Last year, New York introduced us to the city’s high scorers in bar games such as bocce, billiards, and Big Buck Hunter. On October 1 and 2, the local champion of the latter, Alex DerHohannesian, will travel to Chicago to compete in the Big Buck Hunter World Championship and once again try to beat Nick Berg, the Minneapolis hunting aficionado who took the title from his brother Jerad Berg in 2009. But first, he must defeat his local nemesis, Andy Lin, in the regional finals. During this time of year, Andy and Alex play the game for up to five hours at a time — hence the $8,000 to $10,000 Andy estimates that he’s spent shooting buck ever since he got hooked two years ago. We asked Andy to put down the gun so we could probe the depths of his obsession.
So are you and Andy what Crazy Legs and Racer X are to competitive eating: BFFs who battle each other?
We’re basically one and two in New York. We’re archrivals, but we’re buddies. I met him at the regional finals for the first time, during the world championships two years ago. We competed last year — he beat me by a critter in the regional finals and I beat him by a critter in the world championship.
How did you get hooked on this?
I was bartending at Mama’s Bar two summers ago, and we got a Buck Hunter machine. It was so slow during the summer that I’d just start playing on my shifts. I was really good off the bat.
Where do you have high scores?
On any given machine downtown or on the Lower East Side. I kind of have a problem, which is if I walk into a bar and there’s a Buck Hunter machine I have to take all the high scores.
So how much money have you blown on the game?
Oh Lord, probably at least $8,000 to $10,000, but I’ve probably won $3,000 to $4,000. There’s a monthly online national championship where you have to find an online machine (some are hooked up), and at the end of the month whoever has the highest score wins money.
What’s to prevent online players from just sticking their gun really close to the screen?
Nothing, but I’ll beat anyone who does that. When you get up close to the machine, you have to move the muzzle further to go the same distance as if you were standing far away.
What are your other secrets?
I have a sine wave of drinking that I’ve logged for myself: Around three drinks I’m kind of at prime time; if I keep drinking, I kind of dip a little bit; and around five I go back up. It goes up and down until the rare occasion when I’m totally obliterated, and then somehow I’m incredible. Also, posture and breathing is a big thing.
The Berg Brothers are apparently the ones to beat, and they were trained by their SWAT team uncle. Are you tempted to try your hand at real-live hunting?
No, I’m a practical guy; I won’t do things unless I have to. But I would be great in an Armageddon or apocalyptic situation.