Thoughts on aiming

I have for the last year or so been casually attempting to force myself to look at the flipper more when I shoot rather than the shot I’m shooting, and to try and act based on the ball’s position on the flipper rather than from timing or instinct. I’ve definitely noticed improvement when I’m successful doing that, but it has also been more difficult than I expected.

Last night I was playing a ToM with one of those flippers where, from a trap, the flipper will stick a moment before dropping. I was surprised this affected me as much as it did, I could not hit anything and was consistently an entire shot early when shooting from a trap. The more I played I realized two things:

  1. Even though I had played several games on this machine, and realized the problem that had to be worked around, I found it extremely hard to adjust. I would be looking at the flipper and waiting for the ball to arrive at the spot I wanted to, and my finger would just flip early before I got there. The instinct involved in taking shots based on timing vs actual physical location is, at least in me, apparently very very strong. I mean, I’ve been playing that way for 25 years so I guess its not really surprising. I think this is also related to players who hold up the flipper before taking a shot on the fly. Shoot a ramp, hold up your flipper, wait for the ball to drop back into the inlane, drop the flipper, shoot again. You’re timing the time from the moment the ball drops of the ball into the inlane (when you drop the flipper) to the shot you’re taking. The Inner Game Of Tennis talks about similar techniques.

  2. Another thing is that my timing is apparently tied to when I let go of the flipper button rather than when the flipper itself drops. This was actually a little distressing to realize, but it also makes sense in retrospect thinking about my consistent issues with accuracy from machine to machine. A small tweak there (just like a small tweak to how long it takes between button press and actual flip) can have a lot of impact.

This all goes to say that changing how I aim is not going to take just learning a new skill or way of shooting but unlearning the old way as well, which is actually probably way way harder.


Play on the fly more! I don’t have this problem :slight_smile: but I do look at where on the flipper the shot is mostly (not that my aiming is that good).

I did notice, however, on Monster Bash in particular, I am bad at the right Bride ramp. I started to actually look at the yellow artwork going up towards it and aiming for that instead and seem to have better luck. But usually I don’t look at the shot but where on the flipper I think the shot is since I play mostly on the fly…

Would love to hear more thoughts on this from others with good aim

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I’ve always done this naturally, the other way just doesn’t make sense to me. It’s the old “keep your eye on the ball” thing. In baseball or golf you don’t look at where you want the ball to go as you’re trying to hit it, otherwise you’re more likely to just miss completely.

Playfield art can help with this. For example on fish tales I can dial in the lock shot by thinking “okay I need to flip right before the ball touches the fishes teeth” or something like that to give a better idea of when to flip, instead of more generic guesses about where on the flipper to flip.


If I’m missing a shot consistently, I lean and change my angle of vision on the shot. Stole that from Jorian so it must be good, right?

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I’ve sucked at aiming for years and asked other people how they aim for years. I’ve found that most people have never really thought about their aiming process and have a difficult time describing what they do when asked. I’ve tried feel, looking at pf art near the flipper, looking at the flipper itself as a ruler, changing my position to “line up” the shot and I haven’t found any sort of consistency.

I think there are two types of aiming though. From a cradle and on the fly. From a cradle I have had more success using the flipper as a ruler technique. On the fly I try to go back to that same spot on the flipper but also try to compensate by flipping earlier if a ball is spinning or rolling down the flipper or later if the ball has been stopped mid flipper via a drop catch or busted post pass etc. My thoughts on aiming in general are I will continue to suck at aiming :frowning:

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I’ve had a similar experience to many of you, and have been struggling to find what works for me. I’ve been finding that, from a trap, a lower to the ground stance that allows me to line up my shot on the flipper and through what I’m aiming at to be helpful, when I’m aiming at the main part of the playfield. (Say, to the orbits.)

For general play, I also like the lower stance, because it allows me to take in all of the playfield. Standing more straight up and down, I feel like I need to pan my head to get a full view.

For shots at the ends of the flippers (think away team on Star Trek, piston lane or mystery scoop on MET, shatzing), I find that art cues help more, and I’ll adjust my stance for those shots.

I’ve heard or read KME mention that he thinks of flipping as a matter of timing. So, then lends more credence to simply using timing and art cues. However, I’ve struggled with that approach.

I -really- struggle with shooting a moving ball, coming through an inlane, other than by timing. It’s a weakness in my game, for sure. My buddy @JLemire says you need to fire earlier to take into account the angular momentum of the ball. Pretty damn sure he’s right, but I’m not sure -how much earlier- to fire, so I fall back on timing.

In short, I know nothing. :slight_smile: This is what I’ve figured out after a year and a half.


Oh! And ps - I’m blind in my left eye. (Seriously.) So, I have no idea if my experience is notably different than you all with binocular vision.

I do think I’m more accurate from the right, and have taken to adjusting my stance to get a better angle when shooting from the left, at times.

When I first try a shot, I do it purely off feel. If I hit it, it’s on. Usually I don’t though. Then I go to finding where at on the flipper I need to flip to make the shots. I rarely look at the shot I’m trying to make. Especially in multiball, I try to memorize on the flippers where every shot is.

All this being said, I miss CONSTANTLY, so I probably need to start trying something else. Haha.


I’m no expert at aiming, but for me it’s timing. People ask me where on the flipper a shot is and I have no idea - even if I just played several games in a row.

I have seen a few references to ‘quiet eye technique’ which says that you should actually stare at the thing you’re aiming at for several seconds, then return your eye to the flipper and make the shot. Haven’t really tried it out much yet.

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For me, it’s the position of the ball on the flipper. I memorise where a shot goes from a particular spot on the flipper, and I hardly ever look at the target I’m shooting for.

The one exception is when I have a really tight shot that I want to make from a trap. Then I crouch down and peer at the target over the flipper, so I have a better chance of launching the ball at the correct moment.

Otherwise, it’s just position on the flipper. If the ball is travelling fast, such as when coming down an inlane, I adjust and trigger the shot earlier, to take the momentum of the ball into account.


Here is another opinion from someone with poor aim. I firmly believe in intuitive learning. I try to observe, avoid engaging the language center of the brain and avoid applying judgement to outcomes.

I can say one of the other things I do horibly wrong is that much of my timing is based on my slappy windup. For me it is a physical thing like hitting a baseball other than pressing a video game button. On of the (many) problems is that when I get excited, my timing changes. I accelerate my slap and start to miss.

What a great visual and I know exactly what you mean.

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I had the same problem on TOM as you did Greg. The only shot I could hit consistently from a trap on the right was the left loop. I couldn’t get the timing right for the earlier shots.

If i’m having trouble with an individual shot i cradle up, stare at the shot i want to make for a second. I flip the other flipper a few times to gauge the reaction and angle of the flippers. I think about where I want the ball to be on the flipper to make the shot. I make sure I’m staring directly at the ball as I shoot.

If I’m consistently missing shots all over, I stop trying to hit shots and instead focus on nothing but keeping my eyes glued to the ball. I dont think about what shot I want to hit. I don’t look at the display. I dont think about what my opponent did before me and what I need to do to catch them. Even when the ball is sitting in a scoop for a few seconds I keep staring at it. I’ll aim for a few easy shots even if they don’t progress anything in till I get dialed back in to the game. Once I’m able to successfully hit a few of them I shift my focus back to what I need to hit to progress in the game.

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I love this thread. I think about stuff like this all the time. probably too much.

I don’t think there is any right way to aim. Different stuff works for different folks. I think I use bits and pieces of all the techniques mentioned here. My #1 is watching where the ball is on the flipper. But this is mainly for shooting at a difficult shot from a trap. Or if I play a game a whole bunch I’d just start to figure out where the shots are on the flipper. For the most part I think I use timing to aim - I think most people do but nobody thinks about it. When I am getting used to a game I’m not too familiar with I will start by shooting where I THINK the shot is. Then unless I make it… I adjust. If I miss late I make a mental note and adjust where I am aiming rather than try and remember late/early or flipper position. However eventually you get used to the correct timing and have to stop aiming at the “wrong” spot because you will start hitting it. Like on ST:TNG I was having a tough time with the right lock orbit. I’d aim at it and hit the right ramp. So I started aiming more to the right for the orbit. However now I knew if I aimed at where I think the orbit shot should be I can hit the ramp. I feel like I am brainwashing myself.

Also I rarely look up. I don’t really look at what I am shooting at. After a couple games I know where the shots are. I just focus on my timing and flipper position. In MB I rarely even see the top half of the table. Which can hurt me sometimes. I will usually flail at least until I lose a ball. I don’t really aim, I just shoot the balls in the direction of the shots. It’s all about return on investment. If I trap up and can make the shot 50% of the time… but flailing I hit it 20% of the time - it sounds like trapping up is the way to go. But if I can flail and keep the balls in play (that’s the tough part) I might be able to attempt 5x as many shots. 2 shots at 50% = 1 made. 10 shots at 20% = 2 made. It’s a gamble for sure. I think it’s def. the way to go during ball save time. After that I might start trapping after losing a ball (or two in a 4 ball MB) depends on the game too obviously. I think I get into trouble thinking too much sometimes. If I focus more on making saves I can afford to flail a bit. This also helps on games where you don’t know the rules well and just want to hit a ton of random shots.

Finally another technique I employ which seems to help is lining up the shots by moving my head/body. Let’s say you are playing FT and going for monster fish. The ball is coming off the ramp to the left flipper. I will move my body to the left and lower my head a bit. Like I was lining up a T2 cannon shot. Then if I hit the ramp I will immediately move over to the other side and do the same thing. Moving that much can also be a distraction… but at the very least I will switch feet when doing something like this. It’s tough to think about what I do w/o playing… but I think I will move my left foot forward when I am shooting from the left flipper. yeah that gives you the ability to lean in the direction to line up the shot.

Which makes me think about my stance… but I will leave that for another thread!

Accuracy… The weakest part of my game. I like to hear these stories as it not only gives me ideas for what I can try to improve, but also that I’m not alone!

The saddest part about this weakness for me is that I’ve come to realise I’m not actually improving. I can practice every day for a couple of weeks before a tournament and see a marked improvement and feel much more confident, but then if I go back to my regular play of just on weekends, I go back to square one very quickly.

An example. I use Scared Stiff as my ‘accuracy practice’ game (it’s the only quickish playing game with left to right ramps I have in my collection). Before a major tournament some time ago I practiced for half an hour every day for about 4 weeks, and got my record of consecutive shots up the right ramp to 16, and left ramp 15. And I was hovering around those numbers reasonably often as I played.

Jump to today, where I have just started this process again for an upcoming tournament in 4 weeks, and I’m back to about 7 on the right ramp and 5 on the left - but most of the time average 2 or 3 in row only. It’s depressing to think how far backward I’ve gone. And I’m not just a casual player here and there, I go to two leagues and play often on the weekend. I just suck!

I’ve started to come to the conclusion (and very happy to be convinced to the contrary) that accuracy is just not my thing and I’m never going to be good at it. I have other strengths, such as excellent recovery skills, and a calm and composed nature under pressure (the latter being the secret to my success in major tournaments I believe, while more accurate players struggle).

Anyway, I’ve tried many of the techniques in this thread, but mostly use the ‘quiet eye’ technique, with a bit of the placement on the flipper - though that changes depending how fast the ball is moving. Always keen to hear more theories on accuracy improvement.


There is nothing like self-confidence when it comes to improving one’s game :wink:

But, seriously, rather than focussing on the negatives, I’d look at the up-side: “OK, I know used to be better at this so, with a bit of practice, I know that I’ll be back there in short order.” That turns the entire thing from an exercise in frustration into something rewarding: “Yesterday, I only got three consecutive ramps, now I’m getting six.”

I regress, too. One day, I get 300 million games several times, and the following day, I struggle to get fifty. I’ve learned to accept that I’m not always playing at the same skill level. Rather than berating myself, I just go with the flow. “Oh well, I’m having a bad day today. It’ll be better again tomorrow.”


The “occasionally good player” in my description comes from exactly this. I’m more of a “feel it out” type of player when it comes to aiming, but consistency is my constant nemesis.

I tend to try something different often when I know something isn’t working, but it often seems like I’ll brick out of everything by the time I’ve found what works, and by then it’s usually too late in a game.

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It isn’t like anyone knows how a game shoots until they know how it shoots. The other day we played a game of thrones that shot different from any other GOT I had played. I just couldn’t adapt to the forehand of the center ramp. I think I made 1 from a cradle the entire game. No matter what I did - I couldn’t tell my brain to shoot late enough, or my brain couldn’t tell my hands - or whatever. In the end I stopped trying. I post transferred and took backhands or I shot the orbit to get control. Not ideal, but in a matchplay situation I couldn’t continue to miss that shot.


I think an important factor on making a shot is the speed and spin of the ball itself. Trent talks about it in one of the earlier Pinball Profile interviews, mentioning orbits have a larger margin of error on a moving ball as opposed to a cradle.

That’s become something I’ve been trying to more actively consider when deciding what my best shot at that moment is. I’ve also started “failing” post passes to get the ball moving. It works really well for hitting the in-line drops on Flash Gordon, or the Supercharger on Getaway that I play often, for instance.


In loosely this order:
I convince myself that the shot I am going to make is the shot that I absolutely want to make. If this shot is a 1 and the second best shot right next door is a .98, then forget all about second best because there’s only one shot I want to make. I make a couple test flips to inform me of just how the flip will happen (this is why I think holding the flipper up until the inlane drop is such a common, winning practice). I look at the goal. I try to look between the posts that outline the shot, where the path of the ball would ideally be. I squat and look at this from a range of about 30 degrees. If it is a close shot (the addams chair for example), I look beyond the shot, as if I am aiming for some point a foot behind the goal. I visualize: what it would be like for the ball to roll onto the flipper, and the flip, and the path of the ball, bullseye. If I miss in my mind, or there is something bumpy about the previz, or there is some flipper hop I remember, I re-do this until everything seems like making the shot is the most natural thing there is. I look at the ball, I look at its features and how they spin. I imagine I am a pinball physics simulator in Nikes. I am so good. I am the baddest. FLIP!
If I’m cradling, I do all the same stuff. I do the test flips with the opposite flipper. I breathe deeply in through my nose and out through my mouth (thanks yoga), while looking at the goal. I do the breathing some more even though it makes me look insane… I keep doing it until it doesn’t feel weird anymore. Then, eyes on the ball, during my finest, smoothest exhale–I am so good, I am the baddest, yada yada yada–FLIP!