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Month: September 2017

A Beginner’s Guide to Bingo Pinball – by Nick Baldridge

A Beginner’s Guide to Bingo Pinball – by Nick Baldridge



Nick Baldridge is one of the great ambassadors for pinball, particularly for Electro Mechanical and Bingo pinball.  He has done absolutely brilliant work with Bingo pinball machines, which you will see in his story below.  Nick hosts a podcast called For Amusement Only – The EM and Bingo Podcast and has recorded over 400 episodes.  You can find Nick on his website (here), on Facebook (here) and on Twitter (here).  Go visit Nick at the White Rose Gameroom Show (York Show) this weekend, and play the machines on Bingo Row including the Multi-Bingo which is described below.  Thanks so much to Nick for sharing some of his wealth of knowledge on Bingo Pinball.

A Beginner’s Guide to Bingo Pinball

by Nick Baldridge


“I’ve got a couple more machines out back.”


I was playing some modern and E.M. pinball machines around 2010 at my friend Steve’s house. He led the way out back, and I followed.


He flung open the door, and I saw two other machines. Recognizable as pinball, but still different, unique. Each had a shooter rod, a playfield, a cabinet. A very large backglass and an extremely large cabinet head. The head was so large, it appeared the playfields were a bit shorter than the flipper games I was used to playing.


Steve’s beautifully restored ‘Golden Gate’ at the White Rose Gameroom show a few years ago.

“Flipper games are like checkers, these… these are chess. Bingo pinball!”


This was my first meeting with a bingo pinball machine. I had no idea that such things existed before that day.


Bingo pinball machines were made as a reaction to the passing of the Johnson Act in 1950. This classified the machines manufactured by Bally, Universal, and others as gambling devices. These machines, known as “one balls” were themselves an evolution of the payout pinball created in the 1930s. The one balls allowed for multiple coin play, but the player only had one ball to achieve their goal and win some number of replays in return.  In fact, each one ball game made in the 1940s was produced in two models: a “replay” version, which contained a three-digit replay counter (which could be zeroed out at whim), and a “payout” version, which paid the player in nickels, directly upon winning.


One of the final “one ball” games Bally produced – ‘Turf King’, which is the replay version of ‘Grandstand’.

Bally had to think fast – how would they be able to continue to sell games when they were suddenly illegal? Luckily, they employed a genius in the engineering department. Don Hooker invented the bingo pinball as we know it today. The playfield had a combination of spring steel, lamps hidden behind shields on the playfield, carefully positioned posts with two types of rubber, and 25 trap holes. These holes corresponded to a bingo card on the backglass arranged in a seemingly random 5×5 grid.


The first game from Bally had six cards – each card could be bought, in order, for one nickel. The game proved extremely popular, and got around the primary issue with the one balls: on the new bingo pinball, a player could win with only 3 of 5 balls played properly.  You only had to line up three numbers on the card to win a small amount of replays. 4 in a row earned about 4 times the amount for 3. And 5 in a row earned 100 replays.


The playfield from Bally’s ‘Bright Lights’, the first bingo pinball Bally produced.

A competitor was actually first to market with their version of the bingo pinball. Lyn Durant, another genius engineer from United Manufacturing Company, was the creator of a three card game. It had a much shorter playfield comprised of a tub with 25 holes arrayed around a pop bumper, reminiscent of a roulette wheel, but this layout did not catch on due to the randomized nature of the play. Bally’s playfield design was far superior, and allowed for a skilled player to make the numbers needed to win. Durant had to concede to player demand (and therefore operator demand), and with United’s third bingo design, which almost mirrored the layout from Bally.


Both of these manufacturers started making money hand over fist. The games were no longer sold in payout versions. Bally began designing new titles and releasing them very quickly – sometimes one every other month! Each new title had more than just fancy new graphics to attract a player, though.  Large changes to the games began almost immediately. The second game Bally designed allowed for extra ball buy-in, on a randomized basis.


Subsequent games would get increasingly complex, adding things such as mechanically moving numbers on the bingo card, player-controlled ball movement after landing in a hole with amazing kicker arms, player-controlled spotted number selection, multiple colors with separate odds (number of replays awarded for winning), mechanical rearrangement of the card design itself, returning half of the balls already played back to the player at their whim, and more!


“Gay Tme”, with mechanical movement of playfield balls via the Magic Pockets feature, and backbox mechanical animation of  numbers via the Magic Lines feature.

Which brings us back to that fateful day. “Ok. I think I get it. Just line them up?”


I was unable to win. Tilting ended the game, and I tilted frequently.  But the games intrigued me. They were “Magic Screen” games, which allowed the player to shift the entire bingo card, mechanically rearranging it’s design, and in the process, changing the way replays were scored. Instead of earning replays for 3 in a row, colorful sections we’re revealed of all different shapes. For example, a shape comprised of 6 different numbers only required that you land three balls in any of the six holes corresponding to the numbers in that shape to win. They didn’t have to touch!


“Bounty”, a fantastic Magic Screen game, with the screen in the default position and in position ‘C’, which exposes some of the colored sections.

The games made sounds unlike any other pinball machine I had played. A whirring motor hum was constantly coming from that massive backbox, and the occasional click or electric snap could be heard from within. No bells, no chimes, but on a win, a satisfying ka-thunk, ka-thunk, ka-thunk….


I quickly discovered that the games could be divided into four components:

  1. Coining phase (or betting phase). During this phase, the player drops one or more coins in an attempt to earn increased odds or feature awards. Sometimes, the machine would only flash the backbox lamps, clack loudly, and award nothing at all. Other times, a satisfying chunk-chunk-chunk of multiple awards could be heard. Does it make sense to keep putting in money, or should you move onto:
  2. Playing phase. During this phase, a ball is shot onto the playfield. Only through -careful- nudging of the machine, could the ball be influenced. There were no flippers on any bingo pinball produced.
  3. Decision phase: after each ball is shot, the player must make decisions about the mechanical movement of the “screen” or other feature, keeping in mind the time tree, which will prevent further mechanical movement after a certain ball is shot. Based on this movement, different numbers may be required to earn a winning combination.
  4. Extra ball phase: didn’t win on your first five balls? Buy up to three more chances and keep trying. Does it make more sense to start over or to keep playing hopes of winning?


The playfield is a descending pyramid of trap holes, sequentially numbered. At the bottom center is a hole marked ‘ball return’. The player never loses a ball. All five must be trapped to complete a game.


The playfield from ‘Bounty’, showing the trapped balls and the ball return

Aside from the decision making process, there is the art form of learning to steer the ball. Nudging is required of these games. But learning to play a bingo pinball really taught me the subtleties of the art. Pushing, pulling, twisting, shaking, bumping. All without tilting and losing your game. Playing bingo pinball has really elevated my nudging abilities in other pinball machines, particularly those that require a “called shot” at the beginning of a ball. What keeps it interesting is that, despite the standardized playfield layout, each ball of a bingo pinball game is truly different.


There are several aspects of playing a bingo pinball machine that really attract players.  The risk/reward of how many coins to play in the betting phase.  The constantly changing goals. And reaching a point in the game where you have two “sets” – two sets of two in a row with a single number in between.  With only one number needed, you have to make your shot, otherwise, you get nothing.  Gauging your plunge using the plate under the plunger, you launch the ball.  Knowing the number you need, you steer the ball out of holes you don’t need, but the ball keeps going past the number you -do- need!  Steering it skilfully all the way to the ball return, you get ready to launch it again.  Wiping the sweat from your brow, you plunge, steer, miss again.  Back to the ball return.  Sweat, wipe, plunge, steer, and you land in the number you need.  The adrenaline shakes subside and turn to excitement as you press the “R” button to collect your replays.


The ruleset for each of these games was as long or longer than any modern pinball machine I’d played, and these particular games were made in the 1960s! I kept trying.


One day, it clicked. With a series of dramatic and skilled nudging to guide missed  balls back to the ball return, I won the “Golden Game”, a kind of mini-game called shot challenge.  My award was a large number of replays. Now I didn’t just want to learn, I needed to own one!


That started the gears turning. I began seeking out unique examples of mechanical backbox animation – Magic Lines, Magic Squares, Magic Screen. I also learned how each component within the machines truly functioned. Fixing them became second nature.


Some of the internals of a Magic Screen game, specifically ‘Bounty’

Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I just don’t have enough space to have all the games that I want. But thanks to inventions like the P3-ROC boardset, developed by Multimorphic, Inc, perhaps I could marry the 1950s tech to the most modern boardset available?  


My plan was to get a donor cabinet and allow for playfield swaps, but utilize the original hardware where possible.  The plan is a reality, and in all, there are 10 unique playfield layouts that can be swapped into the ambitious project.   Each playfield must be rewired before it can be used.  Unfortunately, the wiring outputs were not standardized.  Instead of using the more modern Molex connectors, which are small, prone to failure after multiple inserts and removals, and difficult to clean if needed, I chose to use standard Bally Jones Plugs to handle connectivity.


Jones Plug wiring, per schematic


20 Hole playfield with rollover buttons


Magic Pockets playfield with 25 holes


Magic Pockets playfield with 25 holes
28 hole playfield with playfield plastic light shields


18 hole playfield

The scope of the project is both daunting and difficult to describe.  I intended to make this the most accurate computerized simulation of the mechanics possible, to give the player the correct feeling of dropping in a nickel and receiving an award (or not!). To do this, first I had to break down the mechanics. Similar to other EM games, a bingo pinball is comprised of relays (pulse or trip), steppers (or step-switches – rotational units that change the electrical path with each pulse of a solenoid), and switches. The steppers were particularly difficult, as I modeled all of the various types (continuous step, step up/reset, and step-up/step-down).


I hand-drew the schematic for the Multi-Bingo, in the style of the 1960’s Bally bingos.

By far the largest challenge was modeling the portioning units. The motor sounds I heard that first day were actually two very large clutch-driven motorized units. Each clutch engaged at specific intervals, changing the flow of current. The portioning is controlled using a large disc with sweeping wipers (switches), and the award of features granted via four or five other rotating units.


The games also auto-portion – similarly to replay portioning on 90s games, there exists a unit that will “tighten” the award of feature and odds increases. Never unfairly, but it will require the occasional extra replay played off to get what you want. Poor players receive awards more frequently.


This project required me to translate the many input buttons for player control into each game as required, but more than that, I used the available documentation to go wire-for-wire, switch-for-switch, position-for-position and implement the game features, portioning and sounds.


A portion of one page from the manual of Bally’s ‘Hawaii’.  Each number is a wire to be mapped within the software to ensure accuracy.

Utilizing the free and open source pyprocgame framework, I set to work. Other frameworks, at the time, did not provide enough flexibility to handle a flipperless game to my standard. A year and a half later, I had finished the 138th game. While Bally designed several games in a series, there are unique items to program for every game, not to mention distinct portioning and graphics.


I drew up stencils, taking friendly scenes from three different games: United’s “Circus”, Bally’s “Beach Club” and United’s “Nevada” for the front.


Bingo artwork is some of the most complex seen in coin-op. Cabinet stencils typically had one or two extra colors, compared to flipper counterparts, and the art packages, from backglass, to playfield, to cabinet, are cohesive. Step up to a game called “County Fair”, and you can almost smell the funnel cake.


‘County Fair’, running within the Multi-Bingo

For the backglass, I commissioned comics artist (and pinball enthusiast) Ryan Claytor to draw a surround in the style of one of my favorite games, “Circus Queen”. It turned out beautifully.


Ryan Claytor’s backglass artwork frames the backglass image in the backbox wonderfully.

One of my favorite cosmetic touches is two small independently-driven computer screens mounted on the apron, which will switch the score and instruction cards dynamically as you page through the menu.


Score card from ‘County Fair’, displayed on one of the apron displays.

The real games allow you to power cycle to knock off the credits. The lack of a designated knock-off button allowed the bingo pinball machines to exist in an era where the knock-off was taboo. As the power switch for my game only turns the game off and on, I’ve added a knock-off switch and separate code to handle removal of replays.


Early United games had a bell for replay awards. Early Bally games had a knocker for feature awards or replays. Both are present in my game and operate properly based on the original design.


A common item in most bingo pinball machines is the replay register or replay counter. This is a mechanical device with three or four reels that makes a very distinctive noise when incremented or decremented. I’ve added one of these as well, in service of authentic sound.


The replay register makes a unique sound as replays are added or subtracted.  It was important to me to have the correct sound as you won.

My goal is to allow folks to see and play these wonderful games that have never had an opportunity. They have had a bad rap for being gambling devices for many years.  Over time (bingos were produced in the US from 1951-1981), each state decided that the harm to the public was too great to allow Bally to continue production, and the skill involved removed them from casinos.  All that was left was the overseas market, which still thrives today.  The games are so impossibly deep that many new converts cannot believe that they were created in the 1950s. And the beauty is that, with all the game variations, there is truly something for everyone.


In service of that goal, I will be at the White Rose Gameroom Show in York, PA, September 29th and 30th. Please come say hello, and try out my creation. Winning a four or five in a row on any game will earn you a special prize (it is quite an accomplishment).


Custom key fobs, with artwork by Ryan Claytor, are available for those who can earn a 4 or 5 in a line

For the past three years, myself and other bingo pinball enthusiasts have put together a dedicated “Bingo Row”, lining up unique examples of these beautiful games for the public to play. I also host a podcast dedicated to EM and mechanical games, and have spoken quite a lot about bingo pinball. They are the most complex and fascinating EM machines ever designed.


“You know, I bet you could replace all those mechanics with a single computer today”, I said the first day Steve showed me the internals of a bingo pinball machine, and the mile-long schematic.


I was right, but as with the games themselves, the reality was more complex than I imagined at first.


A huge “thank you” to the entire bingo pinball community for all their help – impossible parts found, technical help for games I’ve never seen, and so much more. The list is very long, and I appreciate all you’ve done.


-Nick Baldridge, the For Amusement Only E.M. and Bingo Pinball Podcast

September, 2017

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Name the Game – Monthly Giveaway

Name the Game – Monthly Giveaway

Sponsored by MEZEL MODS

Last chance – winner will be announced next Monday!  Get your answers in by 9/30 to be entered.   Identify the pinball machine pictured below for a chance to win the gift card to Mezel Mods – and if you haven’t yet, please check out Mezel Mods for high quality mods for your game!

Photo courtesy of Christopher Hutchins – High End Pins –

Hint: W2WW!

Last Week’s answer: Eight Ball Deluxe

Email guesses to, correct answers in September are entered into the drawing for a gift card to MEZEL MODS!


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Game Room of the Week

Game Room of the Week



Jack from Chicago welcomed us to check out his unique game room!  Jack grew up in the 80s when visiting a McDonald’s playland and Showbiz pizza was a child’s fantasy land.  He wanted to bring those warm and fuzzy feelings into his gameroom, where he can escape from the daily grind.  The English Bulldog is named Frank the Tank, and enjoys sleeping under the machines as Jack plays.  Thanks for sharing Jack!

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TWIP – Alice Cooper’s Nightmare Castle Side Art Revealed, CGC Timeline for Game #3, More

TWIP – Alice Cooper’s Nightmare Castle Side Art Revealed, CGC Timeline for Game #3, More

The Scoop

Alice Cooper’s Nightmare Castle Side Art Revealed

A recent Rue Morgue magazine included an article on Spooky Pinball’s upcoming game, Alice Cooper’s Nightmare Castle.  Pictures from the article appeared to show the side art for the game for the first time.  Click the image to the left to view.  The article also showed possible flipper toppers (click here to view).  Spooky previously released the translite art (check it out here), and they put out a video trailer for the machine which can be viewed here.  Looking forward to this machine’s full reveal!

Chicago Gaming Company Announces Timeline for Game #3

Doug Skor, the Vice President of Business Development at Chicago Gaming Company, announced on Pinside that CGC’s plan is to “have Pin 3 start down the line in early March, with a launch date at the TPF 2018.”  TPF is the Texas Pinball Festival which takes place March 16-18, 2018 (check out their website here). CGC has previously produced Medieval Madness Remake and Attack From Mars Remake.  There are many rumors as to which game will be remade next – possibly Monster Bash, Big Bang Bar, or Cactus Canyon.

Jersey Jack Pinball’s Dialed In! Collector’s Edition Now Shipping

The Dialed In! Collector’s Edition from Jersey Jack Pinball is arriving in homes!  This is the top of the line model for Dialed In!, and is limited to 150 machines.  Some of the upgrades on this model include a topper, laser cut side armor, and lunch with Pat Lawlor.  For the full list of differences between Dialed In! models, click here.

Thunderbirds Blurry Playfield

Yes we’ve been over this a few times, but we got another blurry playfield shot of Thunderbirds, and it is the best look yet (check it out here).  Homepin plans to show off the machine at Pinfest in Australia coming up October 7th and 8th, and also released images last week on their Facebook page of the machines packed and ready to go (see here).  Homepin previously released a video of a possible playfield toy and part of the playfieldelectroluminescent headbox decals, steel aprons with built-in leveling bubbles, and a pic of the lock inserts.

TWIP October Preview – Next Week

If you haven’t been paying attention, October is going to be kind of a big deal in the pinball world.  New machine reveals, Pinball Expo, Thunderbirds reveal, the first ever Heads-Up Pinball Championship, etc.  Next week TWIP will do a full rumor and speculation preview of October.  If you have any rumors, tips, or speculation you’d like to anonymously pass along, shoot an email to!

White Rose Gameroom Show (York Show) – Sept. 29-30th

The White Rose Gameroom Show takes place this coming weekend in York, Pennsylvania!  Check out their website here and their Facebook page here.  They will have pinball machines, video games, jukeboxes, slot machines, tournaments, door prizes, and more.  They will also have an indoor flea market area.  Check it out if you’re in the area!

Lost Lazer Lord Pinball Machine (Full Story by The Slam Tilt Podcast)

A plumber in Illinois is at a job, and finds and buys a never before seen version of the Lazer Lord Pinball Machine made by Stern.  Check out the playfield here and visit IPDB to view more pics. The crazy story is too long to cover here, but listen to Ron from the Slam Tilt Podcast explain the full story.  Check out Ron and Bruce and the Slam Tilt Podcast on your favorite podcast player, and they can be also found on Podcast Garden, Facebook, Twitch, and now YouTube.  Special thanks to Ron for cheerfully adding the podcasts to YouTube!

AC/DC Premium Vault Edition

A Facebook post from Orange County Pinballs (website here) showed pictures of the new AC/DC Premium Vault Edition – check out the post and pictures here.  Overall it looks pretty similar to the original, but with a few notable changes, including a metal backbox, circular speakers, a lower playfield window that can be removed from above the playfield, a different subwoofer, and AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd is no longer included on the artwork.

ColorDMD Release: Dirty Harry

ColorDMD, which will instantly increase your happiness in life by 12-15%, released Dirty Harry last week.  Here is the announcement, and here is a teaser video.  To buy, visit

Pinball FX3 – Available Sept. 26th

Pinball FX3, which is a pinball simulator video game for Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Windows, will be released on September 26th.  Upon release they will have tables for several popular themes released, including:

Check out the initial announcement of Pinball FX3 and their website for more information.

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Have a scoop or a juicy anonymous rumor for next week?  Email us at


Upcoming Games and Rumors

Stern Pinball

Most Recent Titles

  • Aerosmith
  • AC/DC Vault Edition
  • Star Wars


  • Elvira 3

Rumors of Future Titles

  • Guardians of the Galaxy?
  • Iron Maiden?
  • Jurassic World?
  • Deadpool?
  • Pulp Fiction?
  • New Ka-Pow Title?
  • Steve Ritchie Unlicensed?

Spooky Pinball

Most Recent Titles

  • Rob Zombie’s Spookshow International
  • Dominos (*contract game)
  • Jetsons (*contract game)
  • Total Nuclear Annihilation (*contract/house game)


  • Alice Cooper’s Nightmare Castle
  • Ben Heck’s game

American Pinball

Most Recent Titles

  • Houdini

Dutch Pinball

Most Recent Titles

  • Bride of Pinbot 2.0
  • Bride of Pinbot 3.0 (on hold)
  • The Big Lebowski (production issues)

Silver Castle Pinball

  • Timeshock (coming soon)

Jersey Jack Pinball

Most Recent Titles

  • Wizard of Oz
  • The Hobbit
  • Dialed In

Rumors of Future Titles

  • Pirates of the Caribbean?
  • Toy Story?

Chicago Gaming/Planetary Pinball

Most Recent Titles

  • Medieval Madness Remake
  • Attack From Mars Remake

Rumors of Future Titles

  • Monster Bash Remake?
  • Big Bang Bar Remake?
  • Cactus Canyon Remake?

Heighway Pinball

Most Recent Titles

  • Full Throttle
  • Alien (production issues)

Rumors of Future Titles

  • Queen?

P3 (Multimorphic)

  • Lexy Lightspeed
  • Cannon Lagoon
  • Cosmic Cart Racing


  • Thunderbirds (coming soon)

Deeproot Pinball

  • Retro Atomic Zombie Adventureland?
  • Alice in Wonderland?
  • Magic Girl?



**TWIP dreams of the day Harry Potter Pinball will be added to these rumors. Ms. Rowling, I would be willing to drink Crabbe or Goyle flavored polyjuice potion if you approve this!

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Game Room of the Week

Game Room of the Week

Lou from Canada welcomed us to check out his incredible game room!  The game room is on a second floor with a huge turning stairway to maneuver to move pins in and out.  Let me repeat that: the game room is on a SECOND FLOOR with a huge TURNING stairway.  Lou says that every pin that comes and goes is a real challenge.  Thanks for sharing Lou!

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Name the Game – Monthly Giveaway

Name the Game – Monthly Giveaway

Click here if you missed This Week in Pinball: John Popadiuk is Back — A Conversation with Deeproot Pinball *EXCLUSIVE*

Name the Game

Sponsored by MEZEL MODS

Is your brand new Star Wars pin completely mod-less?  Check out these Star Wars Mods from Mezel Mods!  Don’t own a Star Wars?  Shop for cool mods for your game here!


 Identify the pinball machine pictured below for a chance to win a gift card to Mezel Mods!  Visit Mezel Mods here to check out some of the coolest mods in pinball!

Photo Courtesy of Christopher Hutchins,

Hint: Seven drop targets on the right side of this pin, not eight

Last Week’s answer: Attack From Mars

Email guesses to, correct answers in September are entered into the drawing for a gift card to MEZEL MODS!


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Pin of the Week – from 1987

Pin of the Week – from 1987

Click here if you missed This Week in Pinball: John Popadiuk is Back — A Conversation with Deeproot Pinball *EXCLUSIVE*

Pin of the Week


This photo courtesy of Christopher Hutchins, High End Pins (

This is just for effect.

Pinside Estimated Price as of 9/17/17: $1,390 – $1,610

For a gameplay video, click here!

For rulesheet, click here!

For original flyer, click here for the front and here for the back!

Interesting notes about Fire!:

  • Marketing slogans:
    • “When you’re hot you’re hot!”
    • “It’s hot! It’s smokin! It’s burnin up the charts!”
    • “FIRE’s coming out in a blaze of glory that’s firing up play and profits at every location!”
    • “This FIRE is matchless!”
  • Easter Eggs (Ok, so these aren’t that interesting but they’re still easter eggs!) – from the Cows and Easter Eggs website
    • In the barn, there is a cow mooing.
    • A moo is also heard on coin-drop and when pressing start.


Manufacturer: Williams
Display: Alphanumeric
Players: 4
Flippers: 2
Ramps: 5
Release date: January, 1987
System: Williams System 11
Design: Barry Oursler
Software: Dan Lee
Artwork: Mark Sprenger
Music: Chris Granner
Production run: about 7,700


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