Pinball palace Free Gold Watch has the most pinball games in all of San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO– When people come to San Francisco, it’s not uncommon for them to visit Haight Street, a stretch of road lined with bars, tattoo parlors and boutiques galore. Walk a block to Waller Street and you’ll find Free Gold Watch, a pinball palace tucked away in an unassuming neighborhood.

“We have the most number of pinball machines in San Francisco,” says owner Matthew Henri.

“You walk in and there’s an atmosphere; the lights go out, the sounds go out, all that amusement park under the glass,” reveals 2011 world pinball champion Andrei Massenkoff.

“It’s almost like a kid in a candy store,” adds regular Robert.

Free Gold Watch started out as a screen printing store and remains so today. Over the years it has also become a gathering place for pinball players of all ages.

“I just had an idea at one point,” Henri explains, “You know what? We should put pinball machines here. When people see pinball machines or arcade games, it basically screams, ‘Hey , come play with me. ‘”

Pinball challenges players with a unique blend of skill and luck. According to regulars, it’s the ultimate attraction.

“When you play a video game, it’s not real,” says enthusiast Fernando Silva. “The steel ball is real. You can shake it. You can influence the game. You are part of the game. It’s pinball.”

“Sometimes the ball just has a mind of its own,” says Robert. “A little element of chaos, of chance, it attracts me every time.”

Whether you’ve played the game before or not, a visit to Free Gold Watch is worth the trip.

“Anyone can have fun, good or bad,” says Massenkoff.

“I haven’t met a single person who hasn’t become addicted,” adds Robert. “They’re always like, ‘Dude, let’s go back. Let’s go back.'”

The space is also available for event rentals. For more information, go here.


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