How to Play Pachinko

Pachinko is a fun game which resembles pinball and could be classed as the Japanese equivalent of slot machines due to the enormous choice on offer to players and the popularity it enjoys in parlours across the country.

Basic Rules

Pachinko machines look and work a bit like vertical pinball games. They are traditionally mechanical, but increasingly they have incorporated electronics to take on the same sort of features that video slot machines use.

Players purchase a large number of small silver balls and then start the game. The balls enter the machine towards the top and weave through a series of pins. Unlike in pinball, where the player has a flipper to work as they try to bounce balls back into play, most of the balls in pachinko fall through to the bottom and count for nothing.

However, there are one or more special holes, usually located in the lower middle of the machine, which are just big enough for the balls to drop into. This happens occasionally and rewards players with free balls, whilst also triggering a spin on a virtual slot machine in the video screen at the centre of the machine.

The aim of the game is to get three of the same numbers or symbols in a row to land a jackpot, and when the first two numbers match up the machine goes into a mode known as “reach”. This feature prolongs a player’s wait to find out if they have lined up all three numbers and adds to the excitement as various animations are shown, perhaps involving a battle between cartoon characters representing the number you want and one you don’t.

Players can use the free balls they win to keep playing for the jackpot or trade them in for tokens, as gambling for cash is not legal in Japan. Tokens can then be exchanged for money somewhere just outside or next to the parlour.


Playing pachinko is a solitary activity, much like slot machines in the US and Europe, but civilised behaviour is still very much expected. It is considered poor etiquette to show too much emotion, whether winning or losing, as other players are likely to be right next to you and will not appreciate overt displays of either delight or disgust.

Pachinko parlours can be crowded places, so take care with regards to where you are walking and what you pick up. Avoid picking up a full tray as you run the risk of dropping the balls all over the floor. Use the call button at the top of the machine to contact a member of staff and they will come to pick up your winnings and provide an empty tray.


A player’s main task is to control the speed at which the balls enter the machine, by holding the control wheel and twisting. Finding a good consistent speed can result in balls dropping into the special holes more regularly, otherwise your balls may all disappear in just a few minutes. While pachinko is a game of luck, some people are thought to be so successful in their ability to do this that they practically make playing pachinko their profession.

Selecting where to play is also vital. There will usually be stats available for every machine telling you how many wins and how many spins they have had so far in the day, as well as for preceding days. New machines, known as shindai, are also particularly popular because they are known to pay out more regularly in the first couple of weeks. You may also want to stay away from empty parlours because they are probably unpopular due to a lack of winning players.

Where to Play Pachinko

Pachinko is hugely popular in Japan, both as an arcade game for recreational purposes and in parlours where players can trade in what they have won for tokens. While it is not commonly found at land-based venues outside Japan, you can play pachinko online at Ladbrokes, where you can enjoy the game for free as you get acquainted with how it works before playing from as little as 1p per ball.

Important Terms:


A brand-new pachinko machine. These are very popular as they pay out regularly in the first fortnight of operation.


This is what happens when a player has two of the three numbers or symbols they need, and the third reel is still spinning. Animations will be shown as the player waits and sometimes there are fights between characters to determine if the number you want is eventually displayed.

Visit the Casino Glossary for more terms which you might find in pachinko or other casino games.

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