Our next Trading Card Spotlight features Deborah Tahlman who is displayed on card number 4155, from the Superstars of 2022 Collection. Deborah has been playing pinball competitively since 2015. She has played in 4 countries, 2 continents and in over 30 states.  Fixing and restoring machines is also a busy time for Deborah. She knows pinball attracts the best kind of people and considers to be lucky to be a part of this pinball world. Deborah was presented her 2022 Trading card along with an award at the Pinball Expo in Schaumburg, IL on October 22nd, 2022

What was the best era for pinball gaming in your opinion? 

Pinball has been awesome since it started.  I’ll go with “right now”, because the access to restored, protected, and refurbished older machines combined with the technology and color and high definition and new mechs and rules on the new games makes this a time where you can play thousands of different experiences, from all the “eras”.

In your opinion, are there enough or too little pinball expos and conferences held each year?  

We just about have 1 major event (and oftentimes now more than one) per weekend, be it a tournament series at D82, an Expo in Chicago, Atlanta, Nashville, Denver, or Frisco, or a big Barn party & tournament in Ostrander.  The tournaments and pinball get togethers are as influential and community building as the official Expos and conferences, so I count them equally.

What’s your opinion of the Console Pinball games (Xbox, PlayStation) that recreate the original machines onto the TV screen? 

If it plays, it stays.

Did you agree on the pinball ban in New York City on the 1970s?  What is your opinion on this topic?

I think it’s fantastic.  Crazy that pinball was banned in New York, Chicago, everywhere.  Here’s this….it gives pinball its own sordid past (which is hilarious) and adds an air of mystique and intrigue.  The ban also established the story of Roger Sharpe, and crazy how his sons have gone on to be incredibly influential in the pinball industry, at Stern, Raw Thrills, and running the IFPA.  So, I wouldn’t have had it any other way (though there’s nothing sadder than the photos of the city piling up busted machines)

Do you remember your first pinball machine you played and what do you remember about it?

Eight Ball Deluxe, Digital version.  Very on brand, installed in a burger joint in Brooklyn Center called the Chuckwagon Grille.  Played that game constantly.

What are your opinions about today’s generation of Pinball?  How do you compare them to older, classic machines? 

New pinball has rulesets you could explore for a lifetime.  Rush, Jurassic, Godzilla, Mando; they all just go on for days and days with the combinations of rules and shots and modes and multiballs, ramps on ramps on ramps, bonus and shot and playfield multipliers.  It’s fun.  It’s intense.  It’s fine, and good, and so are the established games like Harlem Globetrotters and Mata Hari; the single level, straightforward rulesets are just as entertaining in almost all respects, and more enjoyable in others.  The most important thing a pinball machine can be is easy to learn, hard to master.  Both styles accomplish this in their own ways.

If you could describe Walter Day in one word, what would that word be and why? 

Iconic.  I mean, have you seen the man?  No one else successfully brought trading card culture to video games and pinballs, and he continues to support the community by doing this work.  He’s an icon 🙂

What is your favorite pinball machine past and present and why? 

“Favorite” pinball machines for me change day to day.  How can you pick just one amongst all the options?  It’s ludicrous.  But…at the moment I’d have to say for old school cool Star Gazer cannot be beat.  And for new?  RUSH is AMAZING.

What would your design and theme of the perfect pinball machine be and why? 

Something sturdy (these matters, it would have to play and feel like it was made by Stern pinball, to me they currently have the best feeling games on the market), I like surprising exit and entries for the ball, like kicking a ball into an orbit and having it appear on the other side of the playfield up top.  LOVE an amazing light show (a la Rush), and for theme…. Maybe a pinball place I love (like D82 or the VFW) or an Expo theme like Chicago Pinball Expo.  I’d take a Ted Lasso game, pretty sure, or Black-ish, or an Anime/Manga themed pinball, something like Spirited Away…hearts.

Are you fan of the new digital pinball machines and what makes them better or worse than the standard machines?

Digital pinball still lags … literally.  The shots don’t respond fast enough, and the ball doesn’t respond as a real ball would; digital recreations just don’t mirror the real world to the level a tournament player craves.  I like how a few designs add in real solenoids and plungers to give it a better physical feel.  But they haven’t cracked the code on this yet.

If you could only own one pinball machine, what would it be and why? 

Probably Rush.  I don’t think I’m going to tire of it for a long, long time.  The rules are complex (but you can stick to simple strategy), the light show is gorgeous, the flow is exceptional, and the geometry of the shots is clean.

Do you learn anything from playing pinball? 

Constantly.  Could go on about this for days.  Learning how to think strategically about all aspects of a competition, from how to interact with an opponent, how to play fair, how to lift others up while competing directly against them, how to be a good sport.  You learn how to think carefully before just jumping into instinct, and you learn the right times to let instinct take over and guide you.  Your body learns the countless combinations of shots and bounces and feeds and reactions and likelihoods and nudges and shoves.  You learn there are 20 different right ways to react to one event and just one right way to react to another.  You learn stamina and patience and when to use your remaining stores of energy and concentration.  You learn a myriad or rules and a litany of angles.  You learn emotional regulation, learn how to protect your body over long hours, you learn what to eat and when during a competition to maximize your focus, you learn how many minutes of rest you need per hour to compete at a high level over the course of a 24-hour tournament.

Beyond all this I’ve learned the names, faces, and stories of hundreds pinball friends in this hobby.  I’ve learned more about so many occupations I’ve never known boo about before.  I’ve learned how to book travel to anywhere in the world and how to find the best deals on flights and hotels and air B&B’s and cars.  I’ve learned how to run 300 person tournaments and large-scale events, and what it takes to organize these things.  I’ve learned how to restore (outside cabinet work and internal parts), refurbish, and repair pinball machines, and now know the ins and outs of operating pinball machines on location.  All this has come from loving to play pinball.

Are pinball machines good for relieving stress?

Good for both relieving and adding to it.

Where do you see the pinball world in the next 10 years? 

Can’t say.  But pinball isn’t going anywhere.  And I hope by then we have respectable VR versions at our fingertips.


This is one of an ongoing series of articles based on the Walter Day Collection of e-sports/video gaming trading cards – check out more information at thewalterdaycollection.com.


Todd Friedman Todd Friedman (396 Posts)

Todd Friedman is heavily involved in the retro gaming community and has co-promoted the Video Game Summit in Chicago, IL for the past 16 years. He also has published 2 books and written for various different gaming magazines including Old School Gamer.