Pinball's Dark and Sordid Past - Atlas Obscura

Washington, D.C.

Pinball's Dark and Sordid Past

Come learn the fraught history of a game once illegal and deemed a public menace. Plus, tips on becoming a pinball wizard!

Join us for an evening of flipping out on pinball history, learning tips from a world-ranked player, and becoming a pinhead yourself with free play at the Black Cat

The game of pinball has a fascinating history—from its 18th-century origins to being outlawed for its connection to gambling to the "perfect shot" in a New York City courtroom that saved it from oblivion.

Our night at the Black Cat, legendary D.C. music venue and home to the DC Pinball League, will start with Adam Ruben, author of the new book Pinball Wizards: Jackpots, Drains, and the Cult of the Silver Ball, giving us a crash course on pinball's fraught past. Next, Kevin Stone—D.C. Pinball League's head and ranked 82nd in the world—will provide us a few secrets on how to become a pinball wizard. The evening will end with free play (!) on the Black Cat's collection of fantastic machines.   


Additional Details

  • During our event, the machines will be set to free play so no quarters needed (unless you want to stay later to play some more). 
  • The bar and food are cash-only
  • This event is family-friendly! Those under 21 will be given an "X" to mark being underage for the bar. 
  • The Black Cat is accessible via Metro, about a seven-minute walk from the U Street station on the yellow and green lines.
  • If you decide to drive, street parking is available but can be very hard to find. There is also a pay lot at the Reeves Center, located at the intersection of 14th and U Street.
  • Purchase tickets here! 


Contact Matt Blitz at

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Advance tickets only. All sales final. No refunds or exchanges.