How To Win At Carnival Games

Jun 23, 2020Hayden

If you've ever been to a carnival or amusement park, you've probably been tempted to play one of the games in the "midway". Or, if you haven't, you probably assume that they're all rigged. Well, which is it? Today, we're going to tell you the best strategies and tricks to winning at those games even when they're rigged against you. Do you want to win the big fluffy unicorn? Let's get started!

The Basketball Hoop

Most basketball hoop games only have a 1/2 inch margin of error. This means that you have very little chance if you aren't dead-on with your shot. It's even trickier because most balls are overinflated, meaning that they'll be bigger and more bouncy.

Image credits: Shutterstock/Stephen Bonk

Here's how to beat this one. First of all, don't take bank shots off of the backboard. The balls will be too bouncy for that. Take a shot from a little further back and with a little more power than you're used to taking. And only aim for the hoop! That should give you just enough of a margin of error.

The Milk Bottles

One of the more classic games at a carnival is the milk bottle toss. This one is deceptive because most carnivals use leaded glass in the bottom bottles, which make them able to withstand a baseball without breaking.

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If you play this game, aim for the center of the bottom row. Throw the baseball as hard as you can. This game is all about power and accuracy, but not finesse. You might also ask if you can hold one of the bottles prior to playing. That will give you a chance to figure out where exactly the weight is within the bottle itself.

Test Of Strength

If you're on a date, and you want to impress your special someone, the test-of-strength is probably the game you'll try and play. There's a definite trick to this one though because the way to beat it is not through strength, but accuracy.

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The pad that you strike with the hammer really only has one sweet spot. This can vary, but it's usually at the front or directly in the middle. Hit the sweet spot with the hammer, but only swing as hard as you can while staying accurate. That should enable you to win first prize.

Shoot The Star

This is more of a state-fair game than a carnival game, but it's still really tricky. They'll give you a paper target with a star in the center, and the object is to use a bb gun with limited ammunition to shoot around the star and make it fall off of the piece of paper.

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The FBI once did a study about this game and found that it could only be won if the star was less than 1 1/2 inches in diameter, so check that first. Don't trust the bb gun to be accurate either. It may be old or it may be rigged to not shoot straight. The big trick is to shoot in a circle around the actual star target, NOT the star itself. That's the only way to win this one, although it's best to avoid it altogether.

Ring Toss

The ring toss is a tough one because they do two things to rig the game. First, they put the bottles close together, which means your target area is very, very small. Second, they make the rings barely bigger than the bottlenecks, so they don't fit easily.

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The way to beat this is to not play it. If you do, you'll want to snap your wrist up and make the ring as flat as possible. This game is nearly impossible to win though, so it's actually better to avoid it. IT's not necessarily a scam, but it's a tough one to win.

Balloon Darts

There are several scams involved in the balloon dart throw. First, always check the darts first. Sometimes they will give you lightweight plastic darts that are too light to actually break anything. The balloons are also usually not inflated enough to be able to be popped.

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This means that the game can actually be physically impossible to win. If you do play it, make sure to aim for the balloons that are the most inflated. That will give you the best chance to actually be able to win the game easily.

Cover The Spot

The cover the spot game involves dropping metal discs onto a metal target to "cover the spot". The trick here is to drop the discs in a specific order around the "spot". The first disc should be dropped on the left side, which will cover a bit of that one.

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Next, drop the disc on the right side of the target. Keep alternating left/right and top/bottom until the entire spot is covered up. Make sure to drop them flat, and without too much height because you don't want them to bounce.

Jacob's Ladder

The Jacob's Ladder is actually one of the more winnable games at the carnival if you know what you're doing. Most people assume that you want to power your way up the rungs of the ladder, but that's actually incorrect.

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The better way to climb this is to grab THE SIDES of the ladder and climb up that way. When you move your right hand, move your right leg. When you move your left hand, move your left leg. This keeps you balanced and moving up the ladder.

Ball In The Basket

There are a few variations of this, but all of them have the same premise. You want to throw them so that they land in the basket, either directly, or by bouncing the ball off of a target into the basket. Either way, the trick is the same.

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The balls are going to be very bouncy softballs, and they'll want to bounce off of any surface that they're thrown on. The trick is to throw them gently, and underhand. If there's a board target involved, try to hit the very bottom of the board so that it barely bounces in.

Baseball Radar Throw

The baseball radar throw is a game where you throw a baseball at a target and if it goes over a certain speed measured by a radar gun, you'll win a prize. So what is the trick to winning this one? It's much simpler than you might think.

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The trick is to not play this game. It's too easy to tamper with the radar gun and there's no way to actually check it's accuracy. There are a lot of anecdotal reports about these games and the radar guns. Don't play'll only bruise your ego.

The Duck Game

There's no skill involved with the duck game. You simply pick a rubber duck and hope it floats down the water first. Since there is no skill involved with picking a duck, there isn't a great trick to win it either. Why are we mentioning it?

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A lot of carnival games are based on chance. This isn't necessarily a bad thing because it's much easier to rig games of skill rather than games of chance. Just be forewarned about them and realize that it's about the same odds as winning a slot machine.

Swing Ball

Swing Ball typically involves knocking over a bowling pin with a bowling ball suspended from the ceiling. However, if you think about it, this one is also impossible to win. The problem is the length of the rope attached to the ball.

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If it hangs directly over the pin, no matter how hard or how high of an arc you swing it, the ball simply cannot knock over the pin. It's physically impossible. If you see this game, ask for a demonstration first, and then do exactly as the demonstrator does.


Skee-Ball Is a classic game that has a long history. The good news is that skee-ball is a commercially built game, so it can't be rigged. The main key is finding the right amount of toss and finding your angle. Aim for one target and get good at hitting THAT target.

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You can also learn to use the rails if it helps. They can often be used to change the angle of a shot, and they might make it easier for you to hit your one target. It only takes one good aim to win at skee-ball, so practice your one big shot.

Water Gun Race

This is a good one to play since there is always a guaranteed winner. You shoot water at a target and it causes an object to move. Sometimes, it's a ballon that goes upwards, or sometimes it a race car or boat that moves from left to right. 

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The key to this one is to find the water cannon that has the highest pressure. Watch the game a few times to see if there is one cannon that consistently wins. If there is, that's the seat you want and it's worth waiting for!

Guess Your...

There are a few variations of this, but most of them involve guessing your birthday, your height, or your weight. If the carnival has someone doing this, it's very likely that they have a lot of experience with height and weight.

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You should always have them guess your birth month, and you should always say that it is October. Why? Well, June, July, and January are all out because it's too easy to "fudge" those on a piece of paper. October is much trickier because they can't use one of those to get within a couple of months of your actual birth month.

Hopefully, these have given you a leg up on how to beat carnival games. Some of them are trickier than others, but most are beatable if you know the secrets. This article should help you do it, so get out there and win some prizes! If you enjoyed this article, please share it with your friends. Thanks for reading!

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