EXPERT REVEALS HOW CARNIVAL MIDWAY GAMES ARE FIXED.
Did you ever wonder why you leave the carnival midway with no prizes in your arms—and no money left in your wallet? Well, it’s no accident that you didn’t win that stuffed bear or Dale Earnhardt Jr. t-shirt, according to ex-carnie Peter Fenton.
“Carnival hucksters aren’t stupid. They’ve got street smarts and years of experience hoodwinking ‘rubes’ into believing they can win something for nothing. And the games they entice you to play always give them the advantage,” says Fenton, author of EYEING THE FLASH: THE EDUCATION OF A CARNIVAL CON ARTIST (Simon & Schuster), a memoir of his life as a carnival con man.
Continues Fenton, “Not every carnival game is rigged. But all of them are created to give the carnie the house advantage—and leave you with empty hands.”
Here are insider secrets from Fenton that could help tilt the scales in your favor on classic carnival games:
GUESS YOUR WEIGHT GAME: The secret to this game is that the carnie doesn’t care whether he guesses your weight correctly or not. With rare exceptions, the prize you win when he makes a ‘mistake’ cost him less than what you paid to play!
BASKETBALL THROW: There are many tricks to this game. The hoop is often a touch too small, the backboard is not regulation height and the ball is either over or under inflated.
MILK BOTTLE THROW: The three milk bottles you need to knock down with a softball are not all the same weight. Often, the bottom bottles are weighted down with lead, making them difficult to topple.
CATS ON A SHELF: This throwing game requires you to knock sawdust-stuffed ‘cats’ off a shelf with a baseball. In extreme cases, the carnie controls a hydraulic lever that can extend the width of the shelf, making it impossible for the ‘cat’ to fall completely off the shelf.
BALLOON DART: When the player pops a balloon with a dart, he wins the prize described on a tag that’s revealed. Unscrupulous carnies simply ‘palm’ any tag that awards the player a major prize, replacing it with one awarding an insignificant prize.
BUSHEL BASKET: To win this deceptively simple game, the player needs only to toss a softball into a common bushel basket so that the ball remains inside. However, a shifty carnie can secretly tighten the tension on the bottom of the bushel, causing the ball to pop out—and the player to lose.
DIME TOSS or GLASS PITCH: People who play this game win a piece of tableware when the dime they toss into the center ring remains in one of the plates, glasses or bowls spread out before them. The only “fix” here is that it is very difficult to throw a dime in a way that it doesn’t skip out of the plate.
CRANE GAME or “DIGGER”: This game asks the player to operate a scale-model crane in a glass case filled with prizes. The player wins as many prizes as he can scoop up with the shovel. Difficult to begin with, the game can be made even harder by a carnie who uses a screwdriver to tamper with the claws on the shovel, causing the prize to fall out.