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What is Pachinko? (2020) | Pachinko Parlour - AskGamblers

What is Pachinko? Guide to the Most Famous Japanese Gambling Game

Although typically mentioned in the context of western countries’ entertainment, gambling is actually a widespread type of enjoyment cultures around the globe practice and appreciate. Japan, a country seated in East Asia, known for its rich cultural and historical heritage, is one such country.

Today, we’re talking about Japan’s gambling pride and joy – Pachinko game – and ways you can understand, appreciate and play it. 

What is Pachinko?

Pachinko (パチンコ) is a Japanese mechanical game used as both a type of recreational arcade game and, in recent years, a gambling device. In their nature, appearance and mechanism, Pachinko games resemble Western gambling, i.e. gambling on slot machin­es. ­ ­

Widespread throughout Japan, pachinko parlors usually feature numerous slot machines (called pachislo or pachislots), hence looking like typical casino venues. With the game actively growing in recognition and crowd acceptance, the fact all modern pachinko machines are highly customizable doesn’t really surprise us. 

What Does Pachinko Mean?

Extracted from the sound the game machine makes, the notion “pachin” is root to the word Pachinko. Due to its diminutive suffix “ko” meaning “little, tiny small”, the game’s name is very suggestive of its overall appearance. Pachinko is also linked to the Japanese phrase “pachi pachi”, expressing two meanings: on the one hand, “pachi pachi” describes the sound of hands clapping, and on the other, it expresses the sound of a light explosion, something similar to fireworks.

In that sense, Pachinko represents a game that is both thrilling and exciting, but not too large to be distracting. Pachinko goes back to 1953, marking a steady growth in popularity and players’ interest ever since. 

Pachinko Parlor: What Is It and How It Looks

Often compared to Western casino parlors due to their structural composition and overall ambience, Pachinko parlors are large indoor corners populated with rows and rows of Pachinko machines, allowing numerous players to play at once. 

Pachinko machines look very much like Western pinball machines or slot machines, with exuberant lights and sounds accompanying the gameplay. Essentially, whoever’s had even the slightest experience with Western land-based casinos will rarely ever wonder what is a pachinko parlor, as these two are almost twins. 

Pachinko machines look very much like Western pinball machines or slot machines, with exuberant lights and sounds accompanying the gameplay.

Pachinko parlors can be found across Japan and are easily recognizable due to their bright and colourful exterior. Every Pachinko parlor is extremely noisy on the inside, which adds to the whole atmosphere of excitement and tension. Today, both men and women enjoy going to Pachinko parlos and playing Pachinko; the game grew in popularity so much that it's even delivered a few pachinko professionals.

Pachinko Online: Can You Play Pachinko on the Internet? 

Just as it happens with most popular games, pachinko has found its home online as well. 

Similarly to online slot machines for play, free pachinko games are also to be found online with a quick browse. Although predominantly catering to the Asian (or specifically Japanese) clientele, some online casinos offer the game of pachinko for real money. Interestingly, even though it started as a Japan-focused game only, pachinko is now becoming more popular with other cultures as well. 

If you are into pachinko and want to play it online, make sure you play at legitimate and trustworthy online gambling portals to avoid fraud or any other similar discomfort. 

Due to its mounting popularity, many gaming companies have expanded their game assortment and included pachinko in their online portfolio. Also, pachinko is usually available on smartphones and tablets, together with steady computers. 

Will pachinko online ever become as popular as the online slot machines? We’ll wait, play, and see. 

Companies Who Make Pachinko Machines

Over the years, Japan pachinko entertainment has seen hundreds of companies and manufacturers race in producing the best and most attractive pachinko machines on the market. With the players’ demand and intere­st-­cha­nge­,  pachinko appearance changed as well, becoming more and more appealing and stimulating. Today, there are tens of thousands of variations of the front pachinko machines, appealing to a broad audience. 

The most popular companies who make pachinko machines are: 

  • Daiichi Pachinko Machine
  • Ginza Pachinko Machine
  • Kyoraku Pachinko Machine
  • Maruhon Pachinko Machine
  • Maruto Pachinko Machine
  • Mizuho Pachinko Machine
  • New Gin Pachinko Machine
  • Nishijin Pachinko Machine – Model A, B and C
  • Okumurayuki Pachinko Machine
  • Sankyo Pachinko Machines
  • Sanyo Pachinko Machine

Every few years or so, pachinko manufacturing companies improve the mechanical design of their machines, not just the front design. These changes are mostly noticeable in the back. Although they were originally strictly mechanical, Pachinko machines are now fit for the modern-day user, incorporating extensive electronics and, therefore, becoming similar to video slots.

How to Play Pachinko?

To play pachinko, you have to rely on different strategies than at standard slots. 

Players have to rent quite a few small steel balls from the parlor owner which, then, get loaded into the machine. Once the player loads the balls into the machine, they should press a lever that releases a hammer inside the pachinko machine; the hammer then launches the pachinko balls along the machine’s metal track. The ball falls into the playing field as it slows on the track, and it bounces off of small metal pins that line the playing field. 

pachinko machine

What is the point of pachinko? The point is to play some, win some, and have loads of fun in the process. The goal, however, is to have as many balls as possible fall into a pachinko catcher, collect them and exchange them for money later. The catcher is one of the small holes dispersed across the game’s field of play, earning the player a reward the moment a ball falls into it. 

Some pachinko games pay players in additional steel balls; the players can exchange these steel balls for prizes or tokens once they’ve finished playing.

Pachinko Balls

What coins are to regular types of slot machines, balls are to pachinko machines. 

To play in a quality manner, you need a minimum of 250 pachinko balls, although the recommended number spans from 500 to 1000 to avoid frequent supply tray refills. 

Pachinko balls can be bought on eBay or through certified companies. Depending on the machine you play on, pachinko balls can be worth anywhere from one yen (~ 1/10 a US cent) up to hundreds of yen (100 yen ~ $1 USD). 

Pachinko balls can be worth anywhere from one yen (~ 1/10 a US cent) up to hundreds of yen (100 yen ~ $1 USD).

What is an optimal pachinko ball size? They weigh about 5.75 grams and go to 11 mm in diameter and are predominantly chrome plated, or gold/brass plated. Although it has been speculated that gold pachinko balls mean more than others, there is no evidence to support that. Since pachinko machines cannot distinguish between a gold/chrome/brass ball, there is no other reason to use a gold ball but to say “I won a gold ball!” at the end of your gameplay. 

If you’ve ever played a pachinko machine (or intend to do so), you then know that some balls come engraved while others don’t. Is there a difference in their functioning? Absolutely not, they work the same; the engraving is just a matter of manufacturing preference. 

When using a pachinko ball, it’s important to clean them regularly. That way you are removing the oil the ball’s collected from your hands and reduce dust deposition throughout the pachinko machine which can mess up the operation of your machine. Clean your pachinko balls once a month or every few months, depending on how often you play, and make sure they are dry before using them to play. If your pachinko balls get rusty on the surface, use any efficient rust removal product. 

Pachinko balls can get cracks if used for extended periods, and, with that, become useless. If you notice cracks on your pachinko balls, throw them away. 

Pachinko ball lifters are an important part of playing this game, as they serve to automatically refill the supply tray when it runs low. Unfortunately, there isn’t a certified company that presently sells them, but you may be able to find pachinko ball lifters on eBay. 

The pachinko balls can be exchanged for tokens, but more about the surrounding circumstances of this matter in the lines to come. 

Pachinko Token 

Although nominally illegal in Japan, gambling for cash has found itself a legal loophole allowing it to exist, and all thanks to the extensive popularity of low-stakes pachinko gambling. 

As declared by the law, pachinko balls cannot be exchanged directly for money, exchanged with other parlors or removed from the premises in case the player wins. However, legal trade of the balls for the so-called “special prize” tokens (特殊景品 tokushu keihin) within the base parlor are allowed. Once traded, they are “legally sold” for cash to a detached vendor that’s located far from the premises. 

As declared by the law, pachinko balls cannot be exchanged directly for money, exchanged with other parlors or removed from the premises in case the player wins.

These vendors are then known to sell the tokens back to the parlor at the same price paid for them, turning a cash profit as a result – without violating the law. Well, technically. It is speculated that the vendors are usually owned by the parlor owner even though they are supposedly independent of them.

This praxis is done to circumvent the gambling laws, and it seems to be both understood and fully ignored by the authorities. If you ever find yourself in a situation to play a pachinko machine and win, don’t ever ask where the prize exchange location is. Such phrasing is forbidden; instead, ask for the “special prize” tokens and you shouldn’t face any problems with the law. 

Believe it or not, pachinko history is somewhat coloured by mafia involvement; the exchange of prizes for cash used to be controlled by the yakuza (Japanese mafia), but it has since been cleaned up by the police, who now control it in this way.

Pachinko Prizes – How Prizes Work in Pachinko?

As explained above, if you are after a cash prize, be smart with the way you exchange your pachinko balls for tokens. However, if you are into prizes other than cash, you’ll be surprised to learn that, traditionally, tradeable pachinko prizes have been things like cheap wristwatches, ball-point pens, lighter flints, and similar. They are intended for circulation within the business rather than being kept by customers which is why they are often packaged in sealed and labelled sturdy plastic cases.

pachinko parlour

According to some resources, packaged gold ingots of under 0.5g have recently become a popular high-price tradeable prize. Non-tradeable prices range from soft drinks and snacks to TVs and bicycles. 

Pachinko and Japanese Gambling Law

Gambling in Japan is illegal. However, pachinko is treated as an amusement activity and therefore, is regarded as an exception.

Even though awarding money prizes to pachinko players is illegal, thanks to the legal loophole, players can cash their tokens in, which can then be sold for cash at nearby exchange centres.

Can Foreigners Play Pachinko

Pachinko in Japan seems to be an enticing type of entertainment for foreigners visiting Japan due to their bright, neon lights and an inviting and exciting noise. Foreigners are allowed to play in pachinko parlors across Japan; however, they cannot do it for direct cash.

Even though awarding money prizes to pachinko players is illegal, thanks to the legal loophole, players can cash their tokens in, which can then be sold for cash at nearby exchange centres.

While some parlors may be suspicious of foreign attendants due to some recorded fraud in the past, others are very welcoming with their staff speaking English, Spanish, and Chinese (sometimes even other languages) fluently. 

What Is Plinko?

Plinko is the most popular pricing game on the show called The Price is Right. Plinko is played for a cash prize of up to $50,000, awarding prizes valued under $100 as well. Plinko is usually considered the most famous of all the pricing games.

The game is, to some extent, interactive as it is upon the player to choose the correct option between two displayed digits – the first or the second – in order to get a prize. For choosing the correct digit, the contestant wins small pachinko prizes and an extra chip, too. Once all the items are priced, the player places one chip at a time on a pegboard which is somewhat styled as a bean machine; this is where every chip ultimately falls into one of nine spaces at the bottom. Each of these spaces is valued differently and arranged symmetrically, with the middle space hitting a $10,000 worth. 

To understand what is plinko better and get familiar with the rules properly, do a quick browse on the game and the information will follow. 

Pachinko vs Plinko

Although they differ in various aspects, the game of pachinko and plinko seem to be often mentioned together. This could be due to the fact that both involve balls and/or chips that fall into holes and, in doing so, establish prizes for the players. 

The Future of Pachinkos

Presently, there are no indicators pachinko parlors or pachinko machines will be banned from the gaming market, especially because pachinko-related gambling has recently accounted for 4% of Japan’s GDP. The Government is, however, taking a stand on problem gambling, banning gambling addicts from casinos and pachinko parlors altogether. 

In the light of pachinko changes and regulations, there are some potential “problems” on the horizon. 

As Japan contemplates turning over to a cashless economy, Pachinko parlos are actively finding themselves in a challenge. Will this mean the end of pachinko parlors as we know them? However, even with this potential problem on the rise, the pachinko industry has been active in raising money for low-income students, but not with too much approval from the public. Critics call this a marketing stunt, so the future of this dynamic is on shaky legs. 

Conclusion 

Playing pachinkos is a Japanese version of getting your blood rushing without breaking any gambling laws, having fun, and going home with some cash (if you get your balls in order). If you ever decide to play it online or find yourself in Japan next to a pachinko parlor, keep everything we’ve written above in mind, and you’ll be good to go. Good luck!

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