Talkin’ & Chalkin’

Think back to the old days when you had to pay for each game of pinball. What was the ultimate goal?  To play as long as you could on a single quarter (or whatever the price was).  The more free games you get, the farther your money goes.  Few games do as much for this ideal than today’s feature table:  8-Ball Deluxe.

This table from Bally was released in 1981 and quickly became one of the most popular and well-known machines in pinball history.  Wherever you went to play pinball, you could find an 8BD.  Game revenue followed this popularity, resulting in 3 different production runs:

  • 1981 – Initial run of 8,250 units
  • 1982 – Release of “Limited Edition” version, sometimes known as the “Championship Edition” – 2,388 units
  • 1984 – Second run of the original version, number of units unkown

The initial run was pretty robust, but what made this game popular enough to be built two more times?


The rules are simple, the playfield is wide open with no toys or other distractors, and the pace of the game is on the slower side (typical of many early solid-state games).  While you basically accomplish the same tasks over and over, there’s a lot of fun to be had in improving your shot-making skills.  There’s also a cumulative super bonus that builds up to an exciting climax (see below).


This game is about pool, which has always beern a popular theme in pinball.  It romanticizes the ‘cowboy pool shark’ motif especially in the backglass art, and it has a little speech to help direct you through the game.  Remember that talking pins were very much a novelty in 1981!


This game has so many chances to get free play that it’s hard to name them all.  Here is just a partial list…

  • Score – Two score points awarding one credit each.  The replay scores are not dynamic, so they do not adjust upward like modern machines do.
  • Bank Shot – Advance the multiplier far enough, opens a shot for a credit
  • Deluxe – Spell “deluxe” on the flayfield and earn a credit
  • 8-Ball – Put the ball in the upper saucer enough times, earn a credit
  • Super Deluxe – Spell “DELUXE” on the backglass and earn up to 4 credits

Some of these specials can be awarded multiple times!  So if you’re good at this game, you can pretty much play all day on a single quarter–the pinnacle of pinball prowess.

One thing to be aware of on this game is the frequent use of what are known as “bar plungers”, where the back end of the plunger is not rounded, but instead has a metal spike sticking out of it to prevent players from slamming the plunger forward instead of pulling back and letting the spring action do what it’s supposed to, which can damage the plunger and the mechanism inside the machine.  Good job to whoever came up with that spike!