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Long Island City Comedy Club Becoming a Hot Spot for Pinball Fans

 The Creek and the Cave boasts seven pinball machines, the most in Queens, according to its owner.
Pinball at The Creek and The Cave
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LONG ISLAND CITY — The city's pinball crowd is tilting toward Queens.

Long Island City comedy club and restaurant The Creek and The Cave is becoming a hot spot for pinball wizards, now boasting seven pinball machines — the largest collection in the borough, according to owner Rebecca Trent.

"I have the most in Queens," she said, saying she put the first machine in the venue's downstairs bar this past fall. "We basically kept adding them because they were so popular."

The bar now has two teams — one made up largely of comics — that compete in a coed league run by Pinball New York City. And on Sunday, The Creek and the Cave hosted its first ever pinball tournament, which drew a crowd of competitive players and devoted fans.

Among them was Frank Romero, 48, a hospital clerk from Rockland County who said he's competed in tournaments all along the East Coast and was playing at The Creek and The Cave for the first time. He said he's seen a resurgence in pinball's popularity in recent years.

"Pinball, for a while, had died," he said. "It's nice that it's coming back, and coming back strong here in New York."

Sean Grant, 40, who's been playing pinball competitively for the last two decades, said he's also seen a revival of interest in the game, pointing to spots like Modern Pinball — a pinball showroom that opened in Kips Bay last fall — as well as bars and restaurants that have the machines.

"There are a lot more of these small, pocket spots," he said, saying the increased number of local tournaments like the one held Sunday gives competitive players a chance to improve their rankings.

Trent, who said she spends about $30 to $40 of her own money on the game every week, said pinball has proved to be a bigger hit with customers than the other bar sports she's hosted in the past — which included foosball, pool and shuffleboard.

"It's got a sort of vintage feel about, but I think also it's really easy for people to just all play it, and it's not super expensive," she said, adding that pinball tends to be less competitive than pool.

"People get really mad when they lose at games while they’re drinking," she said, referring to customers' past drunken arguments over pool games. "But this one you can only really blame yourself."

The Creek and The Cave gets its pinball machines from Brooklyn Pinball, which supplies to bars across the city. The games range in price, with some costing 50 cents a play, five balls for $1 or three games for $2.

The Creek and The Cave's current collection includes limited edition Wizard of Oz and Star Trek machines — only 1,000 of which have been made — plus The Simpsons, South Park, X-Men, Theatre of Magic and Lord of the Rings.

"This is a great collection," said Greg Poverelli, a 23-year-old from Whitestone who plays frequently at The Creek and The Cave and was competing in Sunday's tournament. He started playing pinball two years ago, getting into the game after seeing the machines in local bars.

"I'm a competitive nerd like that," he said.