Wednesday, March 17, 2010

An Air Hockey Primer

Perhaps some of you read an earlier post where I described how some fellow air hockey players and I won a few thousand dollars from the Illinois Lottery. Perhaps you had the following very logical thoughts:

1. Are there really people who are good at air hockey?
2. How the hell does one get into that?


1. A few hundred people across the globe play air hockey seriously. The current rankings would have you believe there more than a 1,0001, but this number is probably more than a little padded. A typical national or international tournament draws between 30 and 120 people. While the players are distributed throughout the world, the bulk of American players today are in Austin, Houston, Denver, San Francisco (I think), Chicago, and few in Philadelphia2 and New York. There are also players in Venezuela, Spain, Russia, and at least a couple in Singapore3.

2. In my case, my brother-in-law suckered me into it last winter. I've been playing for a little more than a year. In his case, he got good at it to hustle people in bars in Madison. Most of the people who play at the suburban bowling alley that is home to Chicago's air hockey community worked there at some point. A couple more are transplants to the Midwest who used to play in other cities, namely Philly and Atlanta.

So there you have it. You can read more about the Illinois air hockey community here and here. And someone once started to make a documentary but apparently only ended up with nine minutes. Air Hockey's governing body also made a really cheesy early 1990s publicity video (in two parts on YouTube), which mostly made air hockey players look like the dorks that most of us are.

If you'd like to know what I (and the rest of us) look like when I play, you can watch me kicking everybody's ass at Press Your Luck last Thursday night4.


1 I refuse to link to the rankings because I'm embarrassed I'm in the lowest 30% of that number. Of course, now that I've shared that with you, there's not a whole lot of reason to not link it. Yet I refuse. You can find it easily enough.
2 Which Ben Franklin would win in a fight? And what the holy hell is happening here?
sup>3 I feel I've sufficiently reduced these places to stereotypes. It's great to be 'merican.
4 In truth, I've never even come close to winning a game of Press Your Luck. But in this particular round of one game, I scored every single goal. Yeah, I'm kind of a badass.


  1. Interesting game. As your mother I want to say I've never known you NOT to be competitive in anything that you do so I'm sure you do well with air hockey. You probably kick some assonance!

  2. Eric, you look so serious in that video. That's probably the second most serious I've ever seen you.

    Neither Ben Franklin would win. The kneeling woman who is obviously made of plastic would win because of her hard, yet flexible outer shell. I'd really like to know what's up with the flippers...