In the pinball community, the moniker “pinball wizard” is pretty tired. Instead, pinball players tend to prefer names like pinballers, pinheads or flipper kings and flipper queens. Perhaps the best title, then, for 15-year-old Boisean Aviana Smith is flipper princess.
On Saturday, the teen beat out 15 competitors — including her father, Dwayne Smith, who placed fifth, and her mother, Debbie Courson Smith, who placed eighth — to take the title of Idaho’s best pinball player. She’ll head to Dallas next month to vie for first against the top International Pinball Flipper Association players from each state in the U.S.
A day after earning Idaho’s top title, Aviana is still in a bit of disbelief.
“I still think I’m dreaming,” she said Sunday afternoon. “But I’ve already pinched myself significantly, so it must be real.”
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At one point in Aviana’s five hours of gameplay at Grinkers Grand Palace in Eagle, her win almost slipped away. In the semifinals, Aviana explained, players will battle the same opponent on seven different machines. The player who gets four wins moves on to the next round. During one matchup, Aviana’s opponent had won the first three games.
“It was terrifying,” she said. “But I was perfectly okay with losing at that point. It’s like, ‘You’re 15. You got this far. You can try again next year.’”
It was a familiar table — “Black Knight” — that brought the ball back into Aviana’s court, so to speak. The Smith family has a whole host of tables at home, and Black Knight is one of them. Aviana pulled out a win, and from there, her record turned around.
Despite being a bit disappointed at their own losses, Debbie said she and Aviana’s father are “pretty tickled” at their daughter’s win. The couple founded Treasure Valley Pinball last year.
Aviana’s victory is remarkable in the world of competitive pinball, not just because of her age — most winners are at least in their 20s, and even more are twice that age — but also because of her gender. Results are still coming in from some states, so it’s not yet clear if she’s the only woman headed to nationals, but the odds point that way.
“Women are not very welcome in the sport,” Debbie said. “We don’t have the final lists, but come on. We know.”
Aviana thinks that’s a pretty cool barrier to breach, and hopes more women and girls will join in.
“It’s another wall that has been broken — a wall that I didn’t know was still standing,” she said.
She doesn’t look at it as a handicap of any kind.
“A lot of people will underestimate me at first, so I like showing up as this pretty little girl to beat them all,” said Aviana, who sported a lacy sweater and black skirt during her Saturday win.
She said players who don’t know her often don’t take her seriously, but her skills speak for themselves. Her opponents change their minds.
Still, she’s keeping her expectations in check for the national competition, which takes place March 16.
“It’s my first year, so I’m not sure how I’ll do,” she said. “I’m just really excited for everything.”