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What is Pachinko?

Updated on May 18, 2014
Not an uncommon site in a pachinko parlor
Not an uncommon site in a pachinko parlor | Source

What is Pachinko

Pachinko is played by over 30 million Japanese

It is similar to a vertical pinball/slot machine, but instead of using coins it uses small steel balls, that are 11 millimeters in diameter. Pachinko parlours are littered across every major city in Japan.

The newer machines are fitted with a round handle that controls the velocity of the electronically fired plunger which is used to launch the balls. They also often have an LCD screen on the centre, behind the centre jackpot hole.


How to play Pachiinko

To start the game, you push the ball eject button, which will release all your balls into the launching bay. On the right hand side, the large handle is turned clockwise which will commence to process of firing the balls, much like a pinball machine. The balls will bounce down the screen, ricochetting off a series of around 400 pins. The balls have to land in the centre hole in order to score.

If the balls fall to the bottom they are no longer in use for the game. Each ball that falls into a winning hole/pocket will earn the player more balls.

Depending on how far the handle is turned will affect the velocity at which the balls are launched. It will only take a small adjustment of the handle to result in a change in the ball's path down the pins.

If balls land in the centre hole, more balls will be dispensed to you. Also, you may also get a free spin on the machine's virtual slot machine which is displayed on the machine's video screen – 3 of a kind and you have yourself a winner.

The Reach/Fever

There is a feature on Pachinko known as the 'reach' or the 'fever', which basically means get ready for awesome.

This reach/fever mode happens when your spin gets two of the same numbers/symbols. This is when the machine will go into 'reach mode', as it waits for the outcome of the third number/symbol every 4 or 5 spins, the machine will go into reach/fever mode.

When there is a match of this third symbol, the machine converts all of the remaining balls into 10 times the amount of balls. It also enters a period known as 'lucky time'. This gives you 100 free spins. If these winning numbers/symbols are red, this indicates a guaranteed win during lucky time (blue symbols means maybe).

A common site in a Pachinko parlor
A common site in a Pachinko parlor | Source

Making it Legit

Gambling is forbidden in Japanese Law. But there are ways and means. After a sweet win, you can reuse the balls in the machine, or cash them out into a plastic tray – you often see people sitting at pachinko machines with thousands of balls in these plastic trays, lined on top of one another. When you are ready to cash out a button on the machine is pressed to call over the attendant who will count the balls and present you with a credit slip, which can then be exchanged at the front desk for a variety of 'special prizes'.

Prizes can be anything from a stuffed animal, candy, cigarettes or a pen, but they all hold a specific unspoken value these prizes can be taken to a separate location, either another shop or to a person in the alley out back, where the prizes can be exchanged for cash.

Interesting Facts About Pachinko

  • The first pachinko machines were built back in the 1920s as a children's toy and were given the name 'Cornith Game'
  • Only one in six men in Japan over 20 play pachinko
  • Only one in fifty men in Japan under 20 play pachinko
  • It is forbidden for anyone to use pachinko balls taken from a different parlor. To counter this happening, it is not uncommon for parlors to engrave their design or name into the ball itself so that it can be easily identified
  • Pachinko machines can pull in an average more than 10,000 yen each time they are played
  • Pachinko machines pay out more on Sunday mornings, as well as machines closer to the door of the parlor are supposedly cash cows
  • Like most Japanese venues in Japan, smoking is allowed in Pachinko parlors, adding an atmospheric smokey haze
  • Pachinko machines pay out in 'waves'. If you look at the top of a machine it will show the stats of that machine. Using this, many people feel that they can game the system..this is up for debate

Pachinko Terminology

Pachin - This is in reference to the sound of the ball ('ko')

Kankinjo - The location where prizes that are won from pachinko parlours can be traded for cash

Pachi Puro - This refers to someone who is a professional and successful pachinko player. This is slang for "pachinko pro"

Koatari - This is a term used to describe a mini jackpot. It is shorter than a regular jackpot.

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