EXPO 2009

Date: October 2nd - 4th, 2009
Location: Marin Center, San Rafael, California, USA.

After all the set-up and preparatory work, the Pacific Pinball Expo opened officially on Friday morning at 10am.  Entry cost $25 for a single day or $45 for the whole three days.

The Marin Center
The Marin Center

The doors to the show remained closed until 10am each day, by which time a sizeable queue had built up.

Visitors await the opening of the doors
Visitors await the opening of the doors

Fortunately, there was great weather outside for those who had to queue in the parking lot.  And for those staying at the nearby Embassy Suites, it was only a short walk across a bridge to arrive at the Marin Center.

The Embassy Suites hotel seen from outside the Marin Center
The Embassy Suites hotel seen from outside the Marin Center

The show organisers had negotiated a special rate of $109 a night at the Embassy Suites, which included a cooked-to-order breakfast and a 2-hour manager's reception where residents could enjoy drinks and cocktails with no charge.

The corridor leading past the seminar room and into the main hall was decorated with posters depicting the different fashions used in pinball artwork through the years.

A selection of the fashion posters
A selection of the fashion posters

The shows and the museum like to highlight three aspects of the game - the science of pinball, the art of pinball and the history of pinball.

The first show included a number of scientific demonstrations, while it was pinball art in the spotlight last year.  For 2009 it was pinball's history which became the focus of the show and the seminars.  The posters continued that historical link with a journey through the many and varied fashions depicted in pinball artwork.

One of the posters
One of the posters

Once inside, visitors could begin enjoying the huge number of games set up.

The entrance to the hall
The entrance to the hall

The left side of the hall contained mostly electronic machines, while the right was almost exclusively electromechanicals.

The range of solid state and dot-matrix machines seemed much improved over the first show and although the very latest game NBA was not present, a good selection of the more recent titles was available and remained busy throughout the weekend.

Some of the newer machines
Some of the newer machines

The dot matrix machines were certainly the most popular, with queues forming to play a great number of them.

The solid state machines were also very popular.  There does seem to be something of a revival of intetest in these '80s games and the range at the show was quite impressive, giving most visitors the chance to try something new to them.

A selection of solid state machines set up before the doors opened

Some of the many electromechanical machines
Some of the many electromechanical machines

The sheer number of machines is breathtaking, as are the views looking down row after row of warmly glowing games which disappear off into the distance.

The EM machines were nowhere near as busy as their electronic counterparts which is partially understandable due to their relative quantity.  It's also slightly disappointing too and presents the organisers with something of a dilemna.  Do they increase the number of "popular" machines - i.e. the dot matrix machines - or do the try to press the educational value of the EMs and try to demonstrate how much fun they can be?

More EM machines
More EM machines

Perhaps some kind of tour through the EMs to demonstrate how certain features were added, developed and how other machines are related would increase their popularity, as there's clearly a lot about pinball's history to be learned from them.

We counted the machines on Saturday evening and reached a total of 339 set up for visitors to play, either on free-play or in the tournaments.

4 Queens
4 Square
4 Square
Abra Ca Dabra
Aladdin's Castle
Alien Star
All Star Basketball
Arabian Knights*
Army vs Navy
Attack From Mars
Attack From Mars
Band Wagon
Barnacle Bill
Beat The Clock
Beat Time
Big Bronco
Big Casino
Big Indian
Big Valley
Black Knight
Black Knight
Black Knight
Black Pyramid
Blast Off
Blue Chip
Bobby Orr Power Play
Bow And Arrow
Bowling Champ
Bowling Queen
Bram Stoker's Dracula
Buffalo Bill
Campus Queen
Capt. Fantastic
Card Whiz
Central Park
Charlie's Angels
Classy Bowler
Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
College Daze
Cover Girl
Cow Poke
Creature From The Black Lagoon
Creature From The Black Lagoon
Criss Cross*
Cross Town
Daisy May
Dancing Lady
Dealers Choice
Dealers Choice
Derby Day
Diamond Jack
Diamond Lill
Disco Fever
Double Shuffle*
Easy Aces
Egg Head
Eight Ball
Eight Ball Deluxe
El Dorado
El Dorado
El Dorado
Evel Knievel
Eye Of The Tiger
F-14 Tomcat
Fireball Classic
Fireball II
Fish Tales
Flash Gordon
Flip A Card
Flip A Card
Flipper Clown
Flipper Cowboy
Flipper Fair
Flipper Parade
Flipper Pool
Flying Carpet
Foto Finish
Four Million BC
Fun Land
Globe Trotter
Gold Star
Grand Champion
Grand Slam
Guys & Dolls*
Gypsy Queen*
Hang Glider
Happy Clown*
Happy Days
Happy Go Lucky
Harbor Lites
Harlem Globetrotters
Hawaiian Beauty
High Hand
High Speed
High Speed 2 - The Getaway
Hit The Deck
Hokus Pokus
Hot Line
Hot Shot
Humpty Dumpty*
Hurdy Gurdy
Ice Revue
Indiana Jones
Jack In The Box
Jack 'n Jill
Jacks Open
Jet Spin
Joker Poker
Jolly Roger*
Judge Dredd
Jungle King
K.C. Jones
Kewpie Doll
King Kool
King Of Diamonds (Gottlieb)
King Of Diamonds (Gottlieb)
King Of Diamonds (Retro Pinball)
King Tut
Kings & Queens
Kings Of Steel
Lady Luck
Lady Luck
Laser Cue
Lightning Ball
Lovely Lucy
Lucky Seven
Lucky Seven
Magic Circle
Magic Circle
Mata Hari
Mata Hari
Medieval Madness
Medieval Madness
Mini Pool
Minstrel Man
Moon Flight
Moon Shot
Moulin Rouge
Mystic Marvel
Neutron Star
New York
Night Rider
North Star
Odds & Evens
Old Chicago
Old Faithful
Op Pop Pop
Orbitor 1
Out Of Sight
Pat Hand
Paul Bunyan
Pin Wheel
Pinball Magic
Pinball Pool
Pirates Of The Caribbean
Play Ball
Playboy (Bally)
Poker Face
Punchy The Clown
Queen Of Hearts
Ro Go
Road Kings
Road Race
Robin Hood
Rock n Roll
Rock Star
Rocket III
Rocket Ship
Roller Coaster
Roller Disco
Roto Pool
Royal Flush
Royal Guard
San Francisco
Scared Stiff
Score Board*
Sea Ray
Show Boat
Sittin' Pretty
Sky Jump
Sky Jump
Sky Line
Sluggin' Champ
Sluggin' Champ
Soccer Kings
South Park
Southern Belle
Space Odyssey
Space Rider
Spanish Eyes
Spot Bowler
Spy Hunter
Square Head
Star Pool
Star Trek - The Next Generation
Star Trek - The Next Generation
Straight Shooter
Strange World
Strikes And Spares
Super Star
Super Straight
Sure Shot
Surf Champ
Surf Champ (Visible Pinball)
Surf Champ (Visible Pinball)
Sweet Add A Line
Sweet Hearts
Target Alpha
Target Pool
Target Pool
Terminator 2
The 4 Horsemen
The Addams Family
The Machine - Bride Of Pinbot
The Sopranos
Theatre Of Magic
Top Card
Top Speed*
Tri Zone
Tropic Isle
Twilight Zone
Twilight Zone
Wild Card
Wild Wild West
Wishing Well
World Beauties
World Champ
World Champ
World Fair
World's Fair Jigsaw
* Machines which were not working or switched off when the list was made

In addition, a further 16 were for display only as part of the history of pinball exhibition.

Three of the historically significant machines on display
Three of the historically significant machines on display

Baby Lite A Line
Baffle Ball
Galloping Plugs
Gay Time
Golden Gate
Major League*
Parlour Bagatelle
Red Sails
Shooting Star

* Machines which were not working or switched off when the list was made

Some of the historial machines were available to play, while others were behind a velvet rope and so out of bounds.

Posters about the history of pinball
Posters about the history of pinball

Right next to the hall entrance was the organisers' desk while around the outer edge of the hall were quite a few vendor stands.

Jeff Stern's stand
Jeff Stern's stand

These were the vendors we either saw or found notices on the tables for:

  • Jeff Stern
  • Pinball Revival
  • Marco Specialties
  • Pinball Rescue
  • Cliffy
  • Steve Ritchie
  • Mario van Cleve
  • Playland Not At The Beach
  • Fabulous Fantasies
  • Pingame Journal
  • Pacific Pinball Museum
  • Rob Hawking
  • Coin Taker
  • Great Lakes Modular

The Pinball Revival Co
The Pinball Revival Co

Most of our time at the show was spent in the seminars room.  For the first time, the seminars were given their own room which turned out to be just the right size and was sorely needed to keep the seminars away from the noise of the main hall, which is where seminars were held previously.

The vast majority of the seminars were well attended and all were well received.  Ron Chan was in charge of arranging them and took charge of them to make sure the speakers had the facilities they needed.  Feedback forms were handed out before each seminar and collected after, with all those who completed them entered into regular draws for show T-shirts.

Ron Chan checking out the speaker podium
Ron Chan checking out the speaker podium

Pinball News was there for almost every seminar - the ones we skipped were repeats of previous seminars and were in no way related to the free drinks at the Embassy Suites - and thanks to Ron and the whole show team, we are able to bring you every seminar to either stream or download. 

The audience for the opening seminar
The audience for the opening seminar

For simplicity, we've moved them to a separate article which will be online shortly.  Most of the seminars were also filmed by the team from 30lbs Skunk Productions who are producing a pinball documentary and can be seen on the left side of the picture above.

Meanwhile, back in the main hall, apart from the extensive selection of machines to play and the numerous vendors, there were also a number of tournaments in which to compete.  All tournaments were held in the back right-hand corner of the hall and were organised by Keith Elwin.

The tournaments area
The tournaments area

The main tournament was split into two divisions - novice and expert.  Both required an initial $5 per player registration fee which could either be donated directly to the Pacific Pinball Museum or could be converted into 6 raffle tickets.  Prizes in the expert division were cash, taken from the entriy fees, while the winner of the novice division would win a Dealers Choice pinball machine.

Once a player was registered, entries to the tournament cost $5 for two attempts.  The aim in the qualifying round was to get into the top five scores on one or more of the machines chosen for each division.  Each top score achieved earned a place in the play-offs and the more top scores you got, the more places you earned.  That could mean you end up being drawn against yourself, which would give you a bye into the next round.

Qualifying ran during show hours from noon on Friday until 11:30pm on Saturday and the machines used in each division were:

Novice - Straight Shooter, Bucaneer, Diner and The Sopranos.

Expert - El Dorado, Creature From The Black Lagoon, Flash Gordon and Fish Tales.

In the expert division, the final came down to a battle between Keith Elwin, Neil Shatz and Andrei Massenkoff.  Keith had achieved enough top scores in the qualifying to earn himself two places in the final, versus the single places for Neil and Andrei.  They all played a game on each of the four machines above and points were awarded, with 4 points for first place, 2 for second, 1 for third and 0 for fourth.  The points were then added up across all four machines to give each player their total.  Keith's two places were treated as separate players and not combined.

Andrei steps up to play his last machine in the final
Andrei steps up to play his last machine in the final

It turned into a fascinating finale as on the third and final ball, Neil tilted his ball and in trying to put the machine back in place, inadvertently tilted Andrei's final ball as well.  That created a problem which was solved by Andrei playing one additional ball, the score from which was added to his titled game's score.  Andrei was in the lead going into that last game and with Neil automatically collecting a zero for tilting another player's ball, Andrei didn't really need to play to win the tournament as he was guaranteed third place which turned out to be good enough for first place and $560.  Keith's two players in the final took second and third for a total of $420, while Neil was fourth and took home $70.

Fourth placed Neil Shatz
Fourth placed Neil Shatz

Second and third placed Keith Elwin
Second and third placed Keith Elwin

First placed Andrei Massenkoff
First placed Andrei Massenkoff

In the novice division it was a win for Brian Goldstein who took home the Dealers Choice machine as his reward.

In second place was Julie Grey, while third place went to Todd Seaver and Joshua Warren was fourth.  Julie collected $308.70 for her second place, Todd received $154.35 and Joshua won $51.45.

Apart from the expert and novice divisions, there was a kids division, a split flipper touranement and a "bingo" competition where players crossed off various squares as they completed certain features or reached specified targets.

The Split Flipper tournament was won by a team of Keith Elwin and Mike Mahaffey who collected $98.25 for their troubles.  We'll update this report with the other results as soon as we receive them.

Throughout the show, a series of announcements were made over the hall's PA system. Most of these were to welcome new visitors to the show and announce the upcoming seminars.  Others were to announce awards and presentations being made to various attendees at the main desk and to announce the various vendors at the show.

We'll be back with more details soon, but in the meantime you can take our exclusive Four Minute Tour (two minutes just wasn't enough) of the show on Saturday evening by clicking the picture below.

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