This Page Last Updated 9-22-2010


A few bingers out there refer to me as “The Historian” and I hope some day I stand well in those shoes _ That tidbit is a segue into this post, which on the surface has very little to do with Bingo Pinballs, but read with an open mind, speaks to the wonderful legacy behind these machines: One Ball games and operation, multi-coin operation and build-up odds, holes in the playfields, and Lite-a-Name games……… 1951 wasn’t the first year of the bingos, not by a long shot _ Everything has a past and more importantly, a Future!





by Russ Jensen


      When the pinball industry began in the early Thirties the main competition to the fledgling pinball machines were the three reel slot machines, commonly referred to as "bell machines".  Slot machines were still legal in many areas of the country at that time and were a major product of the coin machine industry.

……Raymond loves this kind of Stuff……


     Slot machine players deposited many coins in a relatively short period of time as opposed to pinball in which a game of 5 or 10 balls - at a penny or nickel a game - lasted a minute or two. The introduction of electricity (first from batteries and then A.C.) into pinball during the 1934-1936 period made possible a new concept in pinball design, the "multiple coin" pinball.  In this type of pingame the player could deposit more than one coin (if desired) before starting the game to increase his chances of winning.  In addition, in most of these games, the number of balls per game was decreased to one and these games were soon referred to as "one-ball machines".




     Two elements - the increase in the number of coins played per game, and the reduction in the number of balls from five or ten to one - made the operator's earnings from the new type of pingame more comparable to those from the bell slot machine.  (Note: Some one-ball payout pinball games were made with single coin operation before the introduction of multiple coin games.)


     Early in 1936 D. Gottlieb and Co. introduced a game called DAILY RACES which was to set the pattern for almost all one-ball multiple coin machines for the next fifteen years.  (It's interesting to note that Gottlieb used the name DAILY RACES again on their last one-ball machine in the early 1947.)


     The 1936 DAILY RACES had it's playfield divided into three sections labeled WIN (near the bottom), PLACE (in the center), and at the top SHOW.  Each of these sections contained 8 consecutively numbered holes.   The backglass had lighted panels corresponding to each of these numbers, and additional panels to indicate the "odds" to be won by matching a number in each of the three sections of the playfield.  In order to "win", a player had to get his one ball into a hole whose corresponding number on the backglass was lit.


Daily Races Upper Playfield


     If he succeeded, he would win whatever the lit odds were for the section of the playfield (WIN, PLACE, or SHOW) in which his ball landed.  Since the chance of the ball reaching the lower sections of the playfield (without dropping into a hole) were less than it going into one of the top holes, the odds for WIN were highest, PLACE a little lower, and SHOW the lowest.


     In most of the early games of this type the first coin deposited would light number '1' and select a set of odds. Additional coins could then be deposited to light additional numbers (generally in order) and to possibly advance the odds.  A player could therefore cause all the numbers (generally referred to as "Selections") to be winners but could still "lose" if his "winnings" were less than the number on coins initially deposited.


     Shortly after DAILY RACES, Bally - who was to become the major producer of multiple coin machines - introduced their first multi-section playfield game, HIALEAH.  By the end of 1936, a fourth section (usually called PURSE) was added at the top of the field, and most one-ball machines from then on had four-section playfields.


Hialeah Playfield




     The years between 1936 and the start of World War II saw much advance in the technical development of these machines, but the playfields and backglasses (except for getting taller) changed very little.  Most of these machines had a horse race motif with the "numbers" ('1' through '7' on most machines) corresponding to horse "selections" in a race, and the "odds" displayed on the backboard corresponding to the "winnings" on the horse - depending on where it placed in the race - 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th.  (NOTE: some games of this type had other themes such as baseball, and Gottlieb's DOUBLE FEATURE in 1937 had a motion picture Academy Awards theme).


Double Feature Playfield Detail


     One significant change made in the operation of these machines was a change in what each additional coin would do.  Instead of each coin lighting one additional selection,  later one-balls offered a random selection or selections with each additional coin - from one to possibly all selections could be lit with each coin inserted.


     In addition to extra coins lighting additional numbers (or 'features' in later machines), many of the later pre-war and early post-war machines had a "multiplier" feature.  The depositing of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th coins would light "multipliers" on the backglass which indicated that the payoff for achieving a "win" would be multiplied by the numbers of coins inserted (up to 4).  If more than four coins were deposited the "multiplier" would remain at four.  These machines came to be know as "One-ball Multiples" within the industry.


     The physical appearance of one-ball machines, while generally similar to other pinball games, differed mainly in their massive cabinets.  Instead of individual legs, many one-balls had the front and back of the cabinet touching the floor.  The artwork on the cabinets (as well as the backglass and playfield) were usually based on horse racing scenes.  The names of most of these games were those of famous racehorses, racetracks, or other "racy" terms.


     During World War II production of all pingames was, of course, banned.  Conversions of older one-balls, like amusement pinballs, did occur frequently during the war however.  When the war ended Bally celebrated the event by coming out with their first new pingames, a pair of one-balls called VICTORY SPECIAL and VICTORY DERBY.  These two games were virtually identical except that the former indicated "awards" as replays, with the latter paying off directly in coins.




     This idea of "replay/payout pairs" became pretty much standard with Bally after the war.  The names of both games of a "pair" were usually quite similar,  with the word SPECIAL in a name usually signifying a "replay" model.  Other examples of such pairs were: BALLY ENTRY / SPECIAL ENTRY, and JOCKEY CLUB / JOCKEY SPECIAL.




     From the end of World War II to the end of the "one-ball era" (1951), several "come-on" features were added to these games.  One of these new ways to attract players was generally referred to as a "spell name feature".  When this feature was incorporated into a game two additional holes (often labeled simply "L" and "R" for "left" and "right", or occasionally by some "horsey" name such as "boot" and "saddle") were added at the extreme bottom of the playfield.  Two corresponding lights were found on the backglass which lit at random intervals (called "Mystery Intervals" by the manufacturers) upon insertion of additional coins.


     If a player succeeded in getting a ball in one of these holes, when the corresponding light was lit, a small number of replays were awarded.  In addition, the next letter of the name of the game on the backglass would light up and remain lit from game to game. When the final letter of the name was eventually lit, a large number of replays would be awarded (or in the case of a few games all seven selections would light for the next game) and the name lights reset to a predetermined minimum number of letters.


     Another popular feature which was added to many post-war one-balls was the so-called "A-B-C-D Feature".  Four standard pinball bumpers (or in a few cases extra holes) were added to the playfield and labeled 'A', 'B', 'C', and 'D'.  These bumpers would each light when lit in sequence and remain lit from game to game.  When the "D" bumper was finally hit, the next coin deposited would turn on some special feature such as lighting all of the seven "selections" on the backglass for the next game.  At the start of the next game these bumpers would be reset to their unlit condition.


     One of the most widely used "come-on" features on one-ball games was simply called "Feature" (standing for, I believe, "Feature Race").  A hole bearing that label was placed at the extreme bottom of the playfield, but just slightly above the "L" and "R" holes making it even harder to get a ball to land in.  A lighted panel on the backglass, also labeled "FEATURE", would flash on and off as coins were deposited.  This light would rarely (usually once for each 400 coins deposited) remain lit. If it did, and a player succeeded in getting his ball into the "Feature" hole, a special payoff would be made.


     There were two common types of payoffs associated with the "Feature", "direct" and "build-up".  If the game was designed or set (many machines had an operator option as to which type of payoff a game would use) for a "direct" payoff a large number of replays (or coins if it was a coin payout machine) would be given. The usual amounts of these payoffs were between 40 and 320 in multiples of forty.  If the machine was set for "build-up" payoffs the scheme was somewhat different.  A feature build-up award was indicated somewhere on the backboard, such as by using lighted numbers, a projected number, or, as in the later machines, a number shown in a window much the same as the free game window in most

amusement pinballs.


     This number started off at a minimum value (usually '1') and would be incremented at 'mystery intervals" as coins were deposited.  The number shown generally represented the feature payoff in dollars which would be awarded to a player successfully landing in the feature hole when the feature light was lit.  If a player succeeded in doing this he would have to call the location owner over to the machine, show him he had made the feature, and be paid off by him directly in cash, the amount of dollars indicated on the backboard.  The next coin deposited (or the depression of a button underneath the cabinet by the location man) would reset the award number to it's minimum value and the whole process would be repeated.


     Designers of these games incorporated these "come-on features", which remained "on" from game to game, to tempt either the current player, or one who just happened to be walking by the machine; after all, the potential special condition was "only a few coins away."











~ Russ Jensen – Pinball Historian ~



……Russ Rocks! _ Definitely one of my Heroes!……