Vermonters readying their ‘flipper fingers’ for historic pinball tournament

Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 9:33 PM EST
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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - This is a big weekend for pinball enthusiasts, as the state championship tournaments get underway in South Burlington. Channel 3′s Rachel Mann spoke with some of the top ranked players who spent Friday evening warming up their flipper fingers ahead of the big competition.

“I’ve been playing for seven years and I’ve been competing for five,” said Jody Stahlman. She’s the International Flipper Pinball Association’s Vermont representative and is going into this weekend’s women’s tournament ranking first in the state. The event is a milestone in the games community. “The IFPA has sanctioned the first ever women’s pinball championships in all 50 states and in Canada,” she explained.

For her and other players like the third ranking female, Allison Havens, this is a big bonus. Of the top 100 internationally ranked players, only two are women. Havens and Stahlman say they hope to see other women get involved in the male dominated sport. “I think in terms of the community, everyone is very supportive,” Havens said. “It’s fun to compete in an environment where everyone is happy to see you do well, especially in the women’s event.”

“Most people in here are people I would’ve never met or been friends with in other circumstances, but we all just love pinball and we all get a little nutty for it,” Stahlman said.

So what does it take to be a good pinball player? All of the pros I spoke with here say there isn’t a big secret to be good at pinball, all you have to do is show up and keep practicing. The Pinball Co-op is open on Wednesday and Friday evenings. There’s also the Queen City Belles & Chimes, a pinball group open to women of all skill levels.

“If you’re having a rough game, an entire game could take less than five minutes, but I’ve also seen people play up to half an hour or more in a single game,” Havens explained.

“Just play. Just play and enjoy when you’re not playing, but playing with people watch how they do things,” Stahlman said. “Just have a good time and before you know it you’re hooked.”

The co-ed tournament will be taking place Saturday, while the women’s championship event is happening Sunday. Since there isn’t a lot of space in in the Pinball Co-op and it’s hard to look over people’s shoulders, both tournaments will be streamed on Twitch.