Pachinko parlors certainly offer the laser lights, upbeat music, and other multimedia spectacle popularly expected by its clientele, but that’s not what makes these dens of chance so attractive. Rather, it’s the spectacle of thousands and thousands of cascading metallic balls. Many revel in the noise of metallic impacts alone. Some imagine rain. Others think of money –of success and profit. On the surface, everybody seems to hit jackpot at the Pachinko parlors.
However the metallic balls sound to you, Pachinko is undoubtedly one of the most lucrative games across the world. Originally Japanese, pachinko hasn’t quite picked up across the world but that hasn’t its popularity within its home country and influenced areas. In Japan alone, the game pulls in over $300 billion per annum.
That’s a whole lot of money. To pachinko players, that’s a whole lot of balls.
Houses of Ill Repute, Mainstream, and Everywhere Between –Pachinko’s History
Unlike most western games of chance, pachinko started rather modestly –as a child’s game in the 1920s. These early pachinko machines were meant for home ownership.
Not until the 1930s did Japanese adults start recreationally playing pachinko in the parlors and dens of today. At the onset of WW2 all of these parlors and dens closed. Much like golf in late medieval Scotland, the game remained immensely popular after being made illegal and Pachinko parlors flourished in speakeasy type establishments. At the close of WWII pachinko came back to into the limelight with fury and thunder. The first recognized commercial parlor opened in 1948.
Though hugely popular in Japan, pachinko is widely known to be dominated by Japanese Koreans, who moved into the industry after rapid fire machines were banned in the 1950s to curb gambling. While Japanese manufacturers and proprietors backed out, Japanese organized crime increased their presence. That mentioned, near all gambling itself is legal. Pachinko is profitable enough as is.
While Pachinko is known for having an illegal presence, many parlors operate on a purely legitimate level. Visitors and regulars should worry more about a maniacal pachinko player skimming balls rather than upsetting shark-suited thugs.
The Game Mechanics
Pachinko operates like a combination of slot machines and pinball. Balls continue dropping through a vertical maze of pins. Where these metallic balls land is completely random. Some are sucked back into the machine. Others set off alarms or triggers that lead to more balls or send digital slots through a whirl, which can lead to a jackpot of more balls. Sometimes the glinting spheres are caught only to be recycled and set back to the top. Many land into the canister.
Players only control when balls are released and the balls general force of the release. This sense of autonomy keeps players engaged, though the physics themselves are almost completely random. That mentioned, skill does exist among pachinko players and those looking to profit from an automated game of chance are better off with pachinko rather than traditional slot games.
While these are universal aspects of the game, there three reining styles of play:
Hanemono –Popular throughout most pachinko parlors since the 1950s, these machines offer the player the highest chance to use their skills to succeed, based off how and when balls are fired into the machine. While each parlor is different, this type of machine is generally the most affordable and has the smallest payout.
Diji-Pachi –These machines have flourished since the 90s and integrates slots . While winning is further randomized, skill is still important as the game’s objectives are clearer. More importantly, player’s gratification is increased due to the chance of greater payouts and bonus rounds.
Kenrimono –The most difficult but most rewarding pachinko machine, skilled pachinko players gravitate to this type. Initial odds of winning is one in several hundred, but if rounds are successful this continues to halve, thus keeping skilled players in a loop of winning.
Pachinko’s overall objective is to, of course, collect more balls. These can be exchanged for a number of different prizes –at least in Japan. The country’s laws strictly prohibit monetary payout, but there’s usually a conveniently located pawnshop a stone throw’s away from any pachinko parlor. Elsewhere, different payoff rules apply or don’t exist. Illegal parlors operate just about everywhere, including New York and London. That mentioned, many don’t bother to keep things shady are listed as legit games of chance.
Current Pachinko Parlors: The Ladies, You, and the Recession
Given the game’s immense popularity, there’s a whole range of different parlors that cater to different types of players. Some require a cover, offer luxurious surroundings, have dress codes, offer sequestered play areas and the rest. Much like any other casino, pachinko parlors cater to just about anybody with money and sometimes has huge ground floors that attracts people of every walk of life.
Pachinko parlors oftentimes have an internalized economy. Food, smokes, and other goods can be exchanged for balls. Anything can be exchanged for balls, save one object –cash. Perhaps this is what keeps players coming back. Money is at the background and balls themselves are of a uniform value, unlike the colored chips found in casinos.
Pachinko parlors certainly aren’t for everybody. While the spectacle can certainly be breathtaking, those sensitive to smoke or epileptic will want to stay far away.
That mentioned, parlors historically have had better business during times of recession, and plenty of people typically unassociated with the parlors are beginning to frequent these places of chance. Most specifically, women are beginning to frequent parlors more often. Those little balls are beginning to count for more and more.