Raymond Davidson is a pinball-playing machine.
The 24-year-old from Mukilteo won the World Pinball Championship held June 3 in Copenhagen, Denmark. With that win, he is currently the No. 3 ranked player in the world.
The International Flipper Pinball Association tournament is the most competitive in the world. Only the top 64 out of more than 50,000 ranked players qualify to compete. Davidson was No. 5, so he was invited to the tournament.
“The tournament was the toughest of the tough because I was playing against the best players in the world,” said Davidson, who achieved his rank by earning points at IFPA-endorsed events. “No one was an easy opponent, so actually pulling off No. 1 felt amazing. It was like, ‘Wow, I actually did it! I didn’t blow it!’ It was really unbelievable.”
The Kamiak High School grad beat Cayle George, of the Netherlands, who is currently the No. 2 player in the world. Davidson’s prize? A brand new Ghostbusters pinball machine and $1,000 in cash.
Davidson has been playing competively since he was 14 years old. He placed ninth in his first world-ranked tournament at 15 and won his first world-ranked championship at 16.
He has been a member of the Seattle Pinball League since 2010. The Seattle area league is open to all players and hosts a series of ranked pinball tournaments capped off by a championship each year. Davidson won the last three of the league’s championships.
“I’ve placed in the finals every year since I became a member, but I didn’t win it until three years ago,” Davidson said. “When you win the finals, you get a big trophy that you turn in the next year, but I’ve won it each year after that, so I haven’t had to give it back yet.”
Tell me about your tournament win.
My final opponent was Cayle George, who was the No. 4 ranked player in the world before the tournament. He previously lived in Seattle and had been a mentor to me growing up. I would go over to his house to play pinball when I was too young to play in bars. He definitely helped me get better. It was really cool getting to play against him in the final round, which was a first-to-four match. It was not easy. I started out down 0-1, then managed to win the next game to make it 1-1. I then lost the next two, putting me at 1-3, one game away from elimination. I pulled out back-to-back wins to tie it up 3-3. The way the tournament works is if you ever get to a 3-3 tie, instead of one more game to decide, a new best-of-three match is played instead. I lost the first game of that match, but managed to pull off the next two and won the championship in the most exciting fashion ever, a 5-4 win.
How did you get into pinball?
My grandparents have a pinball machine from 1976, which my dad introduced me to when I was 6. When I was 12, I really started getting into the game. I would beg my family to take me to restaurants just so I could play the pinball machines there. I spent a lot of time playing the machine at Red Robin.
What do you like about the game?
I like the intellectual challenge it offers, mixed in with the reaction skills needed and slight chaos. You’re constantly switching between offense and defense, which is something I really like. At one point, you’re planning out your next moves. Seconds later, you’ll be fighting for your life trying to save a ball from the “drain” — the area beneath the flippers where balls are lost. It’s a great push-pull dynamic that is always changing and is just super fun and addicting.
How many pinball machines do you own?
I have nine of them now, including my prize machine for winning the IFPA world championships. I own Black Rose, Tron, Mustang, Metallica, Who Dunnit, Volley, Vulcan, Walking Dead and Ghostbusters. I got my first machine when I was in sixth grade. My dad bought me the game that I played at Red Robin. It was actually the same exact machine I had played at the restaurant, which was pretty neat.
What’s next for you in the world of pinball?
My next tournament this year is Pinburgh, which takes place July 27-30 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The cash prize for first place is a whopping $15,000. It would be super nice to win that. It would probably turn it into more pinball machines.
What do you do when you’re not playing pinball?
I work as a computer programmer at a startup tech company called Ripl, which creates an app for your phone to help create social media posts for you and track your social media engagement. When I’m not working or traveling nationally and internationally for pinball tournaments, I also like to play poker and other board or card games with my friends.
If you could share a meal with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
My late grandpa, who passed away in January. He bought the pinball machine I grew up playing. Without him, I would have never found my love for pinball. He would be so happy to hear that I made it to world pinball champion.
Finish this sentence: People would be shocked to know…
I had to pay a few thousand dollars in taxes one year solely for pinball winnings. I won over $12,000 in 2015 because I placed second in both the PAPA (Professional & Amateur Pinball Association) World Championships and Pinburgh Match-Play Championships. PAPA is the most renowned pinball tournament in the world and Pinburgh is the largest pinball tournament in the world.
What is your proudest moment?
It’s a tie between winning the IFPA World Pinball Championship — which is the invite-only “official” world pinball championships — and the time I was 18 years old and got second to the best pinball player in the world at the Northwest Pinball Championships in Seattle. My rank back then was 197th.
Sara Bruestle: 425-339-3046; firstname.lastname@example.org.