How do I get better at reading slingshots and nudging accordingly?

I think that through the years I’ve been able to get better at certain skills but, understanding when a slingshot is about to screw me and how to avoid it isn’t one of them. I don’t know if I’ve seen this particular skill discussed on any forum so I thought it’d be cool to see how other people deal with slingshots.


Have you tried prayer?


On classics, I have become convinced that flipping to drop voltage making slings weaker is effective. Might be placebo.


For games that are too fast/crowded for you to be able to follow the ball, I feel like giving a ‘helping’ bump to the slings every hit is often better than doing nothing, as chances are you’ll hit the ball higher, getting it out of the slings and less chance of it going just over the top to the outlane.

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My experience is that this does work some of the time [we were doing it back in the 1970’s], but is not as effective on a tournament-condition machine. Whether it’s voltage drop or something else I can’t say, just that it does happen.

In the more general case, a lot of players bump the machine, some rather hard [see PAPA videos; I think Bowen and Josh H might be good examples], when the ball is about to hit the slings. The bump should change the recoil; assuming the slings and playfield are designed to drain out the sides, as appears to be true in most cases, altering the recoil should reduce sling-drains. I don’t know how to determine how effective this is, though, lacking a good baseline to compare with.


I readily admit that I’m not great at this either. However, my general assessment is that the geometry of slings is designed to move the ball side-to-side and slightly upwards each time, until the ball sails just above the top of the slingshot and into the outlane – not the result you want. So my general plan is to identify the approximate point on the slingshot where this is likely to happen, and if the ball is anywhere near that point, give the machine a generous push forward (upward)… the idea being that the ball will then sail into the area above the outlane… which is usually either a simple rebound rubber, or a metal wall, and either way it deadens the motion of the ball, after which hopefully you can regain control. (Also helpful: forward-to-back nudges on the machine are usually much less likely to annoy the tilt bob, as compared to left-to-right nudges.)

BTW: love the question. Definitely the sort of thing I love seeing here on TiltForums.


If the ball is walking down the slings (hitting lower each time it bounces back and forth), I do nothing.

If it’s walking up the slings, I try to determine the last hit before it will end up going over the top, and nudge upward at that moment.

All other times is voodoo magic to me now. I’d guess that after enough similar sling-sling-outlanes on a certain game, by brain probably kicks in and suggests I do something to prevent it from happening again.

I can’t imagine how you would be able to be super effective with this stuff unless it’s a game you’ve played many, many times.


I find that if I’m unsure – which is almost every time because in competition you’re playing games you’re not very familiar with – bumping up whenever hitting the top half of a sling is generally a positive move. Fewer sling hits makes me feel like the sling to instant outlane death is less likely. And those bumps help me figure out more quickly where that threshold is.

The other thing I do, as much as possible, is to hold up the flipper on the side of the sling to guard against any “dead sling” drain. Until I’m really sure it’s never going to happen I want to keep that guard, because it doesn’t hurt.


Can’t count the number of times I’ve released the flipper too early on a dead sling and suffered an easily avoidable center drain. Not sure if this was an example of a dead sling or a misread on it because the ball hit kind of high on the sling.

That’s a difficult one. With the left flipper up you might have had the chance to push the flipper into the way, or perhaps hit the tip? I’m not too surprised the sling didn’t fire there, given the ball angle and where it hit.

Ugh I’ve done this way too many times. But usually it’s off the bottom of the sling.

I tend to nudge the machine/sling into the ball if the ball is going slow and I think the sling may not fire. Not sure if it’s a good idea or not. I feel like I do this alot on stern KISS. It wouldn’t have helped in this case.

I think practice on a machine is the only way to learn to read the slings. Figure out how sensitive they are. After that it’s all about reading the angles and thinking a move ahead so you can react quick enough. But it does suck when you misread the angle/sling and lose a ball. It looks so bad. Way more painful than a SDTM drain.

Great thread!

One question I have always had is once a sling has rocketed a ball towards the outline and you know 100% that it’s going strait down the outlane. If the up/forward nudge wasn’t enough or if it was too late, is there anything you can do once the ball gets close the outlane to prevent it from draining out? Slapping the side of the machine? Praying? Yelling?

This is from @dbs 's “The Three Rivers Pinball Association’s Guide to Improving your Pinball Skills”…

“One area of the playfield where nudging is absolutely vital is
around the slingshots. A ball that is moving horizontally is much
more likely to drain, especially on newer machines. Knowing how
to nudge the machine, both when the ball first hits the slingshots
and when it leaves them, will greatly decrease the number of outlane
drains. Generally, if a ball is going to hit the lower half of a
slingshot (i.e. closest to the flippers), nudge forward just as the ball
makes contact with the slingshot rubber. If a ball is going to hit the
upper half of a slingshot, nudge forward just after the ball ricochets,
to force it further up the playfield and away from the outlanes.”

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Pinball gods grant me revenge! And if you do not listen, then to hell with you!

On games I’m really unfamiliar with I’ll do a couple slingbacks to gauge how twitchy the slings are if it’s not do-or-die time.

Also, nudge to get the ball to contact one of the sling posts rather than the face whenever possible.

What about the sort of downward slap I’ve seen people do. Its maybe nudging slightly forward but, at the same time slapping the lockbar down.

I think I tend to push the slingshot towards the ball instead of up lol. I probably just make those wicked sling to outlane drains happen even faster. Maybe its like ripping off a band aid? Better just to do it quick and get it over with :slight_smile:

In certain situations like when the ball is traveling “southwest/east” toward the lower half of the sling, I have taken to nudging in the direction that the ball is traveling, which is not something I’m seeing mentioned.

The idea is that it’s deadening the impact and/or hitting even lower on the sling and sending the ball downward toward the flippers, instead of horizontally toward the other sling.


I should train myself to do this, because it is easily one of my most frustrating drain scenarios.

I like this move too, but it’s hard to gauge how much effect it has. I try it often on a very mean Xenon lock kickout where the ball hits the middle of the right sling every time. Mixed results :man_shrugging:

100% hate that dead sling to death diagonal angle between your flippers :frowning: