Learning About Those
Games, the Hard Way...
by Bruce Walstad
Back in the late
70’s (I was a young patrolman then) my chief came to me and said
I was being assigned to check out the games at a carnival that
was setting up in town. He explained in their previous visits
there had been many complaints about people losing some serious
money on the games. The chief knew I was a part-time performing
magician and said, “You know all about that sleight of hand
stuff, so look at those games”. I had no clue what I was
getting into. I had read in a few books about carnival games
like the Razzle, Over the Rail and the Scissor’s Bucket but that
was the extent of my knowledge.
My first encounter
with the carnies was most interesting and enlightening for me….
It probably took them a few seconds to realize I knew little to
nothing. They were very friendly to me and went around and
explained how each game worked and what you had to do to win. I
fell for most of what they were telling me. However, I did
recognize the Razzle set up and a couple of the games were out
and out gambling. I shut those down, but allowed them to open a
Bushel joint, the Coke Roll and a couple others. At that moment
I became our department’s carnival game “expert”.
As time passed I
would stop at every carnival I saw and look over the games and
watch them in action. I read everything I could and befriended
a few carnies and found a couple other cops who had been
inspecting games and learned a great deal, but never enough.
Actually I still have several friends in the carnival business.
As the years passed,
other local departments were calling me to help them with
inspections. Jeez, the games I saw at times....
I remember one time
a guy had a basketball joint and he could not sink a basket
himself. He finally got up on a ladder and had to force the
ball through the hoop (it was so bent) and told me, see it can
be done. We said no to that. He went and got a car jack and
opened it and inch or so. We allowed him to open after the
One time I was
watching a Spot the Spot joint and caught the guy with two set
of different size disks. He had the smaller set hidden when I
did the inspection. I watched him demo it perfectly for people,
but when they went to play, he would turn around to get a
cigarette and switch the stack of disks. It was a really smooth
We checked out a
duck pond one time and surprise, there were no large or
extra-large marked ducks. But then, they magically appeared.
He had on a ledge inside the tunnel and when he bumped the
tunnel really hard, they fell in the water. That one made me
I had the most fun
with the bushel guys. Not one time, could they win the game,
following their own rules. Talk about an alibi joint, they had
more reasons why they could not do it.
The Coke Roll guys
were funny too. They would go on and on trying to convince us
this was a good game. They could rarely ever win themselves
during the inspection process. We never allowed that game.
Every so often we
would find a Razzle set up. Usually they would switch out a
legit game for a Razzle after the inspections and the carnival
was open. Oddly, it was most often other carnies who would tell
us about it.
One time I had a guy
one time trying to convince me that the three pin bowling was a
legit game. I got tired of watching him trying to win. He was
quite upset when we would not allow him to open and then wanted
to set up his bottle up joint. It was the version with the
little platform and fork. The player had to do it 10 times
according to his rules sign. I actually spotted where he had
his bottles marked with the heavy side. We did not allow that
either. He finally set up a balloon game.
I came across some
sort of cork gun game once, where you had to knock down small
wooden rectangular targets. During the inspection process, the
guy could not shoot down one. We got tired of watching the
corks bounce off the targets.
The Milk Bottles
were always a problem. We would often let them open (if the
bottles were not too weighted), but would close them down pretty
quickly as soon as we saw them offsetting the bottles. I
actually came across a set with a 9 pound bottle, a 6 pound and
a 1 pound bottle. I think I would have trouble knocking that
set down with my 9MM.
Saw a Swinger Game
That guy must have
thought I was an idiot. I saw him offset the pin every time he
set it. He explained to me that
he did that every time for each player. He worked overtime
trying to convince me that game was legit. He gave up and put
in another game.
Carnival Games of Chance Give Player
Honest Winning Break
If you have a question you would like
to submit email us at the
Busted No One Wins! Back