Ken Martin: Portland’s pinball wizard

Special Reports

Local player ranked highest in state

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Fans of pinball in Portland will recognize the three letters that top many of the machines at local arcades in town: “K-E-N.”

But just who is this mystery man?

KOIN 6 News caught up with 46-year-old Ken Martin after tracking him down via a local pinball-centered Facebook group.

Martin said his fascination with the silver ball started in childhood when he observed someone receiving a bonus round for doing very well in the game.

“Quarters were limited at the time for me,” he recalled. “video games were just eating quarter after quarter. I kind of thought well if I get good at this pinball thing maybe I can play for free and get free games and then my quarters will last longer.”

From there, his interest only kept growing in his hometown of Philadelphia, Pa. Though he said he loved the pinball scene there, which he became very involved in by helping run tournaments and the like, there was limited room for growth.

“There really wasn’t a whole lot out there.”

Still, Martin’s passion for the game continued to grow. He jumped on the opportunity to learn how to repair pinball machines for a living, quitting his dull retail job in the process.

Martin’s draw to Oregon was the 2017 solar eclipse. Martin planned, saved money, and decided to try his luck moving to Portland, which he said is one of the biggest cities for pinball in the U.S.

“I got amazingly lucky and got a job here at Quarter World,” he said. Martin has since taken up shop at an arcade called Next Level Pinball in Hillsboro, continuing his career as a pinball machine technician.

Martin now regularly competes in tournaments and even helps to run some. He’s ranked number one in Oregon for the past two years.

But Martin concedes another player–whom he called a “phenom”–is gunning for his title as champ.

“There’s a gentleman, Colin, who I have to say has better skills than I do,” he said. “I have about four or five more years until Colin can legally get into bars, so I should be able to keep that title for a couple of years.”

You can catch Martin competing at Next Level Pinball for a tournament in Hillsboro on Saturday, November 9 from noon to midnight.

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