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It's bright and noisy and tactile, and it offers something else to master when you're learning so many other things. Most of all, of course, it's cheap—or it was. What else were you going to do with those quarters but something dreary like the laundry?
Pinball played a brief role in my life, but while it lasted it was mainly devoted to a Gottlieb game called Royal Flush. I remembered it, at first, as Joker's Wild, but a quick check against the Internet Pinball Database (who knew?) corrected me.
As a pinball game, the Royal Flush playfield had one great attraction: a row of tiles, marked as face cards, one could knock down in various combinations for some bonuses and all together for others. Now that was skill, to shiver the ball into the well to fire it just right with the flipper to knock out a needed tile, or to do it on the fly straight off the carom with an accurate flick of the wrist. A light flashed an opportunity for other potential bonuses, and I can still hear my old buddy Bill Ronat behind me urging, "When lit, when lit."
It didn't last long. We soon gave up pinball for the more refined and classic diversions of pool, playing for hours at the Illini Union or, better yet, Deluxe Billiards. (God rest its soul—and its sole, with those fantastic fish sandwiches on the weekend.) But it's funny that I'll always remember that Royal Flush table layout with the tile targets—even if I remembered it under the wrong name at first. Thank the Internet gods for the Pinball Database as well.