Pachinko is a game of luck. Pachinko is a form of gambling. For a basic introduction and history of Pachinko in Japan, read up Wikipedia and Pachinko-Play.
In this post, I will talk about some of the open secrets of Pachinko, basic introduction on how to play, some etiquette and rules to observe in the parlour, and how to possibly win some travelling money out of it.
Visiting a pachinko parlour
Pachinko Parlours, the place where you play pachinko, can be found in almost every cities and towns in Japan. They are always decorated with eye-catching neon advertisement, it is really easy to find one no matter where you are staying.
There are no particular rules for entering a pachinko parlour., everyone can enter and there are no dress codes. However, as with any forms of gambling, you must be above 18 years of age.
Before visiting a pachinko parlour, there are 2 things to take note of:
1) Noise – First time visitors will often be overwhelmed by the loud noise inside a pachinko parlour. For some reason, Japanese love their games loud. Bear with it, wear a ear plug, or listen to your favourite MP3 on your ipod. But once you had found and seated on an empty machine, you will found yourself immense in the machine in front of you, paying little attention to the surrounding noise
2) Smoke – Most pachinko parlours allowed cigarette smoking, and inside an indoor environment, it can get really smoky and suffocating. Be warned.
How to play
For first time visitors and players, it is really easy to start playing pachinko. Walk around the aisle and look for an empty machine or one that really interests you. Pachinko machines are mostly themed after famous movies, animes, mangas, or characters. Get seated and prepare your JPY, notes accepted are JYP1000, JPY5000 and JPY10000. Begin by watching this video for a quick introduction, I will further explain below. Also, you can learn some of the basics from here.
Next, take note of the ball price of the machine, similar to the denomination limit found on casino slots. The most popular ball price is 4Yen, this means that for every JPY1000 that you feed to the machine, you get 250 pachinko balls to play with. Other common ball price includes 1Yen(JPY1000=1000balls) and 2Yen (JPY1000=500balls). Obviously, the cheaper the ball price, the more balls you get with the same amount of bet, and your wins/losses are proportionally determined by this, similar to casino slots.
Learning the machine
At first glance, players can get extremely confused with the machine. Here, I will attempt to explain each of the component of the machine to aid in your playing enjoyment. Click on the above image for full size, I had numbered the different components of a pachinko machine and explained below.
(1) Found on some machines. This sign simply means that you are allowed to move your pachinko balls to other machines. Remember, pachinko machine comes in different denomination limit, so obviously, you cannot move pachinko balls from a 1Yen machine to a 4Yen machine!
(2) This is an electronic dashboard that provides information and statistics for the current machine. Different dashboards are used in different pachinko parlours, but they most provide the same information. The display usually indicates the a few statistics. a) the number of spins since the last Jackpot (大当). b) The number of Jackpots achieved by this machine in the current day. c) similar statistics for the previous days. There are also a number of buttons on the dashboard which users can use to view more statistics. For a beginner and casual players like us, we don’t really need to pay attention to these stats. However, there is a button (usually located at the bottom left of the dashboard) that players will use regularly. That button is the Call (呼出), press on this button to get the attention of the parlours staffs. Situation when players need to alert staffs include, a) replacing a full tray with an empty one, b) when you decide to stop playing and cash out your winnings, c) when there are problems with the machine, eg when a pachinko ball gets stucked somewhere.
(3) This is the slot where you insert your money. Accepted notes are JYP10000, JPY5000 and JPY1000
(4) This sign indicates the denomination limit of the current machine. In this example, it simply means that each pachinko ball costs 4Yen, and you get 25 balls for every 100Yen
(5) On the upper tray of the pachinko machine, you will see several buttons. On the right side, there will always be two buttons, one for releasing ball (玉出) (usually 125 balls at a time on a 4Yen machine) and another to eject your remaining credits. There will also be a small LCD panel that indicates your remaining credits, in multiples of hundred Yen. Eg, you insert JPY1000, once the note is accepted, the small LCD panel will show 10, pressing the release ball button will release 125 balls, thereafter the LCD panel will indicated 5, which is your remaining credits of 500Yen, pressing it again will release another 125 balls and you will be left with 0 credits. In the event when you decide to stop playing, press the second button to eject your remaining credits.
(6) This is the handle and is the only mechanism of the machine which you have control over. Turn the knob towards the right to shoot the pachinko balls upwards. The trick is to try to aim and shoot the pachinko balls towards the top left corner, indicated at (7).
(7) This is the place where you should aim your pachinko balls at. It is really simple.
(8) After dropping from (7), your pachinko balls will start falling through a series of nails, down the machine. From this point onwards, you have absolutely no control on how or where the balls will fall. Located at the centre of the machine is (8), this is the placeholder that wins you a spin when a ball falls into the tiny hole. Again, it is all up to luck that your ball falls into this hole. Based on my experience, you will earn one spin from every 20-30 balls.
(9) Those balls that did not reach the hole in (8), will fall back into the machine. The balls are considered lost. Try again next time.
(10) The LCD screen in the middle of the machine is where all the fun and action takes place. I shall not go into detail on what exactly happens here, if you are interested to learn more, stay tuned for my Deep-Dive into Pachinko article.
(11) This is the upper tray which housed your pachinko balls after pressing the ball release button in (5)
(12) This is the lower tray of the machine. When you strike a Jackpot and is in winning mode, more and more pachinko balls get released. Once the upper tray is full, over flooded balls will automatically be released into the lower tray. This will almost only happen when you are in Jackpot winning mode.
(13) This is the place where you place the basket/tray to collect your pachinko balls. When you are in a winning fever mode, you will start winning pachinko balls, so much that your machine can’t handle. Press one of the release handle found in (12), and see your pachinko balls collecting inside the basket. And once your basket is full, press the Call button found in (1). A staff will approach you with an empty basket. Take the empty basket from him/her, and he/she will proceed to move your full basket and place it on the floor behind your seat. Repeat the process and start accumulate your winnings! A full basket contains about 1500 balls, worth about JPY6000. It is not uncommon to see players with dozens of baskets of winnings. My personal record was about 15 baskets of pachinko balls winnings.
(14) Commonly for most machines, once you enter winning fever mode, this is the place where you want to shoot your pachinko balls to. The screen in (10) will alert you with a message 右打, it simply means shoot to the right. When your winning fever mode ends, the screen will alert you with a message 左打, it simply means shoot to the left (7).
(15) In some newer parlours, basket are not used. Instead, winning pachinko balls are stored inside the machine. A small LCD panel located at (15) indicates your winnings.
(16) This is the place where you collect your remaining credits upon pushing the eject button in (5)
Thats all about what you will see on the machine. If you have any doubts, do drop me a comment.
Money, Credits and Winnings
Insert your money (3), buy some pachinko balls (5), shoot the balls into (7), hope they gets into the hole (8), earn a spin, hope the spin results in a REACH, hopefully the REACH wins a Jackpot, send us into winning fever mode, and win lots and lots and lots of pachinko balls.
In pachinko context, there is a difference between Money, Credits and Winnings. Money is yours, inside your wallet, and you use your Money to buy Credits. Insert a JPY1000 note into (3) to buy 10 credits, which will be reflected at (5). At this point, you can still withdraw your credits if you decide to stop playing. Simply press the eject button at (5) and collect your credit token at (16). The token is usually in the form of a card or a plastic coin. Collect the token and look for a money changing machine (計算機) in the parlour, insert the token, press the collect button and collect your cash.
However, once you bought pachinko balls with your credit, or you won lots and lots of pachinko balls, it cannot be converted back into cash easily. So what can you do with all the pachinko balls you won? If you ask the staff, he/she will probably tell you that you can exchange the balls for prizes. But come on, we all know this is gambling, certainly there must be a way to convert my winnings into cash?? Here, I will explain the step-by-step procedure to convert your winnings pachinko balls into cash.
1. After you won baskets and baskets of pachinko balls and you decide to call it a day, press the Call button located at (2)
2. A staff will approach you soon. Get up from your seat and let the staff know you are quitting. Show the staff a cross ( X ) sign using both your left and right index fingers.
3. The staff will proceed to collect your baskets of winnings and move them to the ball calculation machine. The staff will empty all your baskets of winnings into the machine and the calculation will be completed in a few seconds.
4. At this point, the staff may hand you some wet tower, accept it gracefully and wipe your hands with it.
5. Once the calculation is done, the staff will ask if you want to withdraw “all” or “part” of your winnings. Usually I will choose to withdraw all. I can’t speak Japanese and will usually just nod my head when asked.
6. The staff will then hand you a piece of receipt which indicates the number of pachinko balls you had won.
7. Next, try to locate the prize collection shop (景品店) inside the parlour. Hand the receipt to the staff.
8. At this point, the staff will start rattling and thanking you for visiting blahblahblah. You can just ignore them.
9. The staff will scan the receipt to determine the prizes that you had won. Here, you must take note of a few things. Obviously, we are not interested in exchanging our winnings for biscuits, cookies, or soda drinks. We are only interested in Money. But, pachinko parlour itself are forbidden to encash your winnings. Instead, you will win prize tokens. There are usually 3 different sizes of tokens, each with a different cash values, (大) JPY5500, (中) JPY1500, (小) JPY 1000. For example, if your total winning is 7592 balls, that is equivalent to JPY30368 (7592 x 4Yen per ball), after calculation by the machine, you will receive 5 x 大 and 1 x 中 and 1 x 小, with a total cash value of JPY30000. There will be a residue of 368Yen, which you can use to exchange for other prizes like cookies, drinks, cigarettes etc. Point to the items that you would like to exchange for or you can indicate to the staff and get him/her to choose for you.
10. The staff will then hand you your prize tokens.
11. Next, you need to locate the shop that will exchange your prize tokens into cash. These shops are usually located near by the parlour itself, perhaps along the same street or down the alley. Usually the exchange shops are known as T.U.C shop, their signboards are bright yellow. If you can’t find the shop, try tailgating a winning player and he/she will likely lead you to the T.U.C shop.
12. Once at the T.U.C shop, handover your prize tokens and the staff will exchange them into cash for you.