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Dave Hollinsworth

Jan 24, 1994, 12:44:24 AM1/24/94
Here ya go! Not much new this time, but here it is anyway....

New in this revision:
- Added one new tip on lining up shots on the playfield.
- Finally remembered to update the "Multiball" section with
the info about Data East and the use of the word
-------------------- Cut Here --------------------
The game-playing tips list.
Version date: 1/24/93
Compiled by: Dave Hollinsworth (
If you have any corrections, additions, or comments, please send 'em
my way! You could join the elite list of people below! :-)

Andrew Arensburger, Andrew M. Boardman, Tom Capek, David D.
Clark, Jonathan N. Deitch, Adrian Donati, Jerry Duffy, Brent Earl,
Slender Fungus, Brian Hindenburg, Dave Hollinsworth, Keith Johnson,
Stephen Jonke, Mike Kahler, Kamchatka Charlie, Kevin Martin, Dallas
Overturf, Tad Perry, Daina Pettit, Mark Phaedrus, rON, Lyman F.
Sheats Jr., Joe Schwartz, Dave Stewart, Erik Wesselak, Matt Wilding,
and John Yeates.

If you have access to either FTP or FTPmail, there is a archive located at (IP#,
in directory pub/sigma/pinball), which contains the most recent
copies of various tip lists, rule sheets, and other pinball-related
stuff. Contact Kevin Martin ( for info, or to submit

Table of Contents
1: Definitions (or, "Speak Like a Pro")
2: General Playing Tips & Information
2.1: Stance
3: Etiquette
4: Beginner's Tips
5: Shaking and Nudging: The Key to it All
6: Saving a Center Drain
6.1: Without a center post
6.2: With a center post
7: Saving an Outlane Drain
8: Behind-The-Flipper Saves (or, "When Section 7 Doesn't Help")
8.1: The "Bang Back"
8.2: The "Death Save"
9: Multiball Play
10: Other Flipper Techniques
10.1: Backhand shots
10.2: Trapping the Ball
10.3: Flipper Passing
11: Miscellaneous Techie Stuff
11.1: Of Flippers and Men
11.2: Time for some Maintenance
11.3: ROM revisions
12: A Final Word

***** Section 1: Definitions *****
- "Catch": when the ball is held in the V formed by an upraised
flipper and the lower part of the inlane.
- "Drain": the act of losing a ball.
- "End of Stroke Switch" (abbreviated "EOSS"): the part of an
older-style flipper mechanism that "shorts out" a section of the coil
so that the current is stronger. (See Section 11.1 .)
- "Flipper Coil": the mechanism that drives a flipper up. (See
Section 11.1 .)
- "Habitrail": this is the given name for the
wire guides that are used above the playfield to move the ball
- "Inlane": the two lanes near the bottom of the machine that
return the ball to the flippers. Also called a "return lane."
- "Outhole": the area below the flippers where lost balls go.
- "Outlane": the two lanes near the bottom of the machine that
lead to the drain area.
- "r.g.p": abbreviation for "", our second home.
- "SDTM": acronym for "Straight Down The Middle."
- "Slam": a form of tilting, usually caused by hitting the coin
box too hard, by dropping the machine, by pounding the underside of
the cabinet, or by striking the back cabinet. This immediately
forfeits your entire game (and, on older machines, your accumulated
credits), with no chance for a match or for initial entry. See "Tilt"
for more info.
- "Slingshot": the two triangular things located immediately
above the flippers. Hitting one ricochets the ball off in the opposite
- "Solenoid": a coil, with another coil or magnet inside, used in
flippers and kickers and such. When the coil(s) are energized, the
opposing magnetic fields cause the inner piece to move.
- "Tilt": what happens when you shake too hard. There are
three mechanisms that are used to detect machine abuse; the first
is simply a conical pendulum suspended inside a metal ring. As the
machine is nudged, the pendulum will swing, and if it ever touches
the ring, TILT. All new machines can be set to give one or more "Tilt
Warnings" before actually tilting, and tilting in this fashion causes
immediate loss of both the ball in play and your accumulated bonus
for that ball. The second mechanism is the "ball roll" tilt; it's a
pinball sitting in a metal track. The track has a shallow slope in the
same direction as the playfield, so the ball usually rests in the
bottom of the track; at the top of the track is a sensor. If you
physically lift the front of the machine too far, the ball rolls up the
track and contacts the sensor. At the very least, this is an
automatic tilt; no warnings. On the vast majority of machines, it's
a slam tilt. Finally, there are usually one or more impact sensors,
placed in places likely to be the subject of player abuse, such as the
coin door and the playfield glass. Banging on one of these places
hard enough to trigger one of these sensors will cause a slam tilt.

***** Section 2: General Playing Tips & Information *****
- Wear comfortable clothing.
- Before playing any game for the first time, read the rules
card that accompanies it. Most of the time, these cards are less
then helpful, but they are good for getting a basic feel for a game
(i.e. what shots to go for, the names used for various playfield
objects, etc.)
- Extension to the above: take the time to learn the layout of a
particular game. Learn where the best shots and the drain shots are,
and how the various shots interact with one another, so you don't,
say, spend time sending the ball to the bumpers when another ramp
shot will light the extra ball.
- Learn about a specific machine by watching others play.
- If you drain miserably, don't tilt the machine out of
frustration. You'll just lose more points if you do.
- Unless explicitly advertised, or your operator is
disreputable, pinballs *do not* have magnets anywhere underneath
them. Spin and rubber are the usual causes of weird motion.
- One way to take spin off of the ball is to give the machine a
"downward slap" whenever the ball bounces against rubber, or even
metal. This is literally just slapping down on the lockdown bar. It
looks and sounds silly, but it can often help reduce spin and speed.
- If the machine has a very sensitive Slam Tilt, it is often due
to a loose coin door. One way to solve this problem is to wedge a
coin of some sort between the door and the metal frame around it.
This will wedge the door in place and solve a lot of loose-door Slam
Tilt problems.
- During the very first ball of any game (i.e. Player 1's Ball 1),
pressing the start button will add another player to the game. From
the second ball on, pressing the start button will abort the current
game for all players and begin another one. (Beginning with Fish
Tales, Williams has adopted an optional polling scheme that will
only restart your game if the button is held down for about a second.
Kudos to them for this great idea, and if your operator doesn't have
this option turned on, harass him until he does so.)
- On all new games, you can hold down either flipper while the
game is in progress, and the game will display a few stats about the
current game situation (replay, credits remaining, number of ramp
shots to light the extra ball, etc.). Williams calls this the "status
report," and Data East calls it "instant info." While this is active,
some games will let you tap the other flipper button to page quickly
through the screens. Gottlieb games will usually display just the
replay value, and sometimes the high scores.
- Entering your initials: left flipper button to go one letter
back in the alphabet, right flipper button to go forward in the
alphabet, start button to record this initial and go on to the next.
(This is true of most machines, although some Gottliebs have
separate buttons for initial entry.)
** 2.1: Stance **
- Choose some comfortable position for your wrists. They will
get tired if they aren't held properly. About waist level is about
right for most people, depending on height of the person and the
- The higher you hold your head, the better you'll be able to see
the ball's position. The lower you hold it, the better you'll be able to
judge its direction (e.g., while trying to decide whether or not to let
it bounce off the center post); find a good compromise.
- Try to put your weight more on your feet then your hands.
This way, your shaking will have more impact, and you run less risk
of hurting yourself.

***** Section 3: Etiquette *****
- Don't touch another player's cabinet.
- Give other players plenty of space.
- Shut up. It's usually OK to tell someone things that they
couldn't have seen (such as how big the jackpot was), but people
usually don't like it when you point out the obvious to them. Same
goes for trying to engage in idle chatter while someone is playing:
unless the player is a good friend of yours, this is usually frowned
- If you walk away from a machine, you forfeit any credits on
it (so don't ask someone to watch the machine while you go to the
bathroom, unless he's a really good friend; if you come back and find
him playing your credits, don't be surprised).
- If you want to play a game that someone else is playing, ask
the person *between balls*. In many places, it is customary to
plunk down a quarter on the glass, on top of the rules sheet (caveat:
be careful that your quarter doesn't slide down below the lockdown
bar and get eaten); just make sure that you do this between balls. If
you do either of these while a person has a ball in play, it could
interfere with his concentration, which could make him interfere
with your life. :-)
- If there are people standing around watching you and/or
waiting to play your game, don't add any more money yourself before
you offer the opportunity to join in. As long as you have credits on
the machine, you are entitled to play them out, but when there are
zero credits on the machine you should move aside or offer to play
doubles. (It's up to you...some people really don't play doubles
wellbut for the most part, it makes you look better if you're not a
machine hog. And besides, when you are playing well, it's so much
more fun to have people watching when you get a good game. :-) )
- If you are really good at a particular game, you may want to
ask if anyone wants to join in before you start any new game, even if
you have credits left (with them adding money, of course, unless
you're feeling generous today). If they don't join in, then they can't
complain that you're taking too long. Sometimes people say that
they'll wait till you are finished, in which case you can politely tell
them that you plan on racking up replays for a little while longer, so
they should join in now. (IMHO, this is great if you're known as the
local get a little respect and admiration, and you get to
give pointers to the people you're playing with. Kinda gives you a
Tommy complex, but hey....)
- Keep an eye on any small children in the immediate area. A
lot of games have ended because of kids deciding that your start
button would be a fascinating plaything. If the kids are yours, don't
let them run around near pinball machines.

***** Section 4: Beginner's Tips *****
- If you're a novice, and want to become a wizard, make sure
you have the time and the money.
- Be willing to spend a few dollars just practicing the various
tips. Just tell yourself, "OK, for this game, score doesn't matter.
I'm just here to practice my slap saving," so you don't get too
frustrated at not winning replays. :-)
- Probably the most important first thing to learn is to flip
with *one flipper at a time*. Witness someone using both flippers
simultaneously, and you'll probably see why. :-)
- Playing regularly is more important than playing a lot;
playing for five hours consecutively once a month is worse than
playing for half an hour twice a week.
- Play a varied selection of games, since this will give you a
better feel for games in general. Playing one game all the time will
of course improve your ability on that game, but then you will find
that you're not as good at making a similar shot on another game.
- Being able to control the ball, and being able to make
controlled shots is probably the key thing to increasing one's
average score on any game.
- It is vital to watch the ball through the entire operation of
the flipper. A glance away at the last instant to look at the intended
destination will often affect your timing. (Sometimes holding your
head low to the playfield will allow you to see both the ball and your
destination simultaneously. Also see "Multiball Play", Section 9.)
- Aiming the ball involves knowing when to operate the flipper
according to the ball's position on it. A good way to learn how to
aim the ball to a desired place: with the ball in the catch position,
straighten out your free hand (i.e. the one not holding the flipper up)
and use it as a guide, pointing from the flipper to the desired place.
This is like using a cue stick in pool as a guide to find the right
angle for a shot. Then, once you have a feel for the flippers, you can
learn to aim with a moving ball.

***** Section 5: Shaking and Nudging: The Key to it All *****
- Shaking the machine is one of the things that MUST be
practiced in order to get right. The timing will become more
apparant as it is practiced more. The art of nudging is not an easy
thing to describe in words, but here's an attempt anyway. :-)
- Machines are usually much more sensitive to side-to-side
shaking than to forward-to-back. Shake this way whenever possible.
However, there are situations where side-to-side shaking is
necessary to save the ball.
- Forward-to-back shaking is effective for the entire
playfield, while side-to-side shaking is really only effective for the
lower part of the playfield.
- Don't be shy about using body english: although, of course,
it's much more impressive if you manage to get a high score without
ever nudging the machine.
- One area of the playfield where nudging is absolutely vital is
around the slingshots. A ball that is moving horizontally is much
more likely to drain, especially on newer machines. Knowing how to
nudge the machine, both when the ball first hits the slingshots and
when it leaves them, will greatly decrease the number of outlane
drains. Generally, if a ball is going to hit the lower half of a
slingshot (i.e. closest to the flippers), nudge forward just as the ball
makes contact with the slingshot rubber. If a ball is going to hit the
upper half of a slingshot, nudge foward just after the ball ricochets,
to force it further up the playfield and away from the outlanes.

***** Section 6: Saving a Center Drain *
- Sliding the machine: some machines will put up with side-
to-side sliding without tilting because there is very little jarring of
the machine involved. If the ball is heading toward the center drain,
slide the machine to move one of the flippers into the path of the
ball as it is coming down. The ball basically moves along the same
line in space whether you slide or not. This technique takes
advantage of this fact to ensure the ball always hits a flipper. If
you get really good at this technique, you will hardly ever suffer
center drains on machines that easily allow sliding. Note: Sliding is
easier on some machines than others due to total weight, weight
distribution, playfield height, the floor surface friction, and of
course, tilt sensitivity. Try to get behind your push as much as
possible to avoid hurting yourself.
** 6.1: Without a center post **
- Slap saving: the object of a slap save is to brush the ball
with one flipper just enough to knock it onto the other flipper. From
there, it can either be hit back into play, or knocked back onto the
first flipper. Basically, if a ball is going to go down the center,
choose (quickly) which flipper you think the ball will come closer to.
Wait until the ball is a few inches above that flipper, and then wind
up and slap both the flipper button and the side of the machine. Hard.
If you do this with the right timing, the ball will hit the tip of the
upraised flipper. Usually the ball gets hit just enough to be reached
by the opposite flipper, so you'll probably want to follow up the first
slap with a lighter one on the other flipper button. If you get enough
of the ball, you can either catch it or hit it back into play from
there. Otherwise, you will have to do a secondary slap save to hit
the ball back to the first flipper. This, however, requires that the
first flipper be returned to the down position by this time. You'll
probably find that on a badly maintained machine, the flippers take
their sweet time returning to the down position, making this move
impossible. (This is also the case if the player is so thrilled that he
actually saved the ball that he forgets to lower the original flipper.
:-) ) However, if you are lucky enough to be playing on a pin with
quick flippers, you can perform this "three-point" slap save.
**6.2: With a center post **
- Center posts are a little more tricky, since you have to
decide whether to use the flippers or whether to let the post do the
work for you. On a game without a post, you always go for the slap
save, but on a game with a post, there's that additional split-second
decision that you have to make that makes games with posts a little
more challenging (although they look easier).
- It takes practice to develop the nerves to just let a ball
bounce off of the center post. Generally, the ball will only bounce
back into play if it is heading *straight* down the middle towards
the post. Also, the ball needs to be moving fairly fast in order to
bounce high enough. Some people prefer to always go for a slap save
whenever possible, and to only let the ball bounce if it is heading
exactly between the two flippers.
- If you do decide to let the ball bounce, *don't flip*. If you
use the flippers and the ball hits the post, most of the time the ball
will just hit the underside of a raised flipper and drain. (A group of
players in Detroit calls this not flipping "The Chill Maneuver," since
you have to use a lot of restraint.) Also, try to nudge the game in
such a way so that the ball will hit the post as squarely as possible.
This will help to put the ball back in play, as it can counteract any
spin that the ball has picked up.

***** Section 7: Saving an Outlane Drain *****
- Although it may sound obvious, the best way to save a ball
from an outlane is not to let it get near one in the first place. The
next two tips are based on that little piece of wisdom:
- Nudge the machine forward as the ball strikes the slingshot
bumpers or heads for the outlane area, to force the ball back up the
playfield. See Section 5 for a little more detail.
- If the ball is heading toward an outlane, try to bump it out of
the way before it gets to the top of the outlane (e.g., try to bump it
against a slingshot). Once it gets to the post that divides the inlane
from the outlane, it's much harder to save it. If the ball does get to
that post, use nudging and rubber in that area to save the ball.
- If the ball stops on the divider between the outlane and
inlane, move the machine sharply toward the inlane, then as quickly
as possible toward the outlane. Balls tend to pick up more velocity
on the first movement, so most will fall on the inlane side of the

***** Section 8: Behind-The-Flipper Saves *****
- This section is intentionally not very descriptive, because
there are already two separate tip sheets devoted to this subject:
Dave Stewart's "Guide to Bang Backs", and Kevin Martin's "The
Pictorial Death Save." They are both available at the Archive (see
the top of this list) as "bangbacks" (a text file) and either
"deathsave.gif" or "" (GIF and PostScript formats). If
you want to learn more about these two techniques, grab those two
items from the Archive.
- Which to use? Generally, a slow-moving ball is better for a
Bang Back, and a fast-moving ball is better for a Death Save.
- Before you try these on a game, look immediately below the
flippers. On some games, there are two small metal rods sunken
into the playfield. If your game has these, the techniques are harder
to do successfully. (They interfere more with Bang Backs than Death
Saves, but they do reduce the margin of error for both techniques.)
- If you're going to try either of these, pull the game out from
the wall. If it's against the wall, your chances of a successful Bang
Back / Death Save decrease to almost nothing, and you run the risk
of doing serious damage to the upright portion of the machine. Or,
pulling the plug out of the wall.
- Word of warning: these techniques are both prone to slam
tilts. Loose coin doors and sensitive slam switches are usually very
uncooperative when it comes to popping the ball back up into the
play area from behind the flippers. You may want to pre-test a
game's slam sensitivity before you actually do it when you are
playing. Bang Backs are more dangerous in this regard, because the
motions involved are very close to those that you might use to
intentionally slam tilt the machine.
- If you successfully do a Bang Back / Death Save, be
especially careful not to disturb the machine for a few seconds
afterwards to let the tilt pendulum settle. A slap save or even
sending the ball to the bumpers can easily trigger a Tilt.
- Some of the newer widebody games (Judge Dredd and ST:TNG,
particularly) are VERY heavy. Unless you do a Bang Back or Death
Save *just* right, you will very likely hurt yourself. In other words,
find another machine to practice these on. :-)
** 8.1: The "Bang Back" **
- When the ball drains down the side, it rolls along a metal
wall while on its way to the ball trough. Hold up the flipper on the
same side as the ball, and when the ball is almost below that
flipper, give the machine a hard bump forward and either upward or
parallel to the playfield. The ball should move parallel to the raised
flipper, and come to rest on the lowered one. The trick is not to
push the machine a lot, but to accelerate the machine hard and for a
very short period of time. If done properly, even a sensitive-Tilt
machine won't notice it.
- Some people find that this technique works better with
crossed hands (i.e. if the ball drains out the right side, use your left
hand to hold up the right flipper and bump the machine with your
right hand), and others say that it works better with hands in the
normal positions. If you decide to try this technique, try both ways
and see if one is preferable for you.
- Generally, the slower the ball is moving, the easier it is to
Bang Back, both because there isn't as much natural motion to
contradict, and because it gives the player more time to prepare.
** 8.2: The "Death Save" **
- Usually, this only works from the right side, but see the
special "Gottlieb Death Save" below. Look immediately below the
flippers on any machine, and there will be a piece of metal facing up
and right (immediately above the kicker that returns the ball to the
ball storage area near the plunger). As the ball goes down the right
outlane, hold up the left flipper. Just as the ball comes to the
aforementioned metal plate, or slightly before (you have to get the
hang of it for each particular machine), move the machine quickly
forward and slightly to the right. Depending on the speed of the ball,
the distance between the metal plate and the flippers, and the tilt
sensitivity, you may experience a moderate degree of success at
getting the ball back in play. The ball should come to rest on the end
of the right flipper--quickly drop the left and flip the right. Again,
push hard and fast, so as not to disturb the Tilt pendulum.
- On Gottlieb machines, there is a small post below the
flippers. If the ball drains down the left outlane, it is possible to do
a "Gottlieb Death Save" off of this post. Just reverse left and right
in the above paragraph, and use the post instead of the metal plate.

***** Section 9: Multiball Play *****
- On most new games, a significant percentage of the points
are awarded during the various multiball modes. This section gives
various techniques for playing in multiball. Of course, most of the
tips in other sections are still valid. :-)
- Note that "Multiball" (or "Multi-Ball") is a Williams/Bally
trademark. Data East ran afoul of Williams lawyers, and for a few
games (Lethal Weapon 3 through Jurassic Park) called their mutiple-
ball play "Tri-Ball." In Last Action Hero, it was called "M-Ball."
Then, Data East settled their suit with Williams, and was able to
license the use of the word. So, starting with Tales From the Crypt,
they can use the word "Multiball" (even though it still says "M-Ball"
in some of the displays). Gottlieb has always used the word
"Multiball" without a problem...wonder why?
- Although this may seem obvious, try to manage things so that
you only have to worry about one ball at a time. Several balls
bouncing wildly near the flippers usually means a quick drain for at
least one of them. Some solutions are: try to trap one on a flipper
(a temporary solution, as Murphy's Law dictates that the other
ball(s) will soon arrive at the same flipper), or "park" one ball
somewhere on the table where it can occupy itself for several
seconds. Bumpers are good for this, as are ramps.
- Multiball is the one time when flailing at the balls is an
acceptable method of play. Just make sure that it's constructive
flailing, not random flailing. :-)
- In multiball, it is often impossible to watch a ball through
the entire operation of the flipper; try to "zoom out" and look at the
entire playfield, not just one ball. Then you can "zoom in" on a
particular shot that must be made. Having a good "feel" for the
flippers helps a lot here, too. (Twilight Zone is a GREAT machine for
practicing this tip, because it will stop the ball and play the Zone
theme ("Do Doo Do Du" know what I mean) before a Jackpot or
Camera shot. Just "zoom out" until you hear that music, and then
look up and "zoom in" on the upcoming big point shot.)
- Most games with upper-playfield flippers have jackpot shots
that are meant to be shot from this flipper. On these games, be
aware when a ball is coming to this flipper, and sometimes it's
better to ignore the lower balls for a second, even if one of them
drains, in exchange for getting a jackpot. Also, look for shots that
will feed a ball to the upper flipper (for example, the Hidden Hallway
on Funhouse, or Thing on TAF).
- If you have one ball on or coming to a flipper while another is
about to center drain, just aim and hit the second ball with the first.
A bit unpredictable, but it will work.

***** Section 10: Other Flipper Techniques *****
** 10.1: Backhand shots **
- This refers to any shot made with the flipper that wouldn't
be normally used. (Example: using the right flipper to hit the right
ramp in a game.) These type of shots are usually made from the edge
of the flipper closest to the slingshots, and are usually not as
powerful or accurate as forehand shots. However, being able to use
them effectively can increase scores. Some games are more friendly
towards backhand shots than others; experiment a little. Note that
games with short flippers are harder to backhand on.
- Short backhand shots can be set up from a flipper-trapped
ball. If you have a ball trapped beneath the target or lane you want
to hit, make a very quick and tiny flip, and hold the flipper up. The
ball should roll up the inlane a bit, gaining enough velocity to roll up
the upraised flipper a little. When it is at the right position and has
the right velocity (usually none or just as it's starting to go back
down), flip quickly and hard. You can often slap the ball up parallel
to the slingshot and wherever you wanted. Of course, there is a
danger that it may just go over the slingshot and into the outlane.
** 10.2: Trapping the ball **
- Beginning players tend to just flail randomly at everything
that comes near a flipper. Intermediates tend to just hold the
flipper up and keep it there. This works for some cases, but in
others the ball will bounce randomly back up into play, or roll up the
inlane and right back down the outlane, or any of a number of
uncontrollable things.
- The "Dead Trap" (aka the "Drop Catch"): when the ball is
moving toward a flipper, hold that flipper up, and immediately
before the ball hits the flipper, let it drop. This will absorb almost
all of the ball's energy, and you'll wind up with the ball just sitting
on the lowered flipper. It's easier said than done, and usually takes
a lot of practice to master. But it's well worth it. (This works best
with Williams flippers, but then again, what doesn't? :-) ) Be aware
that the ball may still have a lot of spin--it may bounce slightly,
come down, and accelerate towards the center drain at about Warp
Factor 9. Be ready to flip.
- The "Delayed Dead Trap / Drop Catch" this is very similar to
the technique above, but you release the flipper exactly as the ball
hits it, or just slightly afterward. After the flipper comes to a rest,
the ball will actually roll slightly back up the flipper, possibly into
the inlane for a catch or immediate shot. Note that both variations
of this technique are easier when the ball is moving fast, since in
order for this to work the ball must be moving faster then the
flipper. The faster it's going, the less likely you will release the
flipper too early, and the ball is more likely to catch up with the
flipper before it reaches its rest position.
- The "Live Trap": basically, this is the opposite of the Dead
Trap. Instead of holding the flipper up, time your flip so the flipper
will be all the way up at the instant the ball hits it. If done
properly, the ball will then roll down into the standard catch
- The "Bounce": if a ball is heading toward a flipper, and you
really wish the ball was heading toward the other flipper so you can
catch it, just keep the flipper down and let it bounce off the flipper
rubber and over to the other flipper. This won't work very well if
the game you are playing has loose, dirty, or torn flipper rubbers. A
nudge at the moment of contact can be helpful.
** 10.3: Flipper Passing **
- These are techniques designed to move the ball from one
flipper to the other. Note that the "Bounce," given above, also
applies here.
-If the ball is caught on one flipper and you wish it were on
the other flipper, many times there is a playfield feature (such as a
ramp) which can be hit from one flipper and returns the ball to the
other. (The ramps on T2, for example.) This is especially helpful
when you want a running shot on a flipper; that is, you'd rather make
a shot from an incoming ball than from a caught ball.
- The "Trap Pass": with a flipper up and the ball caught on that
flipper, just release the flipper and very, very, very quickly give it a
tap back to the up position. The ball should hit the lower corner of
the slingshot, hit the flipper (or the bottom part of the return lane),
and move over to the other flipper. It's actually pretty easy to do;
all it takes is a little practice. And it's better to flip too soon than
too late for this one--too soon will usually just make the ball
bounce around without leaving the flipper area, or roll back up the
inlane, while too late will often bounce the ball unpredictably back
up into the center of the playfield.
- The "Tap Pass": with a caught ball, release the flipper and
then very gently and quickly tap the flipper button just enough to
move the ball to the other flipper. Technically the ball does not have
to be trapped on the flipper to use this technique. It can be moving
or not; it depends on how refined your control of the flippers is.
Trapping it to start is the easiest way, but it can be used while the
ball is moving, where the trap pass is not possible to do. This tends
to work better with the "old" Williams flippers than with solid-
state ones. Note: the difference between this and the "trap pass" is
that you do not bank the ball off the slingshot or anything else. It is
a pass from flipper to flipper that when done correctly touches
nothing but the two flippers. Also, in the case of the "trap pass," the
flipper noticeably moves, but in the case of the "tap pass" the
flipper normally moves no more than .25 inches.
- The "Lane Pass": this is much more risky. Basically, you
want to shoot the ball across the opposite flipper and up through the
opposite return lane. With the ball in the same position as above,
just let the flipper down, so the ball starts rolling down the flipper
toward the center drain. Hit the flipper button just as the ball
reaches the end of the flipper. The ball should shoot just over the
opposite flipper and up the opposite return lane. Be careful not to
shoot too fast, though, or the ball may go all the way up the inlane
and drop neatly into the outlane.
- The "Touch Pass": With the ball in the catch position, lower
the flipper and let the ball roll to about halfway down the flipper.
Then, tap the flipper button extremely lightly (do not push it all the
way in). The ball will bounce over to the opposite flipper. Strength
required depends on the condition of the flippers. Flipper button
switches must be in good shape for this to work, but it works on
more machines than you might at first imagine.
- The "Speed Pass": If a ball is coming down an inlane at a
fairly high speed (usually by a ramp shot or other shot that involves
habitrails), you can sometimes just hold the flipper on that side up,
and let the ball "ramp" over to the other flipper. Sometimes a small
forward push when the ball nears the center space can help the ball
make it across. (An extension to this: with a little practice, you
can learn to raise the other flipper at just the right time so the ball
will roll gently down into a catch position. It's very similar to the
"Live Trap," given above.)

***** Section 11: Miscellaneous Techie Stuff *****
- For those of you who like to impress and/or annoy your
arcade operators, presenting some behind-the-coinbox info!
** 11.1: Of Flippers And Men **
- Info on how the different manufacturers' flippers work, and
some probable causes for flipper weakness:
- Williams / Bally: On an older machine (pre-Addams Family),
when you press the flipper button, the current flows through only a
portion of the flipper coil, generating a high magnetic field that
forces the flipper up with a lot of power. When the flipper is all the
way up, the end of stroke switch opens, and the current now must
flow through the entire coil. This creates a lower magnetic field,
which holds the flipper up without burning out the coil (the high
current would do this very quickly). A newer Williams machine uses
two coils, one for high power and the other for low power, and uses
the EOSS to switch off the high-power coil. If the EOSS breaks, the
flipper will operate on a timing setup similar to the Data East one
(see below). Williams calls this setup "FlipTronic II." The general
opinion on r.g.p is that Williams / Bally flippers are the best for
playing with (that classic "Williams Feel").
- Data East: On a pre-Jurassic Park Data East, there are two
current inputs, one at 50 volts DC and the other at 8VDC, and no
EOSS. When you press the flipper button, the higher current
activates to fire the flipper, and then a timer will switch to the
lower current, to hold the flipper up. This setup is called a "Solid
State Flipper." A newer Data East appears to use a setup similar to
"old" Williams flippers. [Anyone know better?]
- Gottlieb: System 80 machines (late 70's to present [?]) use a
single coil with an EOSS. There are three inputs to the coil, with a
diode across the outside two. The diode is there to help the
magnetic field that the coil produces collapse more quickly when the
coil is de-energized, thus saving wear and tear and decreasing the
flipper reset time.
- Alvin G. & Co.: I've never seen one. Anyone got info on them?
All I've heard is that their flippers are STRONG...they make the ball
move incredibly fast, and thus controlling the ball is harder.
- So why do they get weak? On most older machines, the cause
is dirty or pitted contacts. Andy Oakland's FAQL on maintaining
machines has more info on this, but suffice it to say that the sparks
generated by electrical contact slowly affect the contact's ability
to, well, contact. So, less electricity gets through, and the flipper
loses power. Cleaning the contacts with a business card usually
solves the problem. Weak flippers on newer machines are usually
the result of misalignment in the flipper mechanism itself. This, of
course, requires a techie to correct, although contrary to what most
operators think, it isn't that hard. :-)
** 11.2: Time for some Maintenance **
- Info on how the various machines will flag the operator if
their self-diganostics detect a malfunction.
- Williams / Bally: if there is a period after the number of
credits (i.e. it says "CREDITS 0." instead of "CREDITS 0"), this means
that the game's self-diagnostics have found a problem. Usually, this
means that either a pinball is missing or that a switch has not been
triggered in about 30 balls, so the game assumes that it's broken.
There's no way to find out more specific information except opening
the cabinet door and pressing the "ENTER" button. (Note: some
earlier Williams machines may light the period after player 1's
score, rather than after the number of credits. The meaning is the
same.) Williams / Bally machines, by the way, are far and away the
best at compensating for broken switches, but this can be a double-
edged sword, as it tends to make operators lazier.
- Data East: there are two lights below the start button, one
green and one red, that indicate problems. A steady red light
indicates a switch failure that still leaves the game playable, such
as a dead bumper. A blinking red light indicates a serious
malfunction, such as a dead solenoid plunger. A steady and blinking
green light indicates, respectively, that 1500 and 3000 games have
gone by since the operator has reset a counter. This is Data East's
method of reminding the operator that it's time to do some
maintenance...doesn't help much, does it?
- Gottlieb: their machines don't seem to show errors to anyone
but the operator. However, when something catastrophic happens
while playing, the game will usually go dead and display something
like "BALL STUCK--CALL SERVICEPERSON" until you Tilt or power
cycle the game.
- Alvin G. & Co.: well, not many people know much about them
right now...including me. Anyone have info they'd like to share?
** 11.3: ROM revisions **
- This section gives info on how to find out what version of a
particular game you are playing.
- Williams / Bally: if you power cycle (turn it off and back on)
or slam tilt the game, it will run through its diagnostic checks on
power-up. The first screen that it displays gives the ROM version
number. On the right side of the screen is a letter followed by a
number. If the letter is a "P", then your machine has Prototype
ROM's. If it's an "L", then you have Release ROM's. (It's an L because
an R and an A looked too much alike on the older alphanumeric
displays.) An "H" indicates a special ROM version, either created for
a specific person or arcade, or made after the game went off the
production line. With any of these letter codes, the numbers
increase sequentially (i.e. P-4 is a later ROM revision than P-3).
- Data East: their machines also show a test screen on power-
up. There is a standard mm/dd/yy date on it, so you can get an idea
of how old the game is from that. There is also a code that looks
something like "A5-01"...anyone know what this indicates?
- Gottlieb: well, people have accused them of not providing
enough information to the player, and this is another instance of
that. There is a "checksum" displayed at power-up, but not much
else. Is there a way to find out the ROM revision as a player?
- Alvin G. & Co.: dunno, never seen one. [Help?]

***** 12: A Final Word *****
- OK, you say. So what's their secret? You say you know and
practice all the above techniques, so why aren't you a wizard? One
word: Consistency. The best players know and apply their
techniques on a regular and consistant basis. How many times have
you caught yourself saying "Damn, if only I hadn't missed that ramp"
or "Too slow, needed to slap save there"? Remember when you had
that incredible 1 Billion point game--everything "went right." Well,
remember how you played that game, and look at the above listed
methods. Sure, the best players get a break every now and again; we
all do. But that wasn't why you did well. Didn't you find yourself
saying "Wow! did you see that shot--went straight in" or "What a
save--barely made it!" The good players do that on a steady and
consistant basis. In short--learn the techniques. Practice them.
Use them. *That* is how one moves from "regular" to "wizard"
- P.S. When I first included this passage, it referred to "that
incredible 500 Million point game." Times have changed, haven't
they? :-)
** Dave Hollinsworth ********* O |"|
* "Everybody got their Black & Decker; blood and * PLAY /\ | |
* fettucine everywhere!" -- Shriekback, "Go Bang!" * PINBALL! /\ \-------|
** DISCLAIMER: They're my opinions. Are they yours? ********* / / |-------|

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