BALLY'S VICTORY SPECIAL
AND 'ONE-BALL' PINGAMES
by Russ Jensen
This is the eighth in my series of articles describing (in chronological
order) the pingames in my personal collection. This time the game is Bally's
1946 "gambling type" pingame, VICTORY SPECIAL, which belongs to a special
class of games I call "one-ball horserace games". Before beginning my
description of the features of the game, a little historical background will
be given so that the reader can better understand this type of pingame.
MULTIPLE COIN PINGAMES
When the pinball industry began in the early Thirties the main
competition to the fledgling pinball machines were the three reel slot
machines, commonly referred to as "bell machines". Slot machines were still
legal in many areas of the country at that time and were a major product of
the coin machine industry.
Slot machine players deposited many coins in a relatively short period
of time as opposed to pinball in which a game of 5 or 10 balls - at a penny
or nickel a game - lasted a minute or two. The introduction of electricity
(first from batteries and then A.C.) into pinball during the 1934-1936 period
made possible a new concept in pinball design, the "multiple coin" pinball.
In this type of pingame the player could deposit more than one coin (if
desired) before starting the game to increase his chances of winning. In
addition, in most of these games, the number of balls per game was decreased
to one and these games were soon referred to as "one-ball machines".
Two elements - the increase in the number of coins played per game, and
the reduction in the number of balls from five or ten to one - made the
operator's earnings from the new type of pingame more comparable to those
from the bell slot machine. (Note: Some one-ball payout pinball games were
made with single coin operation before the introduction of multiple coin
Early in 1936 D. Gottlieb and Co. introduced a game called DAILY RACES
which was to set the pattern for almost all one-ball multiple coin machines
for the next fifteen years. (It's interesting to note that Gottlieb used the
name DAILY RACES again on their last one-ball machine in the early 1947.)
The 1936 DAILY RACES had it's playfield divided into three sections
labeled WIN (near the bottom), PLACE (in the center), and at the top SHOW.
Each of these sections contained 8 consecutively numbered holes. The
backglass had lighted panels corresponding to each of these numbers, and
additional panels to indicate the "odds" to be won by matching a number in
each of the three sections of the playfield. In order to "win", a player had
to get his one ball into a hole whose corresponding number on the backglass
If he succeeded, he would win whatever the lit odds were for the section
of the playfield (WIN, PLACE, or SHOW) in which his ball landed. Since the
chance of the ball reaching the lower sections of the playfield (without
dropping into a hole) were less than it going into one of the top holes, the
odds for WIN were highest, PLACE a little lower, and SHOW the lowest.
In most of the early games of this type the first coin deposited would
light number '1' and select a set of odds. Additional coins could then be
deposited to light additional numbers (generally in order) and to possibly
advance the odds. A player could therefore cause all the numbers (generally
referred to as "Selections") to be winners but could still "lose" if his
"winnings" were less than the number on coins initially deposited.
Shortly after DAILY RACES, Bally - who was to become the major producer
of multiple coin machines - introduced their first multi-section playfield
game, HIALEAH. By the end of 1936, a fourth section (usually called PURSE)
was added at the top of the field, and most one-ball machines from then on
had four-section playfields.
The years between 1936 and the start of World War II saw much advance in
the technical development of these machine, but the playfields and
backglasses (except for getting taller) changed very little. Most of these
machines had a horse race motif with the "numbers" ('1' through '7' on most
machines) corresponding to horse "selections" in a race, and the "odds"
displayed on the backboard corresponding to the "winnings" on the horse -
depending on where it placed in the race - 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th.
One significant change made in the operation of these machines was a
change in what each additional coin would do. Instead of each coin lighting
one additional selection, later one-balls offered a random selection or
selections with each additional coin - from one to possibly all selections
could be lit with each coin inserted.
In addition to extra coins lighting additional numbers (or 'features' in
later machines), many of the later pre-war and early post-war machines had a
"multiplier" feature. The depositing of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th coins would
light "multipliers" on the backglass which indicated that the payoff for
achieving a "win" would be multiplied by the number of coins inserted (up to
4). If more than four coins were deposited the "multiplier" would remain at
four. These machines came to be know as "One-ball Multiples" within the
During World War II production of all pingames was, of course, banned.
Conversions of older one-balls, like amusement pinballs, did occur frequently
during the war however. When the war ended Bally celebrated the event by
coming out with their first new pingames, a pair of one-balls called VICTORY
SPECIAL (the game which is the subject of this article) and VICTORY DERBY.
These two games were virtually identical except that the former indicated
"awards" as replays, with the latter paying off directly in coins. This idea
of "replay/payout pairs" became pretty much standard with Bally after the
From the end of World War II to the end of the "one-ball era" (1951),
several "come-on" features were added to these games. One of these new ways
to attract players was generally referred to as a "spell name feature". When
this feature was incorporated into a game two additional holes (often labeled
simply "L" and "R" for "left" and "right", or occasionally by some "horsey"
name such as "boot" and "saddle") were added at the extreme bottom of the
playfield. Two corresponding lights were found on the backglass which lit at
random intervals (called "Mystery Intervals" by the manufacturers) upon
insertion of additional coins.
If a player succeeded in getting a ball in one of these holes, when the
corresponding light was lit, a small number of replays were awarded. In
addition, the next letter of the name of the game on the backglass would
light up and remain lit from game to game. When the final letter of the name
was eventually lit, a large number of replays would be awarded (or in the
case of a few games all seven selections would light for the next game) and
the name lights reset to a predetermined minimum number of letters.
One of the most widely used "come-on" features on one-ball games was
simply called "Feature" (standing for, I believe, "Feature Race"). A hole
bearing that label was placed at the extreme bottom of the playfield, but
just slightly above the "L" and "R" holes making it even harder to get a ball
to land in. A lighted panel on the backglass, also labeled "FEATURE", would
flash on and off as coins were deposited. This light would rarely (usually
once for each 400 coins deposited) remain lit. If it did, and a player
succeeded in getting his ball into the "Feature" hole, a special payoff would
There were two common types of payoffs associated with the "Feature",
"direct" and "build-up". If the game was designed or set (many machines had
an operator option as to which type of payoff a game would use) for a
"direct" payoff a large number of replays (or coins if it was a coin payout
machine) would be given. The usual amounts of these payoffs were between 40
and 320 in multiples of forty. If the machine was set for "build-up" payoffs
the scheme was somewhat different. A feature build-up award was indicated
somewhere on the backboard, such as by using lighted numbers, a projected
number, or, as in the later machines, a number shown in a window much the
same as the free game window in most amusement pinballs.
This number started off at a minimum value (usually '1') and would be
incremented at 'mystery intervals" as coins were deposited. The number shown
generally represented the feature payoff in dollars which would be awarded to
a player successfully landing in the feature hole when the feature light was
lit. If a player succeeded in doing this he would have to call the location
owner over to the machine, show him he had made the feature, and be paid off
by him directly in cash, the amount of dollars indicated on the backboard.
The next coin deposited (or the depression of a button underneath the cabinet
by the location man) would reset the award number to it's minimum value and
the whole process would be repeated.
Designers of these games incorporated these "come-on features", which
remained "on" from game to game, to tempt either the current player, or one
who just happened to be walking by the machine; after all, the potential
special condition was "only a few coins away."
DESCRIPTION OF "VICTORY SPECIAL"
Before I describe the specific play features of VICTORY SPECIAL, a
little about it's unique cabinet and ball return system. Since the playfield
of the game contains nothing but holes for it's one ball to land in, a method
of returning the ball to the plunger at the start of a new game is required.
Prior to World War II the "one-balls" (and most other pingames for that
matter) had a push-in coin chute. When the player deposited a coin and
pushed it in, the other end of the chute slide pushed against the large fiber
board (often called a "shuffle") underneath the playfield, holes in which
would align with any balls trapped on the field, allowing them to drop down
and roll to the trough which lead to the "ball lift assembly" which raised
the ball to the playfield when the player pushed a lever on the front of the
Well, when Bally designed VICTORY SPECIAL (and it's "payout partner"
VICTORY DERBY) they decided to use a "drop-in" coin mechanism for the first
time. But this presented a problem - how could the "shuffle" be moved to
allow the ball from the last game to be retrieved? The engineers at Bally
came up with a novel solution to that problem which (as far as I am aware)
was only used on these two games, later one-balls utilizing a motorized
method of performing this task.
A round fiber rod (over an inch in diameter) protruded from the front of
the cabinet with a metal cap on it's end. The player, after inserting a
coin, had to push in on this rod which would move the "shuffle" under the
playfield, dropping the ball. To keep this lever from being effective
without a coin being first deposited, an electrically operated latch
mechanism was employed which was tripped when a coin was deposited.
Another interesting thing about VICTORY SPECIAL'S cabinet was it's
construction which differed from most other pingames of that era. Instead of
the usual "body" (a horizontal glass-topped box containing the playfield and
some of the electrical game components) being supported by four wooden legs,
and with a "lightbox" mounted at it's rear end, the cabinet of this game was
in two sections.
The playfield was contained in a large "L-shaped" cabinet, the vertical
part of which reached to the floor (in place of the usual front legs) and
contained the large coin box. The "lightbox" was the upper part of a tall
vertical cabinet (also reaching to the floor in place of the usual rear legs)
which contained a series of shelf-like boards which held most of the game's
electrical components. A quite unusual configuration compared to most other
VICTORY SPECIAL had the "standard selections" (numbers '1' through '7')
found on almost all but the earliest one-balls using the horserace format.
With each coin inserted usually one, but occasionally two or more (even all
seven very infrequently) of the selections light. None of the selections are
ever held when the next coin is inserted, so if a player got a good
selection(s) (for instance number '4' - generally the easiest hole to make)
he would probably stop inserting more coins even though additional coins
would increase the Multiplier (to be discussed shortly).
Of the seven possible selections '4' is usually the easiest to make, '3'
and '5' the next, then '2' and '6', with '1' and '7' (which are closest to
the sides of the playfield) being the hardest to get a ball into.
"ODDS" AND "MULTIPLIER"
Also with each coin inserted, a set of "odds" would light on the
backboard. The odds ranged from: 2, 2, 4, 8 (for PURSE, SHOW, PLACE and WIN
respectively) to 12, 16, 20, 40, with three steps in between. As with the
"selections", they lit randomly with each coin inserted, and if a good set
was obtained with one coin the player was well advised not to insert any more
coins as the next coin would very likely result in a lower set of odds.
VICTORY SPECIAL was a true "One-Ball Multiple" game as it contained the
popular "Multiplier Feature". If a player inserted only one coin and
succeeded in matching the randomly lit "selection" he would receive the
number of replays indicated by the random odds which were lit, according to
in which of the playfield sections (PURSE, SHOW, PLACE, or WIN) the ball
landed. If, however, he had inserted 2, 3, or 4 coins before shooting the
ball, the number of replays awarded for a selection match would be the odds
indicated for that section multiplied by the number of coins inserted (up to
"SPELL NAME" AND "FEATURE"
The game also had a "Spell Name Feature" with 'L' and 'R' holes as
previously described. A player getting a ball into an 'L' or 'R' hole, when
the corresponding light on the backglass was lit, would be awarded 4 replays
(multiplied by the number of coins played) and would get the next letter of
the game's name lit. When the entire name was finally lit, the player would
receive 40 replays times the "multiplier".
VICTORY SPECIAL also had a "Feature" feature which was also described
earlier. If the machine was set by the operator to operate in the "40 Replay
Mode", a player getting a ball in the FEATURE hole near the bottom of the
playfield, when the seldom seen FEATURE light on the backglass was lit, would
receive 40 replays multiplied by the number of coins played (up to 4). If,
however, the operator set the game for the "Build-Up Mode" the player "making
the FEATURE" would be given by the location man $1 multiplied by a number
shown on the backglass, projected by a special "Feature Projector" on the
upper right-hand area of the glass.
When in the "Build-Up Mode", the special feature projector was advanced
by one number (an additional $1 payout) for every 400th coin deposited by
players. When a player eventually "got the Feature", the location paid the
number of dollars indicated by the projector, then pressing a button
underneath the cabinet which caused the projector to be "reset" to '1'.
Another feature of VICTORY SPECIAL (which may have been unique to
VICTORY SPECIAL/DERBY) was called the "Daily Double". At random intervals
during insertion of coins, a "FIRST RACE" light (beneath the area of the
backglass where the '1' through '4' "selections" were indicated) would light,
along with a pair of horse's heads which were located directly below each of
the seven "selection" numbers (one lighting below one of the '1' to '4'
selections, and the other beneath either '5', '6', or '7').
If that occurred the player would try to get the ball into the hole
corresponding to the first lighted horse in either the PURSE or SHOW section
of the playfield. If he was able to do that, a light labeled "SECOND RACE"
would light up on the other side of the backglass (beneath the '5' through
'7' selections). If the "SECOND RACE" light was lit, when the player
inserted a coin(s) for the next game the 2nd number of the Daily Double pair
('5', '6', or '7') would remain lit.
If on that game the player matched the number corresponding to this lit
horse in either the PURSE or SHOW section, he would receive 20 replays
multiplied by the number of coins played (up to 4). These "Daily Double
selections" where entirely independent of the normal "selections" which would
score as described earlier.
That ends the explanation of the scoring features on VICTORY SPECIAL,
but I believe a few extra comments are in order. First, the replay credits
earned by the player are displayed by a projector which projects (from
behind) a number near the upper left-hand corner of the backglass. Since all
"payoffs" are in multiples of two, this projector only displays "even"
numbers (2, 4, 6, etc.). However, since when replays are "played off" by a
player only one replay "credit" is subtracted at a time (equivalent to a
nickel being deposited) a method was needed to "decrement" the replay credits
The Bally engineers came up with a rather unique way of accomplishing
this task. There was a small lighted "panel" on the backglass, next to the
area where the replay credits (in units of 2) were projected, which indicated
"-1" when it was lit. As replay credits were played off by the player, this
would alternately be lit (indicating that "1" should be subtracted from the
projected credit) and then turned off with the projected number being
decremented by one (two credits).
VICTORY SPECIAL also had a very interesting set of "operator
adjustments" allowing the machine's owner (if he desired) to drastically
change the player's chance of "beating the machine". The most radical of
these adjustments (which, I am sure were completely unknown to the player)
were the "selections" and "odds" adjustments.
The "selections adjustment" allowed the operator (utilizing special
plugs in the back of the machine) to cause one (or more) of the seven
selections to not light up on various combinations of the four coins which it
was possible to insert before each game was played. The combinations of
coins which could be chosen to eliminate selections were: 1st; (2nd, 3rd, and
4th); (1st and 2nd); (3rd and 4th); (1st, 2nd, and 3rd); 4th; or all.
A similar adjustment could be used to eliminate the occurrence of the
highest set of odds (12, 16, 20, 40 - for PURSE, SHOW, PLACE, and WIN) on the
same combinations of coins played as just described for "selections". So
using these adjustments the operator could make it impossible (if he desired)
for an easy to make selection (such as '4'), or the highest set of odds to
occur when several coins were played (which multiplied a "win").
In addition to the very powerful adjustments just described, several
other operator adjustments were available to control how often the game's
special features ("Spell Name", "Feature", and "Daily Double") would be lit
on the backglass as coins were deposited.
(AUTHOR'S NOTE: The type of adjustments found on VICTORY SPECIAL which were
just described (giving the operator an easy to use adjustment of a game"s
payout percentage) are almost identical to what many people over the years
have thought that slot machine operators had. This "myth" was not true at
all since in order to adjust the payouts of a mechanical or electro-
mechanical slot the operator had to make physical modifications to the
machine's internal mechanism - however, it may or may not be true of today's
"computer controlled" slot machines.)
The VICTORY SPECIAL which I own also has a remnant of another "special
feature" (if you could call it that) which was used for a short time on a few
"one-balls" in some locations.
By the late Forties many jurisdictions had passed anti-gambling laws,
many of which focused on pinball, especially the "one-ball" multiple coin
machines. In fact, many of these laws specifically mentioned "one-ball
machines" as one type which was outlawed. In an apparent effort to get
around "the 'letter' of these laws", Bally (the producer of most of the post-
war "one-balls") tried a gimmick which probably, I would think, met with only
They introduced an optional feature on their "one-balls" which they
called the "Skill Lane". At the upper left-hand area of the playfield (at
the location where the rubber "rebound pad" was normally located) a trough
was installed just long enough to hold four balls. On top of this area was
a cover labeled "SKILL LANE". Five balls were used in these machines, in
place of the normal one, and the instruction cards were modified by adding a
statement such as: "player must shoot the first four balls into the Skill
Lane in order to qualify the fifth ball for scoring". An electrical contact
located below the trough disabled the scoring mechanisms of the machine until
the fourth ball landed in the "Skill Lane".
In case you haven't guessed already, the main idea of this was that a
"one-ball game" (specifically outlawed in many areas) now became a "five ball
game" which were not outlawed in most areas. The other part was that "skill"
was now supposed to be involved. It turned out, however, that the only
"skill" involved was being able to pull the plunger all the way back (or even
close to that) because a moderate force applied to any ball would send it
directly into the "Skill Lane"; but the card said "skill", didn't it? The
card also said "5 balls 5 cents", so between these two maybe the "five ball
one-balls" could be operated for awhile in a few areas where "one-balls" were
outlawed, at least until the matter was taken to court. I really don't know
how good this idea worked, but I doubt that it was very successful. But,
it's a good piece of pinball history trivia anyway.
My VICTORY SPECIAL had the trough cover labeled "SKILL LANE", but the
special attachment which replaced the "rebound rubber" at the upper left-hand
side of the playfield had long since disappeared.
THINGS TO COME
The characteristics of VICTORY SPECIAL described above represented
pretty much the features available on "one-balls" just prior to and just
after World War II. There were, however, several new features added to these
machines from the late 1940's up until the end of "the one-ball era" around
1951 when the Johnson Act made this type of machine essentially illegal.
The post-war history of the "one-ball horserace" pingame will be
described in a future article in this series when I get to the other "one-
ball" I have in my collection. So you'll just have to wait awhile for the
continuing story of this fascinating and much neglected form of pinball