

But lately, Eugene has gained ground.

“For the last couple years, we’ve increased the number of sanctioned events we’ve been putting on,” he explains. “We’ve really grown the player base.”

The event is Saturday, Jan. 19, at Blairally Vintage Arcade in the Whiteaker. Here’s how it works. It’s a single-elimination tournament and in each round two players go head-to-head, competing to be the first to win four games. Winning is based on high score.

This will also be the first time local players will compete in the state championship — playing for the title of Oregon State Pinball Champion, as well as a berth in the nationals.

Local players will have a home-court advantage, playing on familiar machines, Walton says.

In the world of competitive pinball, do you compete against other players or do you compete against the machine? “Good players play against the machine,” Walton says. “It becomes a mental thing.” Great players slow the game down, he adds.

If you’re interested in supporting the event as a spectator (silvery face paint, anyone?), expect some high-level pinball, Walton says. If you want to get involved as a player, head to emeraldcitypinball.com. The league’s fifth season begins in February.

The Oregon State Pinball Championship is 10 am to 8 pm Saturday, Jan. 19, at Blairally Vintage Arcade, 245 Blair Blvd. in the Whiteaker neighborhood; FREE.