“I’ve always been drawn to amusement-related things—boardwalks, carnivals, blinking lights—because I grew up between the Jersey Shore and New York City. During college I spent every hour I could in the game room; the joy of the flashing lights was much cheaper than therapy. I played pinball in between classes, on the weekends and really at any opportunity available. So when I read an article in The New York Times about a pinball tournament in Manhattan, I was intrigued.”
That tournament was the Professional and Amateur Pinball Association World Pinball Championship, otherwise known as PAPA 3, held at the Omni Park Central Hotel, February 12-14, 1993. Most details about it have been lost to time, but it was the first pinball tournament VSA Partners’ Associate Director, Delivery Management Penni Epstein ever played in. And, in her own words, she was hooked. “I saw banks and banks of games set up. I was amazed that everyone was there just to play pinball. I qualified for the finals and lost my first match, but my life was forever changed. I wanted to play more and play better.” The official page for the following year’s PAPA 4 lists about 600 participants, with Epstein coming in 14th in the women’s division. By the time of PAPA 6 in Las Vegas, she took fourth place in the same division—meaning she ranked as the fourth best female pinball player in the world.
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