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A Conversation with Keith Elwin, the Greatest Pinball Player on Earth

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Over on The Pinball Blog we've interviewed some great guys from the world of pinball. Our growing list of Pinball Heroes includes pinball designers Steve Ritchie, George Gomez, and John Trudeau, historians and authors Roger Sharpe and Gary Flower, Las Vegas Pinball Hall of Fame owner Tim Arnold, and more.

But what about people who play the damn things?

Well, you can't get better than the best of the best and here on Blogcritics before anywhere else, The Pinball Blog is pleased to bring you an interview with the greatest pinball player on earth, Keith Elwin.

So you're Keith Elwin, officially the best pinball player in the world. Don't you ever wish you could have a 'quick game' of pinball when there's five minutes left of your lunch break?

Well, I suppose I can't complain but yes, I do enjoy playing the older, drainier machines which I can finish in a few minutes as opposed to the new Sterns where the ball doesn't even fit in the outlanes.

What's the most you ever earned in a year playing pinball and how much do you think you spent in travel and accommodation to earn it?

Hard to say because there are also prizes. A guesstimate would be around $15,000.

When did you realise you were particularly good at pinball, and when did you realise you were the best on the planet?

I guess when I was around 10 or 11 I would win a lot of bets with the adults at the arcade. I remember the girlfriend of some guy told me to go away because he was obsessed at trying to beat me on Black Knight.

Anything else you're any good at?

I have won awards for photography and I used to be a pretty good baseball player back in the day.

I guess there's no way up from being ranked number one but do you think you're still improving as a player?

Not really. I really hardly play anymore given the poor selection of route games in the San Diego area — unless a tourney is coming up. And when I do play it is for fun, I really don't practice much. But a couple weeks before a tourney I will turn it up.


What do you do 9 to 5?

I do graphic and web design as well as work on pinballs.

Ever trash talk to your rivals when they're in the finals?

Yes, the Sharpe brothers and myself have a nice rivalry going. I don't really talk trash to Bowen because that guy scares me when he gets in a zone.

Any words of advice for an aspiring world champion?

Yes, buy the Pinball 101 DVD.

You must see the same faces in the final rounds of several tournaments, and judging by the pictures it's a relatively young crowd. Do you all hit the bar together each night? Ever won a major prize with a stinking hangover?

Yep, most of the people who have been playing a long time have become friends. We don't all go to the bar together but often hang out and talk pin. Night before a major tourney I am usually on my best behavior… but two years ago in Vegas at the AMOA IFPA tourney I was pretty blasted from the night before and put up 500+M on Spiderman in the finals.

Finally, I always ask our Pinball Heroes to sum up pinball in one word or sentence.

SOS, time to think outside the box with some fresh talent and ideas.

Many thanks to Keith Elwin, who despite being the greatest pinball player on earth, seems really quite normal!

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  • grammy.sbcglobal.net

    Hi Keith, I have won 2,250,750 points on my computer game. And I am only 11 years. I have been playing since was 4 years old. I have a good relationship as well. So when ever you have a chance type back to me. I really want to know what your high score is. THANKS!!!

  • Jordan stephenson

    Hi i’m a boy and only 11 years old and my high score is 4,016,000 and stared at the startr of the year

  • Tails Stephenson

    Hi I’m 11 years old and my twin brother made me start on the weekend and my high score was 99,999,000 and that sounds big right well gotta beat my brother now Jordan by.

  • cameron gage

    my highst score was 403,693,546