Date: February, 2014

Report by Łukasz Dziatkiewicz
Additional pictures by Aleksander Żurkowski, Mariusz Marasiak and others

It is a funny and rather bizarre curiosity that almost all the names of Polish tournaments held in 2013 started with the letter 'P'. Although not unique to last year, this naming characteristic became more widespread than ever over the past twelve months.

But it's not all down to one company's name in the title - Printimus - even though it is the patron and co-sponsor of our league and most of the tournaments associated with it, and despite the fact that it was at this printing company based in Bytom that nine of the twelve Polish tournaments in 2013 were held.

Dworcowa Street in Bytom with the Świetlik statue
Dworcowa Street in Bytom with the Świetlik statue

The city of Bytom used to be called Little Wien (Vienna). In 2013 Bytom became the inaugural winner of the title Nicest City in Poland following an internet vote.

The view down Stanisława Moniuszki in Bytom
The view down Stanisława Moniuszki in Bytom

No, it is mainly just coincidence, although we do like to use English words in our Polish language.

Incidentally, in Polish we also spell our country's name with a 'P' - Polska, which might seem obvious, but England for us is ‘Anglia’, Philipines are ‘Filipiny’ and Spain is ‘Hiszpania. But pinball in Polish is 'flipper' - more 'P's, but this time inside the word. However, sometimes we will use the word 'pinball' as a synonym in the name of tournaments.

Talking about Poland – quite a large country on a European scale, but small one globally - like many other countries it contains a number of special regions. One of the most unusual is Silesia, which after Second World War became mostly Polish, with some small parts inhabited by Czechs and Germans.

The history of Silesia is very complicated, especially in the years following the First World War. There were three Polish uprisings in the years 1919, 1920 and 1921, against Germany and in support of incorporating a larger part of the region into Poland than had originally been proposed.

It is important to realise that by the end of the First World War in 1918, Poland hadn’t existed as an independent state for 123 years!

Finally, the Polish-German border running through Silesia was redrawn to make it more favourable to Poland.

From then until the Second World War, this region had a great amount of autonomy. During the German occupation, Silesia was incorporated by Third Reich, but after the War almost all of Silesia became part of Poland.

Poland got full independence from the Soviet Union in 1989, and the Silesian Autonomy Movement was founded the very next year. This is now the strongest minority movement of its kind in our country.

Lastly, although it’s not a pinball thing, I haven’t explained why Silesia is so important. It's because of the “black gold”, the name we give to the coal with which the area is rich. So there are lots of mines, ironworks and heavy engineering companies located in the region.

So as I explained, Silesia is very important for Poland and has existed as part of the country since the Polish state was established, but it also has a key role also in the history of Polish pinball.

The first Polish games were imported at the start of the 1970s by Silesians who had families or other relations living in West Germany. During this time, the other main way pinballs were brought into Poland was by sailors through Poland’s Baltic ports.

The latest chapter in the history of Silesian pinball was begun in 2007 when Marcin Krysiński with his son, Hubert and daughter, Dorota came to Warsaw to compete in the Polish Pinball Championships. Marcin is originally from Wrocław, which is the capitol of Lower Silesia, before he moved to the Upper Silesia area twenty years ago.

Since 2007 he has never missed any of these Championships, and two years later his company Primtimus began producing almost all the printed material for the event, while also sponsoring the pinball machine which has traditionally been the main prize ever since the competition began.

Marcin Krysinski
Marcin Krysiński with Gary Stern

Mariusz “Mario” Tkacz is also Silesian, but from the city of Myslowice. The seventh Championships in 2008 was his first ever pinball tournament, but despite that he won! He took home the grand prize which was a rare Secret Service pinball, and since then Mariusz has also returned to Warsaw for each subsequent Championships.

After Mariusz ‘s first Warsaw triumph, he started to build his own pinball collection and then organised two great tournament seasons in 2011 and 2012.

Mariusz (R), his son Kuba and Mariusz's brother Dominik (L) before one of the tournaments held in his cellar in 2011
Mariusz (R), his son Kuba and Mariusz's brother Dominik (L)
before one of the tournaments held in his cellar in 2011

Mariusz didn’t think he would be able to continue holding competitive events in 2013 (although that had changed by the end of the year), so Marcin, after hesitating for some time and following suggestions and persuasion from me, decided to organise tournaments at his company’s premises in the city of Bytom, 9 miles northwest of Katowice. Katowice – and I promise this is the last Silesian city I’ll refer to in this article - is the largest city in Silesia by both area and population.

I decided it would be best if I interviewed Marcin to find out about his initiative called Printimus Pinball.

I know this is standard question but I have to ask it anyway; how did pinball first appeared in your life?

When I was 7 or maybe 8 years old, I used to stop by at the local pub in Wrocław where I lived, where they had two pinball machines – Bronco and other one whose name I don’t remember but it was out of order most of the time. So I played Bronco a lot considering the amount of allowance such a young boy could receive at that time. It required great patience to get a chance to play in those days, since the machines were so popular. I would wait for as long as two hours for my turn. Eventually, I got so into pinball machines that I started to dream of owning one.

The Printimus building
The Printimus building

You got some of your machines simply because you like them, but others - like Bronco - are due to nostalgia.

Yes. I have a wish-list, and step-by-step the machines from it land in my collection. I try to acquire the machines I spent the most to play in the past. That’s why I have Bronco, Mata Hari and some modern ones: Terminator 2, Getaway and Fish Tales.

Marcin’s EM Bronco and Mata Hari machines during one of the tournaments
Marcin’s EM Bronco and Mata Hari machines during one of the tournaments

However the pinball machine I am most proud of having in my collection is number one on my list – Haunted House.

Marcin’s Haunted House and two junior players: the accomplished Kuba Tkacz, and then novice Piotrek Wiszniewski
Marcin’s Haunted House and two junior players:
the accomplished Kuba Tkacz, and then novice Piotrek Wiszniewski

The other machines in my collection were purchased a little randomly depending on the offer and the deal. I can say my wish-list contains 20-25 machines, more than half of which are electromechanicals and early solid-states. There are also several machines built by Stern in this century.

You have quite a large home, however you decided to locate the pinballs in your company building. Why was that?

We could not run any tournament at my home, so having my collection in the office is more useful since we can have more than 30 people there.

During one of the Printimus Pinball tournaments, with Mariusz (L) playing T2
During one of the Printimus Pinball tournaments, with Mariusz (L) playing T2

We also have some PR benefits coming from this. Virtually everyone who visits our office is just fascinated when seeing the machines, and I can also promote pinball to the people I work with and their families.

Collecting pinballs, sponsoring championships and PSF, organising tournaments, this is quite a big commitment, but you have much bigger plans, and even some dreams!

Actually, I did not plan to collect pinball machines at all. It has just happened. My two first pinball machines - Grand Lizard and Big Guns - I just bought out of the blue, but it wasn't long before they were joined by the next one - Police Force. I sold those first two machines pretty quickly, and bought another - Terminator 2.

Marcin plays his Terminator 2 during the tournament
Marcin plays his Terminator 2 during the tournament

Then I had another ‘short-term purchase’ - Hard Body - which I had to sell due to lack of the space both at home and at the office.

So, I had had only two pinball machines for some time – one at my office and the other in my son’s room. After we had moved our company base to the new, bigger building two years ago, some extra empty space became available. In fact, I should say “used to be empty” as there are… twenty-five pinball machines there right now. Not every machine is mine, but nevertheless they look just great.

Inside the pinball room during one of the Printimus Pinball events
Inside the pinball room during one of the Printimus Pinball events

Whoever visits us and sees the entire collection is just amazed. This alone gives me a great deal of satisfaction. Sometimes a visitor would play couple of games, and almost everyone wants to return and play again. I think this is pretty unusual – one comes into the office to do business and all of a sudden there is a 900 sq. ft. hall full of pinball machines!

To take advantage of this situation I plan to open Printimus Pinball - a club or in-group. We intend to let any of its members visit us on certain weekend days to play pinball and spend some quality time with both family members and other pinball fans.

Part of one of the two lines of pinball at Printimus Pinball during one of the tournaments
Part of one of the the two lines of pinballs at Printimus Pinball
during one of the tournaments

Two of your main tournaments have rules not seen before in Poland.

I like changing things, improving existing systems and eliminating flaws. Since the current tournament system used in Poland has – in my opinion – more cons than pros, having the host’s privilege I decided to produce other systems. One thing led to another and I came up with several tournament systems:

  • Progressive groups, used in Printimus Pinball tournaments which are part of Polish Pinball League: Each round is played by the competitors divided into groups of up to 4 people, and after each round (a single 3-ball game on the assigned machine) there are new groups for the next round, with four new people assigned to each group. The players can earn points per position in a given round, and the number of rounds is set before the start of the tournament. After completing all the rounds, the preliminary phase ends and the play-offs begin. There are no fixed groups with this system, and due to quite significant point differences between each place, there are always lots of points to win as long as you don’t finish in last place.

  • One-on-One, used in the Elite tournaments: Basically this is round-robin way of playing, so there are no groups in this system. Everyone has to face all the remaining players in a head-to-head single machine game. The winner gets 1 point the loser gets nothing. The opponents change each round, until everyone has played against everyone else. The results may be considered final or be the starting position for the play-offs.

The first Printimus Pinball tournament - on the left is Armand Maculewicz who at the end of 2013 became new champion of Poland
The first Printimus Pinball tournament - on the left is Armand Maculewicz
who at the end of 2013 became new champion of Poland

This article's author in a Stern T-shirt at the opening Printimus Pinball tournament, while behind him is Hubert Krysiński playing Dracula
This article's author in a Stern T-shirt at the opening Printimus Pinball tournament,
while behind him is Hubert Krysiński playing Dracula

You have also arranged some side tournaments.

Yes – two, and some small contests, let’s say, for fun.

  • Terminator: This is a strictly one-theme tournament. There are two Terminator machines used for it - Terminator 2 and Terminator 3.
    Each player’s best score at either machine is added up to determine the ranking table.
    1st place 10 pts, 2nd place 8 pts, etc.


  • Classic: With the classic rules, obviously. As I currently have three classic pinball machines, this tournament is a three machine competition. To make it more attractive for the players they may buy extra credits to try again.

  • The Roger Sharpe Contest: This is a small tribute to Mr. Roger Sharpe who in 1976 had shown his extreme skills proving how pinball was a game of skill not a game of chance. One of the tasks he was performing was to plunge the ball into a certain lane of the game (it was the Bank Shot machine – according to his son Josh). Judging by the experience I gained with this contest – it is very hard to succeed with at least 4 out of 6 attempts. Only two players have done it so far!
    Łukasz has designed some very special diplomas which my company has printed. These will be some kind of certificate which Roger has already signed.

The front of the certificate for the Roger Sharpe Contest
The front of the certificate for the Roger Sharpe Contest
signed by Roger himself

The back of the certificate featuring the game Sharpshooter and Roger in New York when the ban on pinball was overturned
The back of the certificate featuring the game Sharpshooter
and Roger in New York when the city's ban on pinball was overturned

You won the first edition of Elite and Classic, and in second place in both was your son. Congratulations, but some people could think that you have an advantage, like maybe you play a lot....

I was surprised too. I haven’t practiced much beforehand. Maybe other players were just extremely kind? I recall the Classic tournament wasn’t decided until very last ball on Mata Hari. In addition, this not the first time the owner of the machines wins the tournament they organise. Maybe this happens due to some kind of special treatment the machines grant their owner?

Hubert despite being 16 years old is a very good player already. He may succeed in many tournaments to come. For example, he ended up in 7th place in a tournament we attended in Austria in June. He won one of the tournaments held at Printimus Pinball and came second several times. Hubert was also second in this year's Printimus Elite Series (out of 41 players), third in the Classic Tournament during Printimus 2013 – 12th Polish Championship, and was fifth overall (out of 84 to participate in three different tournaments). Last but not least, he usually wins most of the one-on-one competition games we sometimes play.

Hubert shakes his father's hand
Hubert shakes his father's hand

Tell us about your plans for future pinball activities.

As I mentioned before, I plan to start a pinball parlour under the name Printimus Pinball (as it will be located in the very building I have a print shop). This will be something unique both in our region and country. I would like this place to offer unforgettable entertainment for the family, and an opportunity for people to meet each other. We will offer everyone an opportunity to play REAL pinball.

Three players from Kraków during a tournamnet in Bytom: (L-R) Maciek, this article's author and Stefan
Three players from Kraków during a Printimus tournament in Bytom
(L-R) Maciek who has a pinball pub, this article's author and Stefan

However, my ultimate goal is to build my own pinball machine with the theme that would be closer to our national culture. Thanks to advanced technology I am closer to making this dream happen than ever. All I need to do is create the game design (I already have some ideas), graphics and put them all together with other elements available on the market. So who knows? I wish I had more time to spend on this. Maybe someday?

But you also have something new to announce, right?

I wanted to combine my pinball interests with my business activities, so I prepared an offer to all pinball tournament organisers around the world! It was accepted at the very top – by the IFPA itself.

Everyone who organises an event under IFPA rules and regulations will be eligible to receive a free set of printing services that may be useful their event. This set consists of: posters, flyers, certificates (diplomas) and some number of design hours to prepare these things for processing (digital or offset printing). I expect my businesses to be promoted by the organiser in exchange for my involvement in the pinball players’ world. Whoever is interested in taking advantage of this offer should contact the IFPA or their respective Country Director.

Most of the players are tired but some keep playing
Most of the players are tired but some keep playing

Mariusz watches his son Kuba's game
Mariusz watches his son Kuba's game

A friendly photo for the end
A friendly photo for the end

You can also read the interview with Marcin in Polish and more about pinball in Poland (and Silesia in particular) on the Interia website.


As I described at the very start of this article we had a few pinball events starting with the letter P in 2013. First of these was Pixel Heaven. It was two days (and one night) of mostly retro computing and gaming, held on 15th-16th June.

Retro computing and gaming - what does that mean? It encompasses everything related to old computers and video games consoles, as you can see in this amazing promo video. Organiser Robert Łapiński, who is also a pinball fan, decided that some pinballs should be included as part of Pixel Heaven. He was right, because there is an obvious connection between those phenomena.

Pixel Heaven was organised at a cult place for pinball in Poland – the club Społdzielnia CDQ where all the Polish pinball championships were organised and thus where our pinball roots lie. That’s why pinball was such a natural fit for this event.

Społdzielnia CDQ  captured by Pixel Heaven
Społdzielnia CDQ captured by Pixel Heaven

Tournament games; the most senior player and the youngest novice
Tournament games; the most senior player and the youngest novice

As the person who took care of pinball zone, I saw many people playing pinball with great pleasure, and some were really fascinated. For old boys (in this case that means thirty years and older) it was like a trip into the past, while for many youngsters it was a unique contact with a physical machine they only knew in video game form. For me, it was further proof that video games fans are a good source of potential pinball players.

Pinballs at Pixel Heaven
Pinballs at Pixel Heaven

The first day brought a tournament called the Flipper Heaven Cup with a total of 37 players taking part. There were no surprises in the group of winners – only very good, old hands players. First was Konrad Masłowski, second Daniel Kaczmarek and third Pawel Nowak. They received some video games and hardware from Pixel Heaven's partners, and some pinball goodies organised by me from Stern Pinball, Jersey Jack Pinball and PAPA.

Tournament participants congratulate the top three: (L-R) Daniel, Paweł and Konrad, with their prizes
Tournament participants congratulate the top three:
(L-R) Daniel, Paweł and Konrad, with their prizes

You can watch this video about the Flipper Heaven Cup tournament.

So it was, let’s say, a fairly typical small pinball tournament with just 6 machines, none of them especially old.

So far nothing very special, BUT everything around Pixel Heaven was so different! So many working old computers and their ardent fans – youngsters who can’t remember them from the first time they were in use, and old timers for whom it is like journey into the past.

Silly Master Blaster retro gaming pinball
Silly Master Blaster retro gaming pinball

It wasn’t just a meeting and a show either. There were organised lectures, discussions, panels, mini-tournaments, demonstrations, and more. It wasn’t even only about computers, video games and related things like old computer magazines about them. Nor was it just about old-school and retro themes. For example there were a number of modern independent games also present on that weekend in June.

Talking about non-computer and video game things, I got an opportunity to listen an interesting lecture about cult Polish comic book series called “Relax”.

Pixel Heaven was an occasion to meet, listen and talk with people who been started the computer mania in Poland, especially representatives of the press and video game creators. There was one guy from France who is a real gaming legend - Frédérick Raynal, who is the designer of the cult video game Alone in the Dark.

OK, I know this is an article about pinball, so no more about this event from me except to let you know that the organiser, Robert, has to say about next year's show:

Pixel Heaven 2014 Retro Entertainment Days (& Night) will be the follow-up of the successful 2013 edition, which was attended by over 1500 people from the whole Europe.

This time it will be held on the May 31 – June 1 weekend in the 1500 m2 club – a very popular and spacious venue in the heart of Warsaw, called “the happiest place in Warsaw” by the “Newsweek”. Among the 8/16 bit computers, retro video game competitions, comics exhibitions, concerts, and special guests, there will be also a space for pinball machines.

For the first time, during Pixel Heaven 2014 there will be also be the Polish Pinball Open tournament, one of the official qualification tournaments of the IFPA European Championship Series.

More details can be found at: www.pixelheaven.pl and you can read more (in Polish) from Robert in this article.

The second pinball – purely pinball – event was second edition of the Plaza Park Pinball Party - lots more 'P's there - held on the 24th and 25th of August in Dźwirzyno near Kołobrzeg on the Baltic coast.

Plaza Park Pinball Party
Plaza Park Pinball Party

This time however there were more machines – a total of 32 - and two days full of playing, because there was one main tournament and three sides - Elite (like in Bytom), Pinball 2000 (on both 2000 machines), and the second Mariusz’s Birthday Tournament.

Preparations for the Plaza Park Pinball Party
Preparations for the Plaza Park Pinball Party

Registration and scoring
Registration and scoring

These nice girls worked in Plaza Park
These nice girls worked in Plaza Park

Some of the awards including the main Pinball & Sea trophies
Some of the awards including the main Pinball & Sea trophies

An Arabian Night on a Polish night, at the end of Mario’s Birthday Tournament, with the author of this report Łukasz playing in the final
An Arabian Night on a Polish night, at the end of Mario’s Birthday Tournament,
with the author of this report, Łukasz, playing in the final

The final on High Speed 2 - The Getaway
The final on High Speed 2 - The Getaway

All the results from these are published on the IFPA website.

There was so much for everyone, including games, competitive play, emotions, prizes and people. But perhaps even more spectacular was the celebration of pinball’s nuptials with the Polish sea.

Unfortunately organiser Marcin Kisiel has no pinball with a sea or oceanic theme, although you could say that his Popeye would have been a good choice. However he decided that Fish Tales would be a more appropriate selection.

Marcin's Fish Tales
Marcin's Fish Tales

The machine is carried to the beach
The machine is carried to the beach

Nearly there
Nearly there

Fish Tales reaches the water's edge
Fish Tales reaches the water's edge

Pinball renews it's marriage to the sea
Pinball renews it's marriage to the sea

Then it's time for the fun to begin
Then it's time for the fun to begin

Transportation and both group and individual photo sessions gave us so much fun! If you could see faces of sunbathers – they didn’t understand what was going on, what those people were doing, and why it was so funny. :-)

Another 'attraction' was the power cut which lasted for about two hours. It was a widespread breakdown covering a large area and while it certainly caused us problems, think about the owners of shops and other places selling food, especially ice cream vendors.

You can view more photos from the event on our PSF site. In addition, there are extra pictures on the web site of the local newspaper Gazeta Kolobrzeska, and a video report made by local TV station.

At the end of November Marcin asked on our forum about choosing the exact date of next year tournament. PPPP is a special event because of place, the time, and the number of machines, but also because the main organiser is someone exceptional in our pinball community. He has the greatest number of machines, and he is first Pole to win a foreign tournament – the 2013 Belgian Open Pinball Championship followed by third place in the Hungarian Pinball Championship 2013.

Congratulation Marcin – keep flippin’ and keep it up!

Marcin with his sister, Ania
Marcin with his sister, Ania

In my next report I’ll tell you all about our 12th Polish championship which predated the end of the 2013 season, and also about the last tournament of the year which was held in Mysłowice, which has returned as a venue despite it earlier looking as though there would be no more tournaments held there.

As we reach the end of the pinball year you can see that, for us, 2013 was very Silesian! ;-)


Postscript about Waldemar Banasik's book on pinball:

Publishing a book about such a niche theme like pinball is very problematic. Luckily, after my prompting, Marcin Krysiński decided to print Waldemar Banasik's book.

This man (Silesian, by the way! ;) is definitely the biggest pinball expert in Poland. Waldek (diminutive for of name Waldemar) wrote many articles for magazine “Interplay” and on our website. He knows key pinball figures around the world, many of whom he met personally.

Steve Kordek and Waldek Londyn from Poland in January 1999 at the ATEI show's launch of Pinball 2000
Steve Kordek and Waldemar Banasik in January 1999
at the ATEI trade show's launch of Pinball 2000 in London

His “Kulka dziką jest” title is a translation of Harry Williams’ phrase “The wild is ball” and must be considered a pioneering work in our country. The subtitle is: “Czyli rzecz o flipperach” which means “So something about pinballs”.

Waldemar Banasik's Polish book on pinball - The Ball Is Wild
Waldemar Banasik's Polish book on pinball - The Ball Is Wild

Banasik presents pinball history both in general terms and for him personally (he started as an operator), writes about pinball key persons (especially game designers) and the most famous titles. This is book which every Polish speaking pinball fan must have!

This is what Waldek told Pinball News:
"Generally speaking, I'm interested in all gaming machines, and out of those mostly in video games, arcade, redemption machines, and certainly pinballs. It's part of my hobby, but also a source of income. I try to combine business with pleasure.

During the 1980s in Poland, my partners and I bought our first pinball machine. This was a purchase for business purposes and only with time did I become interested in the history of pinball, the creators of these machines, the artists who created the backbox graphics and playing fields. I started writing about gaming machines due to my anger at the failures of the business.

In the early nineties I went to gaming exhibitions in Paris and Rome to find out the news and purchase video game PCBs (Printed Circuit Board). At one such exhibition in 1995 I did not find a single thing interesting to purchase. Annoyed by the lack of good luck - which had somehow eluded me this time - I decided to use my previous experience working in radio to write an article about the exhibition. I took it to a bimonthly trade magazine, they liked it and published the material. Descriptions of pinball machines that came out that year were a large part of the article. After that it was smooth sailing, somewhat.

Inside Waldemar Banasik's Polish book on pinball
Inside Waldemar Banasik's book on pinball

Pinball visionary and entrepreneur Harry Williams used to say, "The ball is wild", and to me that's the essence of these machines. Every game is different from the last, which each new play bringing something new.

People have swung and swatted at things for ages, and here it has been reduced to a compact size, made available to virtually everyone. I think all of us need pure entertainment that needs no special effort to be achieved. Pinballs blink, shine, flash, play music and also give the impression that we can do something to damage them in return by sending a steel ball into the goal. It's a great way to recover from stress, but that's probably something a psychologist could tell you more about.

Pinball has always been a training ground for technological innovations. They have come a long way from simple nail-studded boards to the latest generation of integrated circuits. There's a scene at the begining of Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey where an ape throws a bone which then turns into a spaceship. Pinballs are a tiny bit like that, and definitely a lot easier to find than spaceships.

In the leadership of Gierek (1971-1981), communist Poland opened up a little to the west. Western goods made their way into shops and the fist pinballs reached the arcades. Most of those were private imports, mainly from Germany. Silesia, at one time a part of Germany, had one colossal advantage compared to the other regions of the People's Republic of Poland. Many people had family living in Germany, which help them greatly with importing pinballs."

You can e-mail Waldek for more information about ordering his book at:
vabank@go2.pl


Back to the Learn page Like this page? Share it with your Facebook friends:
Back to the front page

© Pinball News 2014