Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Keeney Little Buckaroo Upright: First contact with a keeney game

Keeney's Little Buckaroo

Little Buckaroo is what was referred to in the amusement industry as an Upright, also known as a Flasher. 

These games were produced in the late 50's and early 60's as a work around the U.S. Johnson act restricting / prohibiting gambling devices. The law made it a federal offense to ship gambling machines or gambling machine parts except to states where gambling was legal. This was done to stop manufacturers from supplying gambling machines to states where gambling was illegal. Thus blocking the shady grey market seedy underbelly back room grubby tavern gambling machines that were raking in phenomenal amounts of cash.

In the Johnson act slot machines were defined as devices with reels with symbols, so the amusement companies came up with slot machines that functioned without reels so they could keep on selling gambling machines. 

The whole randomization process is done electromechanically. During a "spin cycle" the symbols flash randomly for an instant before settling definitely on one symbol per column. The machine then adds the credits to the credit meter accordingly to the winning combination (if the game landed on a winning combination that is)

A few companies produced Uprights, notably Bally, Keeney, Games inc. and Auto-Bell novelty co.

Little Buckaroo was released in 1959 by Keeney.

Keeney's Little Buckaroo ad, taken from the April 6th 1959 issue of the Billboard, page 129

Keeney's Little Buckaroo

So how does one play a Flasher?

Pretty much like a slot machine.

On little Buckaroo:

Insert coin(s), coins inserted add credits to the credit meter. Multiple credits can be added before playing them. 
Depress handle to start a spin cycle. Each spin cycle, 1 credit is subtracted from the meter.

Won credits are added to the credit meter at the end of a spin cycle.

To cash out the credits, the player would go see the attendant / barman / proprietor of the fine establishment the player was playing at. The credits would reset back to zero either by turning off and back on the game or by tilting the game. The credits would get paid in cash over the counter (mostly under the counter I imagine :-P ) 

Repairing Little Buckaroo

Little buckaroo was my first try at repairing a Keeney game. To make repairs more interesting, I dont have the schematics for it. So I'm sorta flying without instruments. Thankfully, it's not a very complex game.

First thing the game needed was a complete relamp. Almost all of the #51 bulbs were burnt out. Also, most of the switches on the relays were oxidized and needed a good cleaning. The stepper units were sticking and had to be completely cleaned, degreased and then re-lubed with fresh lubriplate aero and contact disc grease.

The thing that surprised me the most is how many (4) gearmotors there are in this game. My opinion is the more gearmotors, the more the chance of serious failure. Getting these motors rebuilt nowadays is costly and not really worth it for a game like a low value Flasher.

Here are a few inside shots of the Flasher

Right and Center line flasher units

Little Buckaroo general inside shot

Little Buckaroo main mech panel

Little Buckaroo Repay meter

The game was bugged!

While cleaning the center line flasher unit, I found that the unit would not index at a certain position. After closer inspection, I discovered what was called a "bug". There was a small bolt and washer that would stop the unit from indexing on the bucking horse symbol. It would index instead on the next symbol. That way the operator was sure that the game would never pay out the jackpot. Crafty, crooked operator.

Can you spot the slot machine bug?

The illusion of fairness.

The real ruse of any gambling machine is to give the player the idea that he has a higher chance of winning than what his chances really are so he can keep plunging coins in the game. At least the player thinks that he has a fair chance of winning big with these machines.

In Little Buckaroo, there's a selector switch to adjust the probability of hitting a big paying combination. I guess that from the operator's point of view, the flashers were an improvement on the mostly mechanical slot machines of previous times. With the turn of a knob, he could make the machine tighter. Combined with the Bug showed above, this game was pretty far from fair.

Selector Switch

The Selector switch! Now here's a manly chunky switch. Turning the knob giver a virile "clunk" at every position. A testament to 50's quality and robustness. Just turning the knob gives you the impression you accomplished something significant in your day.

Here's the explanation card inside the game for the selector. You figure it out

H= High
M= Medium
Left L= Low

Right L= Liberal (generous)
N= Normal
C= Conservative (stingy)

So by way of a selector, the operator could make the game pay out more or less. The selector makes it more or less probable to hit a high paying combination.

Next Keeney Flasher project

Right after having finished work on Little Buckaroo, I picked up this game. Another Keeney Flasher: Mountain Climber. Produced in 1967, mostly for the British market. The game originally had a payout hopper, so the player could cash out himself. The hopper was removed, and the game was rigged to work with repays. At one point, it was in home use, because a credit (simulating) button was installed at the top right.

The most interesting things about Mountain Climber are the Hold feature, Double or Nothing Feature and the Panascope displays, that are very similar to IEE rear projection displays. IEE rear projection displays were used back in the day for scientific and technical equipment.

Repair of mountain Climber was put on hold so I can concentrate on more urgent projects.
Keeney's Mountain climber

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