HOWTO beat carny games

Mark's written about winning rigged carny games before, and now the Art of Manliness has a nice little guide to winning five midway challenges, including the secrets behind them (for example, the milk-can has a collar welded around the inside of its mouth that makes it just a few millimeters bigger than the ball you're tossing) and strategies for beating them.

The secret to winning Milk Can is to give the ball a bit of backspin and hit the back of the can’s rim. The backspin will decrease the ball’s momentum, and instead of bouncing off the can, it will slide into the hole. Easier said than done, of course!

Aim for the back of the rim. Remember, we’re trying to deflect the ball in, not sink the ball straight through the hole.

Toss the ball underhanded, but grip the ball on top. This will allow you to give the ball the needed backspin.

Give the ball some backspin as you release it. As you release the ball, give a little flick of the wrist so the ball starts spinning backwards in the air.

Carny season's a few months off, but that gives you time to practice.

How to Win 5 State Fair Games (Thanks, arbitraryaardvark!)


  1. As part of high-school fundraiser, I operated the Milk Can booth at Worlds of Fun in Kansas City. When business was slow, and it typically was, we practiced. We found that the backspin technique worked fairly well, but most of our successful shots were made when tossing two balls at once. We would palm two balls in one had and softly underhand toss both trying to keep their trajectories equal (the balls in contact, one on top of the other). As the bottom ball hit the can, the top ball would deflect it into the hole. 

    A buck bought you three balls, so we would usually go with one backspin throw and one two-balls-stack throw.   

  2. It seems like that’s the ‘strategy’ for several of the games: ‘ don’t bother playing it’.  (which most people already know)

  3. Hitting the pad squarely in the center is a surefire way to lose. CLIP the edge farthest from the fulcrum. This delivers the most leverage. It’s risky, because if you miss you look like a total doofus, but that’s the chance you have to take.

  4. Thanks, Art Of Manliness ! Now I have the skills to walk around a carny midway lugging plenty of fluffy pink unicorns !

  5. I don’t usually submitterate, but this reddit peice just jumped out at me as boingboingable.
    Even tho wil (who turned me on to boinboing) has been plugging reddit for years, I avoided the lure till this this year. Now i’m hooked.

  6. When I was 14, there was this 17 year old kid in my home town whom had mastered skeeball.  He sunk a bullseye each and every time without fail.  They only let him go so far before they started paying him to run the booth.

  7. I think this article was written by someone who ran one of these booths. The best way to win is to not play.

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