Bingo Pinballs

Created on 7-27-210 - Last Update 1-01-2016


If you look at the Score Cards on the early Bally machines they are all titled Skill Scores,


…starting in 1951 with Bright Lights, and the term really does applies to the Bingos.


Don Hooker talked about the first thing he did in designing these machines, that was the need to figure out the odds – laugh!


That statement of his, is undeniably the mostly damning evidence that these games were designed for gambling – period! If you’re Bally, you’ve already sold the machines and already made your profits, so there’s no reason for you to worry about the odds and payoffs unless you wanted these machines “profitable” for your customer base and that is the second most telling sign. Bally’s constant reference to themes like “Faster Profits”, “The fastest Money Maker”, and “Profit-Proven Play-Appeal” – etc.


Lion Manufacturing was designing gambling devices and knew that it was organized crime and owner-operators who were the buying-audience for these games. Regular folks like us, weren’t buying pinballs in the 50s and 60’s and early 70’s – 99.9% of the market was on route. Later Don goes on to mention that they generally kept the payout level near 75%, he knew exactly what he was deigning and who he was designing it for.


My introductory page use to state: “Bingo Pinball Games, a Gambling Industry built a Nickel-at-a-Time” and it really applies – laugh!


But as you think about it though, still there is a person standing there nudging the machine, releasing the ball, selecting the features, defying gravity, and a zillion factors like how level is the machine you’re playing and how dead are the rubbers etcetera, and that is where the “player” comes into factor and how much power did Bally really have over that – Hence the phrases like Skill Shot and Skill Score originated.


~ No matter how well Don knew the odds, still you and I are “playing” the games – Yeah Baby! ~


So to help foil us, Bally took the design of the games a little farther than the “shear obvious” features and odds _ Knowing that some advanced (some skilled) players would learn to beat the machines, they went to lengths to ensure we had a challenge on our hands, laugh!


…and they did so in various fashions, like subtly adding in the Reflex Units to limit or overall opportunity, and more overtly they constantly changed up the playfield layouts and how the holes lined up with the with bingo card – etc.


The 6-Card Super-Line games are probably the easiest place to see this connection. They “engineered” these things, so let’s take a quick look at two of the bingos: 1961’s Lite-a-Line and 1962’s Shoot-a-Line to see how the upper and lower cabinets interplay together.


~ I like both of the games just because their titles are so descriptive of the object of the bingos – Making In-Line combinations of numbers – In-Line Scores! ~




The “outside” numbers of the playfield are 1,8,14,19 and 7,13,18,22 and the 3 “bottom” holes are 23,24,25:


The Super Lines:









Most of the Super Lines contain 3 or more of these numbers and the 2 cards that do not, Card 4 and Card 5, both contain the #25.


Below the #9, only the numbers 8 and 1 are used.


Now look at the whole cards themselves for 4-in-Line combinations, where for every 4-in-Line win you must have a number greater

than 20, except on Card 3 and Card 5 where both of them have one exception.


~ Now you know the toughest shots on this 6-Card ~


Bottom-line: Your machine needs to be correctly “leveled up” and you need to practice your “Skill Shots” to beat this bingo pinball.






The “outside” numbers of the playfield are 1,8,15,22 and 7,14,21,28 and the 7 “bottom” numbers are 22,23,24,25,26,27,28


The Super Lines:









This game is a bit different for the lower cards, but the Super Lines for Cards 1,2,3 all contain at least three of the more difficult playfield hits.


The lower cards are a bit more interesting where they must really think the 28-Hole playfield is formidable with the 7-hole rows all the way down.

All three cards only have 2 of the more difficult “outside” and “bottom” row numbers to hit, so they must think getting to the bottom is tough and

likely those 3-post rubber bumpers on the outside of the field are angled “just so” to force you into one of the top row holes. It looks like they

considered the left-side-bottom of the field the hardest area to hit (22,23,24,25) and I bet it was a bit harder for you to get the Super Line feature

enabled for the lower cards (Phil would have to comment on that)


If you look at the Score Cards for these two games, “for sure” Bally had doubts about you ever hitting the Card 6 Super Line on Shoot-a-Line:




 Don was gone from Bally right around the 1962 release of the game, so I wonder how involved he really was. Overall, if you look at the 61’ & 62’

they were really simpler games and simpler spins of each other – Clearly showing a shift in bingo design, compared to the “early-era” of constant

upgrade and innovation that produced the really great Bally’s. Don was phasing out!


To me, it looks like it would be easier to hit the Super Lines on Cards 4,5,6 – But I’ve never played on of these games to know for sure.


~ Another thing that struck me as interesting was their use of the numbers 26,27,28 – Only on Cards 4,5,6, but not at all in the Super Lines ~








When I started writing this page today it was on a whole different subject (the ball gate – laugh) but I got to thinking about  Don Hooker and the Coolest thing he said in the interview, where he talked about his “wanting to involve the player in the game” – “wanting a game that was more than just pulling a handle” - (he was referencing the one-arm slots) – “where he wanted the player to be able to make a decision, to be involved in the game, so when they won, they could say “I won!”


Not “I was Lucky!”














“Skill Scores” Baby!














I am great at hitting the 14,15,16,17,18 repeatedly!


…at least on the bingo I have now…….laugh