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Steve Kulpa's Pinball Page


Power Play Joker Poker Mata Hari Big Daddy

I've been a pinball fan almost all my life, since age 13. I knew there was something special about them because my mother would not let me play them (everything she did not want me to do turned out to be great). After a few months of pushing both flipper buttons and not really understanding what I was doing, I finally got the hang of it and began to understand what pinball games were all about. I got my pinball awareness after moving to Boulder Colorado in 1966

I cut my teeth on a Williams Big Daddy, a single player ten-cent game at the local shopping center. Every time we went to that shopping center, I'd tell my mom I was going to look at the sporting goods store, then took off the for pinball machines. They had another machine there, Zig Zag, which was really fun to play too. It had backglass animation which made it a unique machine. I love those older pins where you get all 5 balls and have to use the 2nd plunger to lift them up to the launcher. I thought I was cool because I could operate both plungers (the lifter and the launcher) with one hand. They had 4 machines at this shopping center, but I can't remember what the other two were, mainly because we spent most of the time playing Big Daddy and Zig Zag and ignoring the other two. They also had one of those long bowling machines there, but I found that boring and only played it when the pins were busy.

Later on, my best friend Bobby Whalen and I spent the remainder of the summer of 1966 playing pinballs every day. Besides the 4 machines at the shopping center, we found a few in an area of Boulder called The Hill, near the CU campus. Near a place called the Buff Room we found a machine called Buckaroo. This machine was a lot of fun to play and it too had backglass animation. Since it was a single player, Bobby and I each played a flipper, and we got very good at playing machines this way. Next door to the Buff Room was the Golden Que pool hall. Eddie had several machines here that were a lot of fun. Amoung them were Kings & Queens and Spaceship. Kings & Queens was cool because it had a row of kick-out holes that kicked the ball to the right, from hole to hole, racking up points for each hole. I liked Spaceship too since it was one of the real old ones that did not have score reels yet, just values on the backglass that lit up to show the score. I thank the Golden Que for one of my first tricks too: Placing a cube of que chalk under each front leg to level out the playfield some and slow the ball down. Eddie caught us doing that once and kicked us out. I've lost count as to the number of times Eddie kicked us out of his place. Across town at the Olympic Lanes bowling alley, they had a nice collection of pins, including one called Egg Head. Egg Head is a tic-tac-toe themed machine that we really enjoyed. I remember once there was a crack in the playfield glass that we could slip a hair comb through. We'd rack up a mess of replays, then spend a couple of hours (without the comb) playing them off. They also had a baseball game called Big League Baseball by Chicago Coin that was excellent! I can't tell you how many quarters Bobby and I dumped into that machine.

As time went on, I began to love the early solid state machines. My all-time favorite machine is Joker Poker. I love this machine! I went to college at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and found myself spending all my spare time in the game room playing pinballs (that explains my 2.45 gpa). It's here where my love affair with early solid state machines developed, namely Joker Poker and Power Play. Joker Poker is loaded with drop targets and is simply a joy to play. Power Play also has drop targets and you can rack up lots of points without a lot of difficulty. Plus there's a ball-saver pop-up post between the flippers that is great! I also honed my skills on shaking and sliding machines at this place. The game room had a linoleum tile floor, so it was very easy to slide the machine. Doing this moves the playfield under the ball, thereby directing a SDTM into the flippers instead. So here I am at school, playing pinballs everyday. They also had Supersonic and Mata Hari, both early solid state machines. With out a doubt, early solid state machines (1977 - 1980) are my favorite. I'm very fond of machines from this era, from all manufacturers, and don't really care for the more modern pins. I will admit though, I've donated many quarters to a Xenon machine, but that's an exception. I also spent some time playing Earthshaker while on a business trip in New Jersey. I found this machine OK, once I figured it out, and played it all week, but only because it was the only one around. I don't really like all the ramps, tubes, and other things that in my opinion, just complicate the game. Give me a few pop bumpers, some drop targets, and spinners and I'm in heaven.

Since I was in my early 20's, I've always wanted my own machine. Back in late 1999 I somehow got an idea to look for pinball stuff on the Internet, and stumbled upon the Internet Pinball Database. One look at all the machines of my past was all it took to rekindle the passion I once had for these machines. Then I took a look at eBay for pins and was shocked to see that there were machines for sale all over the place. So I convinced my wife that owning one would be a good idea, and set out on getting my own Joker Poker. I'd settle for a Power Play as a second choice, but Joker Poker was what I really wanted. I found a Joker Poker for sale, with a spare machine for parts, in Nashville but for reasons unknown to me, the seller never got back to me so the deal fell through. Then I found a Power Play from a guy in Atlanta back in December of 2000, and got it. Read all about it by clicking on the Power Play backglass below.

I finally did find a Joker Poker in early March of 2001, and bought it too. It was not as good as I thought it would be and it needs a lot of work and parts, but that didn't matter, I actually had a Joker Poker!. Then a little later I found another one in a warehouse. It was missing the driver PCB, but the backglass was near-mint with only one small scratch, the playfield is excellent, so I bought too. While I was there, I also found a nice Gottlieb EM, Jumping Jack, so I snatched that one up too. So now I'm all set. My Power Play is working just fine, and I've finished the Joker Poker, so that's two down and one to go.

In December of 2001 I found a sweet deal on a pair of non-working Gottlieb Black Hole pinball machines. Since I've gotten no where on the Jumping Jack, I decided to sell it (I'll sure miss that backglass) to help offset the cost of the Black Hole machines. So I sold it and bought the Black Hole machines. I turned the two of them into one real nice machine, then sold a lot of the extra stuff to offset more of the costs. It's up an running 100% and the whole family is enjoying it.

In early July of 2002, I bought a Bally Flash Gordon from some guy that just had it laying around. The machine was complete, but filthy dirty. I cleaned it up, shopped it out, replaced the drop targets w/ nice new ones, and sold it for a modest profit. Get more info on this pin by clicking the Flash Gordon backglass below.

A while back I acquired a Mata Hari project pin and fixed it up pretty nice. It needed a new MPU, a power supply, and a backglass, but everything else was there. I got a reconditioned MPU from Chris Munson, a new power supply board from Tom Callahan, and scored a real nice backglass from someone on ebay, almost mint! I fixed up this machine and sold it to the lady that cuts my hair, and she's had it now for well over a year. I now wish I had kept that machine because it's a lot like Power Play and I really enjoyed playing it before I sold it to her. The last time I got my haircut I asked her if she'd like to trade it for my Black Hole, and she accepted! So it's now Feburary 2003 and I made the trade as soon as the snow melted.

In May of 2003 I replied to a Mr. Pinball ad for a Gottlieb Egg Head. It was pretty beat but the guy only wanted $150 for it so I snagged it. It's now in storage at a friends place in Kansas awaiting delivery. When I finally get it home, it'll be a big project since the cabinet is about shot from water rot. The only saving grace is that the playfield is pretty nice. Unfortunately the backglass is also shot.

The very next day, someone else contacted me with a Big Daddy he wanted to unload cheap. So I snagged that one too and went and picked it up. So now I'm all set (and out of room) as I finally got myself an older 5-ball EM, and my collection is complete (for now!).

In 2005 I had to move to Nashville to take a new job, and the house we bought did not have enough room to allow me to set up all my machines. So Big Daddy is sitting in a storage closet for now. I also took a good look at Egg Head again and decided it was too far gone to restore. Besides having a shot backglass and rotting cabinet, the playfield had water damage along the bottom edge which was causing the plywood to delaminate. Not to mention all the rusted solid parts in the head. So I decided to strip it down and sell what I could on ebay. I then tossed the rest. I ended up making about $75 more then I paid for it, so it worked out just fine, but I still want an egghead of my own, so some day ...

The week before my birthday in 2006, I get a phone call from a guy not too far from me in Mt. Juliet. He's a vid guy and says he has a Williams Star Pool EM that he picked up and was wondering if I wanted it. He only wanted a hundred bucks, so I snapped it up. It needs work on the playfield, but the rest looks decent, so I'll just park it next to Big Daddy in the closet and get to it "later"

We moved in October 2008 and alias, I had to get rid of the Star Pool. No room at the new place. :-(

Here's an old picture my gameroom back in Knoxville.
Click Here to see a bigger picture.

Want more info? Pick a machine:


Power Play Joker Poker Mata Hari Big Daddy


Jumping Jack Flash Gordon Black Hole Egg Head Star Pool

Check out these links:

Meet the folks at rec.games.pinball
Hacks, Wacks, and Other Nasties
The things some people do to their pinballs
Pinball and Harleys
Pinball Stuff for Sale
I do a little repair work too
Here are some tools I like to use when I do Pinball work
Steve's Bally Page
Steve's Gottlieb Page
The Great Capt. Fantastic Backglass Controversy
A fantastic collection of E-M pins!
Excellent Pinball Repair Guides
A great collection of promotional flyers
My pinball (and maybe other) stuff on eBay

Thanks to the Pinball Pasture and their Internet Pinball Database for the pinball machine links

[Steve's Page]


Created 2/28/01 - Last Modified 11/20/11 - Steve Kulpa Mail Icon Nolensville, TN
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