Pinball Wizards Test Their Talents at the Texas Pinball Festival

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FRISCO -- When 11-year-old Savannah Ulrich says, "It's like playing a giant board game," she’s not talking about disappearing into the world of Jumanji, or even playing life-size chess or checkers in the park.

No, this ‘giant board game’ is an old favorite.

Pinball.

“I discovered one at the 7-11 and you had to be 18 to play it,” Paul McKinney said. "I wasn’t 18, but the guy let us play. Don`t tell anybody! I don’t want to get him in trouble.”

That’s how a lifetime love of bumpers, ball bearings, boards and bulbs blossomed into the Texas Pinball Festival for McKinney, a co-organizer for the event.

It started with guys like him but over the years, it has transformed into a family affair.

"The change you see now is we have a lot more -- 50% of the people that come now are kids, women, families,” McKinney said.

What’s it like for McKinney to see his love passed on to the next generation of pinball wizards?

“You can have a 12- or 13-year-old kid beating a 55-year-old expert who`s been doing it for 30 years because the ball’s wild,” he said. "You just never know what’s going to happen in a game.”

The game might be unpredictable, but after going from just a few machines to more than 400 in less than a decade, it’s easy to predict the Texas Pinball Festival is here to stay.

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