Coin Operated Pool Tables: How do they work?

Sep 10, 2011

You may have pondered this question while shooting a game of eight ball at your neighborhood bar. Whether it’s a Valley, Dynamo, Global, Murrey, American Shuffleboard, Fischer, or Irving Kaye coin-op pool table, I’ll clue you in on how it all works.

First and foremost, you have to feed the beast (A.K.A. coin-op pool table). Your quarters go in the slots and you push in. But, then what? The coin mechanism has a plate at the end that pushes a hinge arm on the inside of the pool table. Your quarters drop into a bin while the arm rolls back and allows the ball trap to dump the balls out and down the chute and roll down to the ball return box at the foot of the table below the triangle. Now you are ready to rack ’em up. As you pocket numbered balls throughout your game, they drop in the pockets and go down the gully boots toward the maze of tracks that will lead them to the ball trap.

I know, you’re wondering about that pesky cue ball, right? How does the pool table know the difference between a numbered ball and the cue ball? Losing your cue ball in a pocket during your game of pool doesn’t usually mean your game is over. You need to get the cue ball back and continue your game without having to stick more quarters in, right? There are three different ways a pool table knows to send your cue ball to the head of the table instead of the ball trap. Depending on the age and brand of the pool table cue balls are either magnetic, oversized, or weighted differently. Upon scratching, all cue balls run along the same track as the numbered balls until they get to the cue ball separator.

In the case of an oversized cue ball, there is an attached ball shunt. The shunt is set to a height of just over 2.25 inches allowing the numbered balls to pass under. The oversized (2.375 inch) cue ball cannot pass under the shunt, makes a hairpin turn, and drops to a track leading to the head of the pool table.

Newer coin-operated pool tables may use a magnetic cue ball. This cue ball is 2.25 inches, the same as the numbered balls. Magnetic cue balls either have a small metal cage embedded inside the ball or more recently are coated with a metal skin (Aramith type). Instead of a shunt forcing the ball to the cue ball return, a strong magnet is attached to the cue ball separation area and pulls the cue ball towards the track leading to the head of the pool table.

Weighted cue balls are most commonly used in older Dynamo pool tables. These tables actually have three methods of distinguishing cue balls from numbered balls. They have a shunt for oversized cue balls, a magnet for magnetic cue balls, and a patented designed weighted cue ball return. Billiard balls weigh 6 ounces. The slightly heavier cue ball rolls through the separation interchange and activates a rocker dropping the cue ball into the hairpin turn leading to the head of the pool table.

On my next bar table refelt job I’ll take some pictures of the inside of a coin-op pool table and then post them here. Until then, keep racking ’em up!