How to Start a Pinball Machine

768 1024 Pinball Land

Pinball machines are huge, bright, loud and sometimes intimidating devices to someone who is new to playing them. Everyone starts with the first game, but figuring out how to start that game can be less than obvious. This guide will show you how to start a game on a variety of different styles of pinball machines. Get ready to take the plunge and play some pinball!

Adding Credits

This is another way of saying “putting money in the machine”. The game’s display or its pricing card (located near the front of the machine, just under the glass) will tell you how much it costs for each play. Typically on modern pinball machines, you should expect to pay $1.00 per game. Some games are set up with a special deal so you get 3 plays for $2.00. Older machines sometimes cost as little as $0.50 per game, but they are getting harder to find. A quarter just isn’t worth as much as it used to.

Drop your quarters into one of the coin slots located on the front of the machine. These typically glow orange, red or yellow. If you push the glowing plastic bit, it will eject any coins that are currently in the mechanism before you start a game. These are not buttons and do not start a game or do anything while the game is running – they only give you your money back if you decide to not play, or sometimes can help if coins get jammed.

Some modern pinball machines even have a dollar bill acceptor (seen above) making it easy to add multiple credits for multiplayer games, or for a game you really like!

Now, if you are fortunate enough to find an arcade with a Free Play option, like Pinball Land, then you’re really in luck! Not only do you not need to pay for each game, starting the game becomes substantially easier. All you need to do is push the Start Button and away you go!

The Start Button

Every pinball machine has a start button. They are different sizes and different colors, but they are almost always located in the same place: the top-left corner of front of the machine.

The start button on a Pinbot pinball machine

On most modern pinball machines the start button is illuminated and is usually green, yellow, or red. On games built earlier than the 90’s, often they are a single, solid color, like white or red. On games older than that, the start button could be made of metal and located on the metal coin door. In these instances, the button is generally centralized.

The start button on a Monster Bash pinball machine

Once you’ve located the Start Button, push it! Push the Start Button only ONE TIME for each player participating in the game. This can be problematic when playing pinball machines set to Free Play. It is very common for people to press the Start Button repeatedly and unintentionally start 4-player games.

4 player DMD No Fear pinball(You don’t want the dot matrix display looking like this if only one person is playing!)

This almost always results in people walking away after Ball 1 on Player 3 and then 1 of 2 things happen. Either the next player will walk up to the game and be utterly confused, or the arcade operator will become instantly grumpy that they now have to reset the machine.

Take the Plunge!

Now that the game has started, a shiny new pinball will be launched into the shooter lane. All you need to do now is plunge it into play!

A typical pinball machine plunger. To launch the ball, just grab the plunger, pull it back, and let it go!

Most pinball games have a spring-powered plunger located on the right-side of the machine. To use it, just grab a hold of it, pull it back, and let it go! The plunge will slam into the ball, propelling it upwards and into the game!

Other games have a large button that will launch the ball. These are almost always red in color and are located in the same place the plunger usually is. Just push the launch button and you’re off!

The Launch Ball button on a Williams’ Monster Bash


No matter if your game has a plunger or a button, you’d better get that right hand back on the right flipper button because that ball isn’t going to stay up forever! Get ready – now you’re playing pinball!