Date: 3rd & 4th May 2008.
Location: SS Billiards, Hopkins, Minnesota, USA.

On the weekend of May 3rd, 2008 SS Billiards in Hopkins, MN held its fourth annual May Day Pinball Tournament.

SS Billiards

The window poster

The champion won $1,000 cash and a trophy. Everyone who participated experienced a great weekend with great food and lots of time playing pinball.

The winner's trophy
The trophy for the winner of the May Day Tournament


This year's May Day Pinball Tournaments were planned from the start to be different to the first year's pinball tournaments. They were also planned to be different to last year’s tournaments.

Information at the entrance, for everyone to see

Close up of a special notice at the entrance, for everyone to see


Those who registered for the tournament on line or via email by Monday, April 21st only had to pay a $40 registration fee. Pre-registration guaranteed a great meal. Due to Lloyd’s T-shirt vendor going on a surprise vacation, Lloyd could only offer to follow up on event T-shirts.

No on-line registrations were accepted after April 21st. Though walk-in registrations were welcome up to and including the day of the event, those who registered at the entrance had to pay a $50 registration fee, but were not guaranteed the meal.

Lloyd readying registration packets

Joshua was the first person to check in

A few excited players started at 12:00pm



Everyone who pre-registered received a belly full of Famous Dave's BBQ pork ribs and chicken with all the fixings, including corn muffin, coleslaw, and drunkin' apples for desert. Those who pre-registered got the letter “R” on their name tags to signify that they were to receive the “rib” dinner.

Delicious food from Famous Dave's

Lloyd made sure that those who signed up at the door got the opportunity to get a meal at one of the nearby restaurants. He just asked them to check out and check back in.

The May Day 2008 entrance package with “R” name tag


Saturday, May 3rd

Practice got under way at 12.00pm and went until 2:00pm. Qualifying rounds started at 2:00pm and went until after 11:00pm. Due to fatigue, the majority of the players verbally petitioned the Tournament Director for the last qualifying round to begin as soon as the previous 11:00pm round had ended. The Director agreed, but the final qualifying round didn’t start until 11:20pm.

Shown are just a few of the people practicing during a normal day at the arcade

During the qualifying rounds from 7:00pm until 8:00pm, a break was taken for food. This is when Lloyd had dinner delivered from Famous Dave's.

Hot food for those who pre-registered

Keeping with the original spirit of PAPA, qualifying and competing were held during normal days in the arcade. This meant that players occasionally had to wait for a non-competing customer to finish his or her pinball game before the competitors could have their chance to play. But, fellow competitors usually abandoned their practicing on a pinball machine in favor of those trying to earn qualifying points or win their competition rounds.

Competitors earning points during a typical day at the arcade

For qualifying rounds, Tina was randomly drawn three consecutive times to play against Nick. Tina and Nick competed for a total of six rounds out of eight.

Tina and Nick playing “rock-paper-scissors” to decide player order

Even with a one-hour break for dinner, nine people had a chance of competing in eighteen qualifying rounds each. Not everyone competed in every round.

Missing a round or losing in that round earned the player 0 points. “Byes” or winning a round earned the player 1 point.

The lowest point total collected was 1 point. The highest total of collected point was an incredible 13 points. The average was 7 points.

About half of those in attendance, four of nine people, competed in every half-hourly qualifying round; from 2:00pm until 11:30pm.

Paul was the highest point earner. He collected 13 points in 17 rounds. Jesse was the best point earner. He collected 8 points in 11 rounds.

Lloyd and Jason relaxing during some “down time”

There were only three problems reported over the entire weekend. These three little problems were found on different machines and all happened on Saturday.

First was a stuck ball on Twilight Zone. Lloyd quickly freed the stuck ball and placed it in the shooter lane; game play continued.

Second was an end of stroke (EOS) blade, which broke late Saturday night, on Medieval Madness. When the problem was reported, because game play was affected, Lloyd shut off the game and installed a new EOS after the arcade closed. This gave a fresh and fair start for everyone on Sunday.

Lastly, there was one burnt-out mode light on Attack From Mars and The Addams Family (Gold). Because the skilled players were aware of the burnt lights and Lloyd didn’t want to give one player a slight advantage over another, Lloyd replaced the lamps first thing Sunday Morning.

Lloyd replacing a burnt-out lamp early Sunday morning



Because of low attendance at last year's mini-tournaments and lack of interest in this year's mini-tournaments, Saturday Night Pinball and the Goose Egg events were cancelled.

That is not to say that there wasn’t plenty more pinball to play. As there were two single elimination pinball tournaments. The first was planned and executed by Lloyd. The second was scheduled to be a double elimination tournament. Because many people went home after a full day of pinball and a rib dinner, this second tournament turned out to be the “Joe Esposito if you are here, you GOTA play” single elimination pinball tournament; or what has new been referred to as the “Godfather Tournament”. 

Joe gave everyone much “encouragement” to play

The first single elimination pinball tournament was held at 4:00 pm. The tournament finished by the time food arrived at 7:00pm. Format for the tournament was luck of the draw for two chosen competitors. Wins were decided by the first person to win two-of-three rounds on a game pre-chosen by the Tournament Director.

Todd, a long time pinball tournament player who had been away from competing for a while got back to his old winning ways by taking first place in the single elimination tournament.

After the first single elimination pinball tournament, several had their fill of fun and food. Those people consequently left, so there didn’t seem to be enough players to warrant what was to be the next tournament, a double elimination pinball tournament. This was to be the first ever pinball tournament, which Joe Esposito could attend. Although no one was forced to play, Joe took the names of those in attendance and placed their names in Lloyd’s “computerized automated drawing system”. Subsequently, this was Bryan Kelly’s (AKA: Mr. PinFootie) first pinball tournament.

The second pinball tournament was saved and held as single elimination. Format for the tournament was luck of the draw for two chosen competitors. Differing from the first tournament, the players chose their own games on which to compete. They also determined player order. Wins were decided by the first person to win two-of-three rounds. The second tournament started at 8:00pm and finished at around 9:30pm. 

Joe taking names and having fun

Lloyd firing-up his “computerized automated drawing system”

Larry O’Brian took a 384,401 kilometer trip to enjoy a day at SS Billiards; playing and competing in pinball. Ok, he didn’t come that far, but he did bike in from the nearest metropolis – Minneapolis to Hopkins, MN. Larry just “felt like playing pinball”. Listening to his feelings and making the jaunt in paid off for Larry. For he won the saved tournament.

Joe giving Larry his first ever, first-place pinball trophy



Sunday, May 4th

Practice was again held from 12.00pm until 2:00pm. A few serous competitors showed up to practice.

Paul showed up to 2:00pm. The other competitors joked to Paul that he was one second late. And, because of his “lateness”, he was disqualified.

Paul one-upped the joke by telling two of the other competitors, who had stepped outside for a quick smoke to, “come back in a half-hour”. The room erupted with laugher!

Drawings for the 2008 May Day Pinball Tournament elimination rounds started just after 2:00pm. The pinball tournament was finished by 4:30pm.

During tournament play, players determined their order by: flip of a coin, paper/rock/scissors, or agreement.


Immediately upon their arrival, all players had to register or sign in at the door. Those who had pre-registered, of course, only had to sign in. Everyone who got at least eight qualifying points was eligible to compete in the 2008 May Day Pinball Tournament. Unlike last year, this year Lloyd disassociated himself from the WPPR / IFPA, so no WPPR points were awarded.


On Saturday, very close to every half hour, two names were drawn at random. At that time, one game was also drawn at random for the pair of associated names to play. One round was played on the game and the winner received one point. From last year’s point count, it was determined that those who earned eight points qualified to compete in the 2008 May Day Pinball Tournament.


Elimination rounds were again head-to-head play, but it was usually best-two-of-three. As there were no "byes", in some cases, a third player was added to a group. Only when a third player was introduced, game play changed to best-three-of-five. This format was followed until there was one “Pinball Wizard”. The layout of the arcade was left as normal. Unlike last year, game play was set on tournament. Unlike the first year, no machines were moved for players or arranged into groups for different divisions. These conditions were to keep the original spirit of PAPA. That is, either you proved that you could play competition pinball - or not.


NO bang backs were allowed.
NO death saves were allowed.
The same “draw” format was followed as in the qualifying round.
Competition rounds were usually best two out of three.
For each round, the winner advance to the next round.
The final three players played on a game that was chosen by the Director.
All decisions of the Tournament Director were final. (See Tournament Decisions below.)


Starting a month prior to the May Day, anyone who helped maintain or repair games did so only under the direct supervision of the Tournament Director. The only time the Tournament Director had to perform this supervisory role was when prototype pinball LEDs were installed into The Addams Family (Gold).


If an easy problem happened (eg. a stuck ball), the ball was quickly unstuck and, when possible, the ball was returned to shooter lane. Tournament play continued.
If a bigger problem occurred (eg. a broken piece), game play was started over on a new machine.


The pinball machines were left in their normal positions, but the majority of the machines were set on tournament play, so no extra earned balls were available on most games. Lloyd left the normal pricing per game. The games were $0.75 or $1.00 per play or less for multiple games pricing. Fifteen games were available.

In alphabetical order the games available were:

Attack From Mars (Bally)
Big Bang Bar (Capcom)
Bram Stroker's Dracula
Demolition Man
Eight Ball Deluxe (LE)
Family Guy
Lord of The Rings
Medieval Madness
Pirates of the Caribbean (Stern)
Spider-Man (Stern)
The Addams Family (Gold)
Twilight Zone
Wheel of Fortune


Before the May Day pinball tournament began, each contestant was asked to write down the name of one game which he thought played exceptionally well. This player’s list of games constituted the games that were available for the draw.

The tournament played out in just two rounds as shown below. Players are listed in order of random draw. Unlike last year, the first person drawn of each competing team turned out to be the winner. The second and final round was played as a race for the first person to get three wins.

Round 1 Round 2
Jesse Howard (W)
Derek Fugate (L)
Big Bang Bar (Capcom)
Jesse Howard (W)
Joshua Graf (L)
Nick Foss (L)
Big Bang Bar (Capcom)
Joshua Graf (W)
Chris Frame (L)
Pirates of the Caribbean (Stern)
Nick Foss (W)
Paul Madison (L)
Wheel of Fortune

Serious competitors warming up

Lloyd using his computerized automated drawing system for May Day

The three finalists from left to right Jesse Howard, Nick Foss, and Joshua Graf

Last year’s May Day champion, Paul, presented this year’s winner, Jesse,
with the 2008 trophy

After all was said and done, a reporter from a local magazine, City Pages, interviewed Lloyd about the event.

Lloyd being interviewed


Lloyd took down the posted information and flyers soon after May Day had finished. He changed the games back to “normal” play first thing the next morning.



Lloyd has already announced plans for the next May Day Pinball Tournament. The May Day pinball tournament, and its two accompanying pinball tournaments, are planned to be held on the weekend of May 2nd and 3rd, 2009.

But, before next May Day, as is listed on Pinball News, Lloyd will be hosting his next Pinball Circus on October 18th and 19th, 2008.  



All pictures courtesy and property of Lloyd Olson, SS Billiards and are used here with permission.

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© Pinball News 2008