How To Start A Game of Pinball (Don’t Be a Noob)

“Really?  A post on how to start a game??  Who doesn’t know this?”

Well, beginning players may not know.  People who’ve never seen a pinball machine won’t.  While it seems rather intuitive, you’d be surprised at the number of people I’ve seen over the last 4 years ask me how you start a game.  So fear not beginner, here’s how to do it (don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone you asked):

1)  If the machine you’re playing is in a public location, you need to feed it some money.  20150121_180025

Here’s the front view of a pinball machine.  The red arrow is pointing to what’s known as a “coin mech”.  As the name implies, you put quarters in here to add “credits” to the game.

The blue arrow is pointing to the “dollar bill mech”.  As you may imagine, dollar bills go here to add credits to the game.

2)  Note how much a game costs to buy a credit.  You’ll find this info by looking at the lower right hand corner of the pinball glass (this area of the machine is known as the “apron”).  There you’ll find a price sheet, like this one:


Wow!  Only 50 cents and you’re on your way to a good time.  If you’re a straight up baller and have $2 to spend, you get an even better value!

3) Press Start!  You’ll typically find the start button on the front of the machine, top left hand corner (see first picture again).

Want to know how many credits are on the machine?  Simply look up at the DMD (Dot Matrix Display) and it will tell you.  Check out the pic:


4)  Did you know that on most games, up to 4 players can play?  Once you have 4 credits in the game, simply hit the start button 4 times and viola, you have yourself a 4 player game of pinball.

When multiple players are in a game, they alternate taking turns.  So once player one’s first ball drains, it is now player two’s turn.  The game is over once all players play 3 balls (unless they’ve earned an extra ball).

A good way to tell how many players are currently in the game is to look at the DMD.  You should see 4 scores, as shown in the picture below:


But what about older machines?  Machines without a DMD?


The coin mechs on those are nearly always in the same spot as DMD games.  The start button location can vary though.  For instance, pictured above is a Gottlieb Countdown from 1979.  The arrow in the photo indicates that the start button is to the right of the machine, rather than top left.

Even though it doesn’t have a DMD, you can still tell how many credits are currently on the game:


If you click on the photo,the number “99” is representing how many credits are on the game (I’m a baller, what can I say?). The position may vary, but by looking at the backglass of a game, you should always be able to tell how many credits are currently available.

Since there’s no DMD, the number of players is represented by what’s known as an alpha numeric display.  You can tell that Countdown is a 4 player game, as there are 4 score displays.  Every time you hit the start button, a score display will come on.  The game will also make an audible noise, indicating that another player has entered the game.

Well there you have it, now you can start your path to becoming the best pinball player in the world (no excuses).


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