New Skill Shot T-shirts!

Skill Shot T-shirts feature the cover  image from issue #17 (Silver Ball Mania).

The cost is $18 US (postage included)

Send a check or money order to Gordon Ornelas, POBox 20204, Seattle WA 98102.


All sizes are standard XS – 3XL (some sizes are limited).

Email for more details

news & gossip

Pinball Question: Buying your first machine

What advice would you give to a pinball enthusiast who is interested in buying their first machine?

Jeff Groper: Encourage them to hold out for a title they actually want. I’ve seen too many people buy something dull because they had a boner to buy their first machine. Keep it local and take someone who owns pins so when it’s time to kick the tires, even if they aren’t a repair whiz they should be able to spot red flags. Use to sanity check pricing, and if you’re leery at all, ask the WPC list.

Aaron McAbee: Look over the table on to view what it looks like in good working repair and full sound. Also, have a well-lit area to get a good view of every part of the table inside and out.

Kathy Gagno: Definitely bring someone who knows the mechanics of pins to help decide whether it is a good deal or not.

Charlie Martin: My 2 cents would be to buy from a collector, not a [pinball machine] flipper, and play at least 5 games on it after looking it over very closely. A good seller will always point out the pin’s flaws. They will also offer help when it breaks or some sort of limited warranty.

Rodney Olsen: The most important is to make sure you know what you’re getting. Take someone with you that knows pinball. Check all coils, switches, and lamp flashers.

Bobby Conover: Have him/her take a crash course! Buy one cheap, dirty, and broken, and fix it up. Great way to learn how a machine actually works, and if he wants to own pins long-term he can apply the knowledge to all future machines.
Rod, you really sit there checking every lamp when you buy a game? 🙂

Rodney Olsen: I check all of the lamps not because I care about changing a bulb but because you may have one section of GI out which could point to board issues.

SS: What does “GI” mean?  Is it an abbreviation for some pinball expert lingo?

Rodney Olsen: GI means General Illumination. Modern machines will have the GI separated into sections. This allows the designer to turn on and off certain GI for effects. Because of this you could have areas where there isn’t GI because of board issues. I could show you how this works.

Dan Halligan: I bought a dead ’80s Craigslist deal for my first pin and it was a great way to learn about cleaning, repair and upkeep on a less complicated game. But it really depends on what you’re looking for, one killer game for your home (in which case, hold out for a game you really really want), or to start a collection and get into the hobby. There’s something to be said for starting with an older game, it’s much easier to learn on.

Keith Nelson: Here’s a list of questions I have emailed to people in the past…….  of course there are many other questions that could be asked.

How much are you asking for it? Is there any playfield wear? What would you rate the playfield on a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being best)? Are there any broken or missing plastics? What would you rate the plastics condition? Are there any broken targets? Do all the mechanicals work? Have there been any modifications to the mechanicals? Do all the spinners work? Are the spinners in good physical appearance? What would you rate the mechanical condition? Are there any missing mechanical pieces? Do all the sounds work? Is there any humming on the sound? Do both speakers work? Are there any missing dots, digits or is there anything wrong with the display(s) in general? How bright are the displays? Is the battery case corroded? Are there any missing chips from the electrical boards? Has the machine ever been rewired? Is the plunger spring or tip in need of repair? What would you rate the cabinet art’s condition? Has the machine ever been laid on its side? Do all the lamps work? Are there any missing electrical boards or wiring from the backboards? Have there been any modifications to the electronics on the machine? Have there been any modifications to any part of the machine that you haven’t already mentioned? Are there any holes or scratches in the backglass? Overall, what would you rate the machine on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being best?

Cayle George: I think there are a lot of guides on the web. Google it up 🙂

Dale Garbutt: That’s a very good question. Unfortunately there are so many questions that should be asked that it’s impossible to list them all.  My best advice is for them to educate themselves. The more you read, the better a buyer you will be.  Fortunately, the internet is a vast resource of info.  There is no substitute for experience when it comes to purchasing a complicated machine like a pinball, much like buying a car, but you can make yourself better prepared. If they or you know of any local pinhead, it would be well worth contacting them to see if they can take a look before you buy, much like getting a car inspected.

Ryan Gratzer: I don’t buy games, so I’m not very experienced with this stuff.
I would definitely recommend looking in the backbox to see if any of the boards have corrosion.

Avout: I always look for a good playfield and plastics, as well as a decent-to-good backglass. Coils, circuit boards and so on are relatively easy to fix, [but] artwork not so much, you will always be able to tell. If there are some wear and tear issues with the artwork, the game’s selling price should reflect that. Use the classifieds section at for reference. You can always shell out top dollars if you really, really, really need to have THAT game, but it doesn’t hurt to at least educate yourselves a little before you go spend that money. And oh, stay with the big 3 (Bally, Williams and Gottlieb) if you can. Or maybe even Chicago Coin. After that, it might get hard to find parts.

Larry Reid: Obviously ask: how much? 

A late model Williams in decent shape can fetch $2,500 or more. Less for Bally and Gottlieb. Make sure it comes with the “book”. New Sterns are 4 grand, and aren’t much fun to play after a while, if ever.  Old electromechanical machines are wonderful, but high maintenance. Expect a lot of downtime.

Lift playfield and remove backglass to inspect for mildew (a sign the machine has been stored in damp quarters – bad.) Also look for any sign of scorching or lingering scent of electrical burning. (Common, and also bad.) If it doesn’t at least power up, don’t buy it. It could be toast. Ideally the machine will play well. Cosmetic damage is to be expected, but playfield plastics should be intact. (Aftermarket replacements are really expensive.) My advice is to spend the cash up-front for a nice Williams. Medieval Madness, Monster Bash, Cactus Canyon, and Attack from Mars are likely too pricey. But you can usually find a Fun House, Fish Tales, Addams Family, Twilight Zone, Creature From the Black Lagoon  – that era – for somewhere around $2,000.

Dominique: Are they planning on working on it? They should be.

news & gossip

Skill Shot #17 News & Gossip

Originally published in Skill Shot 17, February 2011

The 13th Annual Shorty’s Pinball Tournament was once again big fun this year. Lots of players from Vancouver, Portland and (even) Spokane (Anthony) made the trip to Seattle to try their skills against the hometown crew. Host Larry Reid presided over the event in his typical manner (ie: a loud microphone and  seemingly disorganized paper score sheets) and as usual the CFF gang from Portland had a pretty solid showing, as did Robert Gagno from BC, who placed third. The final match was Levi Lowe vs. Cayle George, with the final win going to Levi. This seemed to surprise a lot of people, who considered him an underdog despite winning 3 previous tournaments. In another upset, Skill Shot’s Gordon won Most Enthusiastic Contestant over an exuberant Cheeseboat and previous champ Timmy Smith. Go Team Skill Shot!

The Seattle Pinball League (SPL) finished 2010 with tournaments held at Andrew Nunes’ in October, James and Janice Eades’ (LYWAH) in November, and Jeff Groper’s new house in December. The December tournament was the SPL’s 2010 Finals with the top 12 players battling it out Round Robin style. SPL probably won’t do the Round Robin tournament again anytime soon, since this one began at 1 PM and lasted until after 11! Robert Gagno did better this time, taking 1st place, with Raymond Davidson in 2nd and Jamie Beth in 3rd.

Robert was recently featured in an article in the Seattle Weekly written by Caleb Hannan. Although it was a nice article about Robert, it was less so for some of the others mentioned. Of course we think the article could have been improved with mentions of the Seattle Pinball Museum (SPM) and Skill Shot. Along with the bruised feelings, apparently the Weekly’s photographers made a nuisance of themselves at the November SPL Tourney, and Caleb was asked not to attend the December Final. Ouch!

In other tournament news: The first annual Canada/USA Pinball Border Brawl happened on January  15th. The contest included the top 12 players from the SPL and the Vancouver Regional Pinball Association (VPRA), which was interesting as both groups have some of the same members. The USA was victorious! The Seattle Pinball Museum has begun having monthly tournaments on the second Thursday of each month. While we haven’t made it to one yet it, it sounds like they are bringing in some different contestants than other tournaments. Way to go! The SPM will be hosting the next SPL tournament on February 5th, and SPM’s next Thursday tournament is Feb 10th.

The Sunday Tournament at Shorty’s has changed to a monthly format that includes a potluck brunch and an earlier starting time (3PM). The Sunday Tournaments had been suffering from a lack of participation for a number of months and this format has breathed new life into it. Hosted by Paul and Jawn the next Sunday tournament is Feb 6th. Shorty’s bartender Jawn has also been organizing the Ballard Pinball Tournaments for a while now. These are roaming tournaments that take place at a number of locations (including Headley and Claire’s apartment!) and the format usually depends on the number of participants. Unique and fun! The next Ballard tournament is Feb. 21.

Other upcoming tournaments: Dorky’s Valentine Day Couples Tournament on Feb 14th; The 3rd Annual Georgetown Open on March 13th; the first Greenwood Pinball Open on April 20th; and Shorty’s bi-annual Powder Puff Tournament on May 22. Anatomically female only!

We can only assume that when Stern’s new Rolling Stones machine is released there will be a launch/tournament like they’ve had for previous pins. The Avatar launch/tournament was held at the Waterfront Arcade back on Oct 15th, which was a curious place to hold it since we’re sure not many locals go there often. Ultimately the Arcade proved to be too cramped for the large crowd that showed up. We can only hope that the next one is held at Gameworks again where there is plenty of room (and beer). Yes, if you hadn’t already heard, the next Stern machine is going to be Rolling Stones and not TRON like almost everyone was hoping. It’s quite ugly from what we’ve seen online, and we love the Stones!

Skill Shot 16 actually debuted at the Avatar event and we would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who helped us fold (especially KSH, CAD and LLD who folded 500 copies!) and distribute each and every issue. If you ever visited our Myspace page to look at the online version of our Pinball List, you can stop now as we have finally given up on Myspace. Look for our newly redesigned website to launch in February ( where we will have not only the Pinball List, but also past and future articles from the zine, comics, featured online content and other fun stuff.

If you have been following our The One To Beat (TOTB) challenge lately you have noticed that there has been some confusion since DOC’s GC score on the T2 at Al’s. We contemplated making the Highline’s Attack From Mars or Canterbury’s White Water the next TOTB but decided against it because of the unreliability of those pins. Instead, the new TOTB is the Batman at Shorty’s that has been reset back to its factory settings. We hope that this pin will stay TOTB for a while. Look for updates on our website!

Pinball Tidbits: Madison Pub may have finally fixed their broken Iron Man! They sent it to the shop so lets hope it now works; The Grizzled Wizard’s Black Knight 2000 is the saddest pin in Seattle because the DMD has been broken since last October and you can’t see any scores; Pink Gorilla no longer has any games because they had a fight with Bobby; Marv’s Broiler briefly had a second pin (Aztec) and then suddenly no pins (we smell a mystery); Olympia has a pinball zine called Slam Tilt, find them on Facebook; Did you see the CFF/Robocop pin in a film at the last HUMP Festival? We missed it too; There’s a new pinball manufacturer, Jersey Jack Pinball! Their first game will be based on The Wizard of Oz.

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tips & tricks

How To Get a Billion Points…

How to get a billion points on “Batman: the Dark Knight” with the first 35 shots.

by 4th Place Andy

Begin by plunging the ball to hit the Batmobile skill shot.

(1) Shoot left loop to collect the mystery award for “light multipliers” (the award is random- you have about a 1-in-5 chance of lighting multipliers first).

(2) Shoot the center ramp to begin Batmobile Hurry-Up and also light the “mini-mine multiplier” for the center shot.

(3 – 33) Shoot right loop 31 times to increase the Hurry-Up Value to 132,250,000 [this value increases by 250k more each hit: 500k -> 1M -> 1.75M -> 2.75M -> 4M -> and so on]. If you accidentally hit the left loop or center ramp, or allow the value to count down to 250k and time-out, you won’t be able to continue increasing the Hurry-Up Value here.

(34) Shoot left loop to double Hurry-Up Value to 264,500,000.

(35) Shoot center ramp to collect quadruple Hurry-Up Value of 1,058,000,000.

Congrats, you’re the new grand champion!

Okay now – not everyone can hit a shot 31 times in a row. However, you can still get some big points by stacking the “mini-mine multipliers” (those little white Xs that appear in front of the five main shots) with the skill shot (the three white circles in the plunger lane: “Joker,” “Scarecrow,” and “Batmobile”). Once stacked, all hits to that particular shot score quadruple. “Why so serious?” Think of a Joker Multiball where Joker Jackpots are 800k and Supers are 16M!