Pinball for Dummies: Basics of Flipping

By Will Oetting

Basics of Flipping

When my kids first started playing pinball with me they would hit the flipper buttons repeatedly even if the ball wasn’t even near the flippers.  It is just instinct to try to flip as much as possible to keep that steel sphere from going down the drain.  The game of pinball doesn’t really become fun and exciting until you learn how to control the ball and the flippers are your main tool for that control.  This lesson gives you a few dos and don’ts of using the flippers to start you on your way to higher scores.

Don’t Always Flip

Your first challenge is to resist that instinct to always flip when the ball gets anywhere close to the flippers.  Instead, your focus should be on trying to control the ball.  Even letting the ball bounce off a flipper, called a dead flip, can take some of the momentum out of the ball to make it easier to control.

Dead Flip
Dead Flip thanks to Dead Flip

Do Cradle the Ball

Your main tool to controlling the ball and giving yourself the best chance to hit that next shot is by cradling the ball.  You do this by slowing the momentum of the ball down enough that you can hold the flipper up, letting the ball sit right where the base of the flipper meets the inlane guide.  Once the ball is cradled you have a chance to breathe and think about what your next shot will be. 

Cradle the ball
Cradling a Ball

Don’t Flip Both Flippers

Many newcomers to pinball will try to flip both flippers at once.  This seems like it might be a good move at first, but it actually increases the chance that your ball will go down the drain.  Having both flippers up at the same time can create a bigger area in the middle that the ball can go between.  It also makes it harder to recover for the next time you flip.  If the ball happens to bounce off one of the up flippers toward the other you won’t have enough time to let the flipper go back down to its resting position before you can flip it again.  This game is definitely about reaction time and if you double flip you will increase the amount of time it takes for you to be able to react to an oncoming ball.

No Double Flipping
No Double Flipping

Do Release the Flipper Button

After you have controlled the ball and taken your next shot, make sure to release the flipper button to return the flipper to its resting position.   This is another instance where you want to give yourself as much time to react to the ball coming back at you as possible.  If it comes flying back, and it will, then you won’t have the time to drop the flipper to flip it again.  Also, just like the double flip, leaving the flipper up may open up more space between the flippers.

Do Pass the Ball

There will be times that the next shot you want to hit just isn’t possible from the flipper you have the ball cradled on.  It would really be better if it were on the other flipper.  There are several ways you can pass the ball over.  While many passing techniques are more advanced (and will be covered in a future lesson on advanced flipper skills) a good way to transfer the ball is to hit a shot that takes it right to the other flipper.  Some games are set up so that the ramps direct the ball right into the inlane of a specific flipper, while others might allow an orbit shot to go all the way around for you to try to catch.

Ramp pass
Ramp pass to inlane

Extra Credit: Live Catch and Post Pass

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Keywords:  Pinball 101, Pinball for Dummies, Pinball for Beginners, Beginner’s Guide to Pinball, Intro to Pinball, Pinball for Newbies, Basics of Pinball

Full Glossary of Pinball Terms


About the Author: Will Oetting

I helped my father-in-law buy his first game, Bounty Hunter, and then instantly missed it when it left the house.  That drew me to the community and I was lovestruck pretty hard.  I have been working with Jeff behind the scenes of TWIP to help make sure that the website is running at its best.  I am also on the TWIPY committee where I help setup the surveys and collect the data for the awards.  My current favorite machine is Taxi but I also enjoy games of all types.

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