Carnival games exist to make money. In fact, a small carnival can pull in around $20k a day on their games alone. These simple games keep fairs and carnivals afloat by making you think you can win a big stuffed animal for your girlfriend when, in reality, they are nearly impossible. Just about everyone has lost money (some of us, a lot of money) trying to win these games. Now you don’t have to work so hard.
YouTuber Mark Rober went to a local carnival for a day and took gathered data on 24 different games: how many people played vs. how many people won, what prizes they won, took measurements , and assessed which games are worth your time and which games are flat-out scams.
He divides the games into three categories:
1. Random Chance Games: These are the games where you are tossing ping pong or whiffle balls into cups. There’s no strategy to these games but you could win. If you have no skills go here, but you will lose. I don’t mean you won’t win a prize, but even if you “win” on your first try, you will pay $1.50 for a $0.45 prize. The average person played these games five times to win once, which means they payed around $8 for a $0.45 prize.
2. Skill Games: These are your best shot at winning and only require a little skill or strategy. This is where you should live on the midway. But know that things are not what they appear. For example:
- the basketball toss is set up for good shooters to miss short, because the goal is one foot higher and four feet further away than a standard 3-pointer.
- The beer-pong toss table is tilted forward.
- The Pitching Speed radar gun registers about 10-15 mph slow
3. Impossible games: No one won these games the day Rober tracked them. These are the big ones like the ladder climb, the BB Gun Star Shooter (120 tries, no winner), and the ring toss (800+ throws, no winners). These are borderline scams. But Rober does spend a lot of time on the ladder game and found a trick that could help you win.
His big rule of thumb at the carnival: Don’t stop at booths with huge prizes.