Training regimens

When you have “unlimited play for 1 cost” opportunity at a location, what do you focus on if you are trying to practice and develop skills:

Regular play?
1 handed drills or other such drills?


I’d break this into two pieces: technique and game knowledge.

If you’re trying to skill-practice, don’t do one handed. Practice normal flipper skills: transfers, passes, catches, shatzes, and tip saves where the ball is just barely going to touch one flipper and you’re tempted to do a double-flip save - use just one and observe when that works and when it doesn’t. Let the ball dead-bounce more than you usually do. Find games with one or more really tight shots and try to improve your success percentage on them. See how many times you can repeat a shot [Dr. Who anyone?].

On the game-knowledge angle, experiment with different strategies as different players [multiplayer games where you play them both or all]. Yes, you can also do this sequentially game by game and note what works better, but it’s also useful to see which strategies are better at overcoming deficits for when you’re actually in competition. It’s also a good time to probe machines where your game rules knowledge is weak.

One-handed practice is good for two things in particular: improving reflexes and forcing yourself to dead bounce more often.


I think one handed practice is valuable for newer players that are showing a desire to improve. It definitely taught me how to be patient and let balls dead bounce early on. At some point though, I agree it’s time to move on and work on flipper skills specifically.

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If you’re trying to develop new skills and are a new-ish player, try and break yourself from the “I need to get a high score” mindset and try not to pay attention to score. Learn drop catches - don’t be afraid to let the ball drain. Focus on live catching. Get into an easy multiball and try and manage a multiball by having one or two balls on the same flipper, hitting jackpots with the other. Anywhere you feel weak or uncomfortable with a machine, focus on it! Unlimited play arcades are so much more valuable than pay-to-play when it comes to learning, as it can free you from the “I paid for this game, I can’t get a bad score” mentality that I know I used to have. Have fun, learn lots, good luck :slight_smile:


I’ll also add “improve your ability to make good decisions near the flippers.” When it doesn’t cost more money to flail around for a few games, you can try to force yourself out of bad habits that cost you balls. For example, I dead bounce way too much and sometimes end up with a ball bouncing haphazardly around the flippers, when a drop or live catch would be better.


Consider this, your knowledge of the rules is the one thing you always have control over at any point during a pinball game. Try playing through different parts of the game even though you know it may not be the path to putting your name on the leaderboard. In competition, you may find that you only need a few points to advance your position and those nuggets of knowledge will come in handy. Other times you may find yourself significantly behind. It’s often better to lose trying to start a mode before bringing in your multiball because you likely would have lost without extra mode points anyway. There will be times you stack them and be glad you did.

The biggest practice tip I can give in terms of play is trying to tilt or double danger in an attempt to save every ball in practice. You’d be surprised at how often you can make huge move and get away with it, particularly in an arcade setting. A ball with two dangers will always be worth more than one in the trough.


It depends if I’m traveling or at the place near me. If I’m somewhere new I’m trying to play games I’ve never played before and learn the rules.

If I’m at the spot near me where I play in the monthly tournament I am trying to familiarize myself with how each of the specific machines work. Which games have super tight tilts, can I backhand ramps on this machine, figuring out the plunger skill shot.

One thing I’ve been doing lately at the arcade is starting two games and using one of them to actually play the game, with a eye for things to try, and the other game to solely work on mechanics. Post transfers back and forth, backhands, checking where kickout deadflips land, etc. It keeps you from getting bored just running drills while still working on the game. It also frees your mind a bit knowing that you’re not going for a score, you’re just playing with the game. I’ll often finish those sessions with a single game that’s “just for fun” and end up putting up a personal best.

Also, by far the biggest improvement I ever made in pinball was after I resolved to learn drop catches. Before then I’d always deadflip or try to live catch, the idea of dropping the flipper and hoping it killed the momentum was terrifying. So I just resolved to try it, every game, and accept that I was going to lose a lot of balls that way. After a month of trying I just found the feel for it and started doing it all the time. That’s the biggest thing, don’t be afraid of losing the ball. You’re trying to get better at something, making mistakes is part of that, and analyzing and accepting those mistake is the best way to get better.


And if nobody is on the machines, experiment. Learn the machines by trying different things and going for specials, harder to make shots and things that you wouldn’t normally keep trying for if you had to put in your own money.