ever wonder why you came home from the carnival empty handed?
Remember how you tried to ring the bell by hammering the
catapult or how you tossed ring after ring trying to win a cane
"Swindled" Well, maybe! Read how the operators "gimmick" their
games so that you can't win. It may save you money or help you
catching buckets can be fixed so that the ball will always
Games Cheat Customers
CARNIVALS carry with them many devices which are
to flatten the pocketbook. There are a score of games—all
"fixed" so that the operator has them under control at all
times—all "sure things," but not for the benefit of the public.
Perhaps the best known is the paddle wheel. These are often
played on the square, the operator depending on getting a full
play at ten cents each, and then awarding a cheap prize. All
wheels, however, can be altered instantly in order to increase
the percentage for the owner. This is usually done by friction.
The paddle wheel is controlled by a wire rod which runs up to
the hub of the wheel. By pressing a hidden lever, the operator
can cause the rod to press against the hub, and thereby stop the
wheel on a non-winning number. Technically, these outfits are
known as "squeeze spindles"; and when operated so that every
other number calls for a worthless prize they are known as "slum
spindles." There are many variations of the game. Occasionally
it is a simple cardboard table spindle so that its very
crudeness seems to warrant its innocence from guile—but—in every
case, you will find the hidden lever.
Ever play the bucket game? The idea is to throw balls into the
bucket in so many attempts. Try and do it! Every bucket has a
turn screw on the bottom, adjusted so that it will positively
throw out the ball with which the game is played. Of course, the
"capper" is allowed to win and occasionally the operator gets
generous enough to allow some outside person a fair chance of
winning. There are many varieties of this swindle. One uses but
a single bucket mounted in the center of a closely-woven net.
The tautness of the net makes it impossible to pocket the ball.
In another type the bottoms are hinged so that they can be
deflected upwards and downwards. With the bottoms flat, the
player has no chance whatsoever, but by pressing a lever, the
"barker" can deflect the bottoms slightly, causing the ball to
strike the inside on the rebound and then stay put.
prevents your winning. The balls look alike but there is a
slight difference. The smaller non-winners roll out.
The winners remain.
"gimmicked" is the hoop toss. In this, the prizes are mounted on
square pedestals. The player is furnished with wooden rings
somewhat like crochet hoops, and with these he attempts to win
by completely "ringing" the pedestal. Of course, he has no
trouble in eventually winning one of the "slum" prizes, but it
is next to impossible to ring any of the more pretentious gifts.
The reason is simple. The rings are slightly elliptic in shape,
so that their smaller diameter is just the least bit lacking.
The operator pressing the ring to a more rounded fullness
between his thumb and fingers, easily slips it over the prize in
Of all games "spot it" is one of the few that is actually played
"on the square." It is quite simple. The operator presides over
a large disk painted on top of a small table. You are handed
five smaller disks and attempt to completely cover the large
disk. The disks cannot be moved once they are placed in
operator shows you how. But when you try . . . always there is
that little bit of uncovered space peeping up at you . . .
laughing! Of course, there is no "gimmick" in the game. The
basic principle is one of geometry. There is only one way in
which the small disks can be placed to completely cover the
large disk. Any deflection will result in failure. The "barker"
has certain marks on the large disk, discernible only to
himself, which guide him in covering the disk completely.
There is nothing so sure, for the operator, as the ball and box
outfit. In this one the operator exhibits a box in which are
numbered balls. Corresponding to the numbers is the prize rack—a
"slum" affair displaying valuable and worthless prizes. You buy
a chance and the operator opens a small door in the box and lets
out your ball. You immediately spy the number and turn eager
eyes towards the prizes to see what you have won. It invariably
happens that you have drawn a non-winning ball.
Make sure that
the uprights supporting the rope are solid and that the rope is
not twisted and you have a chance of bowling over the pin.
Don't let the operator hand you the ball.
The nigger in the
woodpile is that the balls are of two different sizes. The
non-winning balls are the smaller size. The game revolves around
one point, as far as the operator is concerned. If he can
release these smaller, non-winning balls, the company is ahead.
Well, he does! The method is absurdly simple. To the inside of
the box is fastened a block of wood. The small balls will slide
under it, but the larger balls cannot. When the barker shakes
the box, he waits until he feels a ball striking the tin door.
This he knows to be a non-winning ball and he releases it at
once. When business is good the operator subtly contrives to
allow a player to win occasionally, and in this manner spurs on
A twist of the
little handle at the bottom and your marble drops into the
losing pocket. The metal points block the way to the
worthwhile prizes and add your dime to the operator's profit.
Another popular game
is the "Test Your Strength" device in which a lever, when struck
by a hammer, catapults a rubber marker up a steel wire.
Actually, physical strength has nothing to do with its girl can
send the marker to the top while the "village blacksmith"
might hammer all day and never reach the top. The reason is that
by resting his foot on a lever the operator can make the wire
taut or loose as he desires. Therein lies the secret. When the
wire is tight, the marker goes crashing into the bell; but when
the wire is loose, it
friction to retard it.
Even the "toss a
ring and win a cane" game and the lesser-known "knife pitch" are
tricked. The faking is in the ring, this being weighted on one
side so that it will fall at an angle. The better prizes, too,
are usually packed so close that it is impossible for the
ring to encompass any one of them.
Other simple games come in for their share too. The cats and the
that you throw baseballs at are often loaded so that they can
withstand a terrific impact and still remain standing. The
grinning "nigger babies" have been hammered so consistently in
previous seasons that they present a total solid area of about
three square inches, the rest consisting of gaudy edging
through? which the ball whizzes without effect.
The "drop case" too is quite popular. The carnival uses it as a
"slum" affair, one-half pi the numbers winning. You drop your
marble in at the top of the case and allow it to roll down
through the maze of small pegs. At the end it drops into a
numbered stall and it is not unusual for it to land consistently
on the non-winning numbers. A concealed lever does it. By giving
it a turn the operator erects a barrier in front of winning
wheel as a general rule, is squarely run for percentage favors
the operator when he has a spending crowd. However it,
too, can be "gimmicked" as the drawing shows.
The "pin and ball" outfit consists of a bowling pin over which
is suspended a ball on a long rope. The idea is to swing the
ball forward, miss the pin, and then knock it down on the
reswing. By twisting the rope or through loose uprights you will
Carnival Games of Chance Give Player an Honest Winning Break
Article by Sam Brown
Popular Mechanics June 1930
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