Yesterday I posted some photos of an old carnival game that belongs to a woman named Marsee who works at O'Reilly. She inherited it from her grandfather, who was a carny and owned the recieved the game as a gift, but never used it. (He was an honest carny, like most are.)
About 200 people emailed me with their ideas on how this game was rigged. Today, one of Make's interns, Ty Nowotny, took the game apart and revealed its secret: a cylinder with damping material.
(Click on thumbnail for enlargement)
When the carny wants to demonstrate how easy it is to throw a ball into the basket and have it drop through the hole, he reaches into the catching apron and pushes the green fabric tacked to the backboard, which makes the cylinder flush against the backboard. Then he tosses the ball into the basket. The cylinder absorbs the ball's energy, so the ball does not bounce out of the basket, but instead drops through the hole.
The very act of throwing the ball against the backboard causes the damping cylinder drop away. Now, when it's the rube's turn, the ball bounces right out of the basket. Here's a photo of the game (the real name is a "Scissors Box") with the back panel removed, revealing the mechanism.
Re: "Now, when it's the rube's turn, the ball bounces right out of the basket."
A technology later perfected by Diebold.