Remember when we were kids – we had to be 18 years of age or older just to play pinball machines?  And I’m not talking about just nickel machines – but any kind of pinball machines.

But we’re here today to talk about nickel pinball machines – or Bingo Pinball as it’s called on the web.

For those who aren’t familiar with the difference between nickel machines and regular pinball machines – you could win money from nickel machines (yes, it was a form of gambling and yes, it was illegal).

Nickel machines didn’t have flippers, flashing lights, or ringing bells.  Just 25 holes numbered from 1 to 25, bumpers, maybe a couple of rollover buttons, and the home puka at the bottom to shoot the ball again.  They looked like this

The concept was to get at least 3 balls in a roll or colored section depending on the game.  There were odds for getting 3 in a row, 4 in a roll, and 5 in a roll – also known as a “barrel”.

See the red, yellow, and green numbers on the bottom of the board?  Those represented getting 3, 4, or 5 in a row. Now to start a game – it cost only a nickel.  But you’d get the lowest odds. And in order to get the odds up higher, you had to pump in more nickels.  The thing is – you didn’t know how many nickels it would cost. Sometimes the second nickel would bump the odds up one step.  Sometimes it’d bump up only one color of the odds up. And sometimes it didn’t do anything. So you end up pumping more and more nickels until the odds were to your liking.

Also, pumping in nickels not only bumped up your odds but also bumped up the A-G letters (located above the odds).  Usually the A, B, C, and D would come out all at once, but the E, F, & G cost more nickels. Again, it wasn’t a set amount.  You just had to keep pumping the machine.

The A-G would slide the screen to allow you to play colored sections – besides just the up, down, and diagonal lines.  And you’d have to make up your mind of which screen you wanted to play before shooting your 4th ball. Unless your ball hit the “rollover” buttons that allowed you to move your screen after the 4th ball or even after the 5th ball.

Lost yet?  Then you will be after this.

Then there is the OK letters (located on the left of the A-G letters).  If those 2 letters lit up, then it would give you an extra game – IF you got the 2 required balls in the OK section.  And the odds for the extra game would depend on how high the green odds were when you played the OK game.

Shall I talk about the First, Second, and Third Extra ball too?

Okay, since I mentioned it.  See, after your game of 5 balls was done, you could also pump nickels to get extra balls.  Again, only the machine knows how many nickels it’ll cost you. Sometimes after pumping in 3 nickels, the First light goes on.  Pump more nickels and the Extra light goes on. Pump even more nickels until the Ball light goes on – or

give up and start a new game – throwing away all the nickels you’ve already pumped into the machine trying to get the extra ball.

I remember one time on the first nickel I threw in to chase for the extra ball – all 3 extra balls were given to me.  That was just one time, though.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention.  Because there were no flippers on these machines – you had to shake the machine and use the bumpers to try to get the ball in the hole that you want.

Shake a little to hard and you “tilt” the machine.  Game Over. Lose Money.

There were many variations of these machines.  Some didn’t have A-G screens, but instead had the 4 numbers on each corner that you could rotate, like this machine:

And some had multiple cards that you played instead, like this one:

But my favorites were machines with the OK games: County FairLaguna Beach, and my all time favorite was Golden Gate:

This machine had not only the OK game, but the Gate game too.


When I was just a little kid, my dad used to take us to Pali Lanes bowling alley as he bowled in the Friday night second shift.  I used to stand outside of the little room with all the nickel machines and watch the guys from the first shift play.  Just from observation, I figured out the game.  I also learned a lot of swear words.  And I found out what that weird sound that I’d hear every once in a while was – the guys slamming the glass on the nickel machines.

When I finally turned 18 years old – it meant that now I could play nickel machines.  My first taste of it was at Holiday Cue in the room located directly behind the desk.

Then later – I found this little back room in Moiliili called Rudkin Amusements.  I used to play there all the time.  Especially because Rudy gave a little bonus – cash out 600 points or more and he’ll throw on an extra 100 points on the machine you were playing.

I also remember playing a few times at a place in Kakaako called Warehouse #9.  I think it’s now called Velvet Touch.  Don’t know if it’s still operating.

And because it was illegal to win money – as that would be considered gambling – the trick was to say that my machine is broken so I’d like a refund of the points I’ve accumulated.  😉

Hmm… No wonder I like Vegas so much.

Did you used to play nickel machines before?  If so, where did you used to play at?  What were your favorite nickel machines?  Ever got a “barrel”?

A post by Rodney in 2010


Visit our website at



pinhead, pinball, pinball-playing addict, backbox, Pinball Machine, BIFF, flipper, panic flip, Lazarus ball, Nudging, machine, ball, pinball video games, nudge, shake, bumpers, thumper, jet,  pop, kick-out hole, ,gobble hole, drain, Ability, Achievement, Action,  Arcade, Arrangement, Art, Artist, Artwork, Attempt, American Pinball, Chicago Gaming Company. Dutch Pinball, Haggis Pinball. HomePin. Jersey Jack Pinball. Multimorphic Inc. Penny K Pinball. Quetzal Pinball, Pinball Avdentures, Punny Factory, Ninja Mania, Sushi Mania, That’s Wack, Canada, Vancouver , Spooky Pinball, Stern Pinball, SunCoast Pinball, Team Pinball, Allied Leisure, Alvin G, Atari, Bally Manufacturing, Bill Port, Capcom, Centro Matic, Coffee-Mat, Chicago Coin, Data East, Exhibit Supply Company, Fascination Int., Inc, Game Plan, Genco, Gottlieb, Hankin, Heighway Pinball, Inder, InterFlip/Recreativos Franco, Jennings & Company, Jeutel pinball, Nordamatic, Nuova Bell/Bell Games, Maresa, Mirco Games, Midway Games, Pinstar, Mr. Game, Peyper, Playmatic, Rally Play, Recel/Petaco, Sega Pinball, Sega, S.A. SONIC, Spinball, Taito, Tecnoplay, The Valley Company, Viza, Wico, Williams Electronics / WMS Industries, Zaccaria, Zidware, Back-glass, Ball, Ban, Bells, Bing, Bonus, Brand name, Bumper, Business, Buyer, Cabinet, Challenge, Chicago, Circuit, Coin-operated, Colorful, Company, Competition, Compression, Computer, Concept, Configuration, Control, Coordination, Cost, Count, Craze, Creativity, Culture, Damage, Degree, Design, Development, Dexterity, Digits, Direction, Display, Elaborate, Electric, Electronic, Elimination, Entertainment, Enthusiastic, Era, Execute, Eye-catching, Fancy, Features, Field, Flipper, Forward,


Friends,Gamble, Game, Game play, Gate, Gottlieb, Graphics,   High score, Highlight, Hit, Hit, Hobby, IFPA, International Flipper Pinball Association, Improve, Incline, Industry, Innovation, Interest, Jackpot, Jostle, Joy, Junior, Kicker, Knob, Knocked down, Launch, Layout, Leg leveler, Legitimate, Levels, License, Lights, Logo, Lose, Loss, Machine, Manipulation, Manufacture, Marketing, Mechanical, Mesmerize, Metal balls, Midway, Modern, Multi-level, Noise, Nudge, Objective, Operate, Opportunities, Pachinko, Pads, PAPA Professional and Amateur Pinball Association, Passion, Pastime, Pins, Planar, Plastic, Play field, Player, Plumb, Plunger, Plunger, Points, Practice, Profit, Progress, Propel, Quality, Quest, Quick, Rack up, Ramp, Relay, Reset, Revenue, Ricochet, Rings, Rounds, Rubber, Sales, Score, Seller, Senior, Sensitivity, Sensor, Shoot, Shoot, Shot, Skillful, Slingshot, Slug, Small, Solenoid, Sound, Speed, Spin, Stopper, Stressful, Strike, Style, Sum, Surface, Switch, Table, Talent, Target, Technique, Tilt, Tilt, Time, Transistor, Translite, Trapping, Trigger, Trigger, Type,      Unique, Unpredictability, Value, Video, Visible, Williams, Win, Winner, Wiring, Wizard, Wonder, Worthwhile, Yell, Youth, Zeal, Zero, billiards, pinball game, arcade, pachinko, foosball, videogame, minigolf, slot machine, jukebox, gamers, amusement arcade, miniature golf, joystick, retro, pinball machine, Tetris, snooker, pool hall, arcade,