Bitcoin operated pool table

A couple of weeks back, Stuart Kerr from Liberty Games mailed me to let me know they were thinking about using a Pi to mod a coin-operated pool table to take bitcoins instead; he wanted to know about using our trademark. I mailed him a link to the trademarks rules, made a note about the pool table idea, and then got back to what I was doing – lots of people mail us to tell us they’re starting projects, but not everybody actually finishes the project they’re mailing us about.

Stuart and his team did, in very short order – and it’s great.

Pool tables are another of those things with acres of unused space inside, ideal for filling up with electronics if you’re that way inclined, so finding a slot for a Raspberry Pi wasn’t difficult. The table has a regular coin slot, which works as you’d expect – but next to that the Liberty Games team have installed an LCD screen displaying a price in bitcoins, with a QR code next to it. To play, you scan the code on your phone, and send the amount displayed to the operator’s bitcoin wallet. The table’s ball release mechanism then triggers.

Stuart says:

There were a number of challenges: make it easy to use, fast, secure, idiot proof (for those Bitcoin aficionados who’ve had one too many ales before they play) but most of all – try to make it easier to pay with Bitcoin than cash (although paying with cash should still be an option).

Immediately we thought about the Raspberry Pi (a cool $25 credit card sized computer) – we’ve seen Pis do all kinds of fun and interesting things (even go to space), so we were sure the Pi would be the key. Luckily the Pi is extremely flexible and has a very active community of developers and add-ons.

After a fair bit of coding we managed to get the Pi talking to a server which itself was talking to the peer-to-peer Bitcoin network, with the Pi checking to see when an incoming payment of the correct value came in. We also designed a web-based admin panel (run by a web server on the Pi), to allow operators to set the price per play and transfer Bitcoin to another wallet.

As the value of Bitcoin is variable (to say the least), we also incorporated an LCD display which calculated the current price in Bitcoin of the selected price per pay.

So all we needed to do was install the Raspberry Pi in the pool table (we chose to use a Supreme Winner table due to their popularity in pubs and bars). The Pi can run either from a battery pack or from a mains adapter (the same as the electronic coin mechanism), so there’s no extra hassle.

We really liked this idea, and its implementation: it’s great to see bitcoins being used in mainstream, real-world situations, and we’re looking forward to seeing much more of this kind of application. If you want to learn more about what Stuart and the team did, you can check out their website – they’re looking for customers for this technology, which only adds a small amount to the cost of a regular pool table. There’s also an in-depth look at the idea, including an interview with the owner of several UK pubs that accept payment in bitcoins, at



Simon D avatar

DEK gave the initial TeX project to some postgrads to write to keep them out of mischief during the summer. He then spotted the size of the problem and spent the next 20 or so years not finishing it. Now at version 3.1415926.

Declan Malone avatar

Ah, but he still managed to complete The Art of Computer Programming (volumes I to III, along with the first part of volume IV) all the same :)

Simon D avatar

This was why he wrote it. As photosetting came in during the 1970s the quality of maths-setting was dropping. He was getting quite wrist-slashing about the though of his books set so badly.

So he scratched the itch. No corporate practices to pacify. Not even electronic fonts or anything so he had a green field in which to work.

No GUI font generation tools, so wrote MetaFont to make them.

Just give the program a text file with some magic markup for the maths and it makes CRC for you. You can read/correct it before it goes to the printers.


The Raspberry Pi Guy avatar

Awesome project! I didn’t quite see… What’s the price in bitcoins to play?! And also since the bitcoin’s value goes up and down a lot have you made it so the pricing is ‘dynamic’?

The Raspberry Pi Guy

Jim Manley avatar

Good luck getting “change” from your $#!tcoin! :lol:

I believe P.T. Barnum, famed cofounder of Barnum and Bailey’s circus, may have foreseen the coming of $#!tcoins when he loudly made the statement about his prospective customers: “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

Declan Malone avatar

Eh, you don’t need to make change. You can give the pool table a fractional number of bitcoins.
Honestly, the quality of trolling these days …

Jim Manley avatar

You’d better know who you’re talking to before you accuse someone of trolling – the Foundation certainly knows the difference. You apparently don’t understand that governments don’t recognize alternative forms of currency because they don’t control it, which means they can’t tax it, and it’s a convenient way for criminals to launder money. Everyone involved in this scam can try to ignore this fact all they want, but just wait until the IRS or its equivalent shows up at your business to impound your pool table or, in the worst case, your entire business. That’s precisely the kind of cases they’ve been building using counterfeiting and RICO laws. This is not fun stuff – they’re deadly serious about it and encouraging people to break the law who may not comprehend that they’re doing so is a lot worse behavior than that of any actual troll.

Declan Malone avatar

OK, sorry, I take back the “troll” comment. “Crank” is an eminently more suitable nomenclature :)

Colin Cameron avatar

If the aim was to make it easy to play, would it not be possible to somehow have a dynamic QR code (graphical display?) with the payment amount as well as the receiving address in it?

Or at least, make the price something sensible like 0.007, rather than 0.00698812

Adrian avatar

I’m possibly being slow, but I don’t see the RPi trademark on it anywhere.

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