How to Master 5 State Fair Games and Beat the Carnies

Beat the Carnies: The Secrets to Winning 5 Popular State Fair Games
Video carnival game hacks

It’s that time of year again – state fair season! From Ferris wheels and giant turkey legs to the world’s smallest horse, state fairs offer an array of attractions. But one of the main highlights is undoubtedly the chance to test your skills and win big at the carnival games that line the midway. If you’ve always walked away empty-handed or with a disappointing consolation prize, this article is for you. Get ready to discover the secrets to beating the carnies and winning that coveted giant stuffed animal for your loved one.

General Guidelines

Assume most games are gaffed: Carnies have their tricks up their sleeves, and most games are gaffed to some extent. This means they’re rigged to make it more challenging to win. For example, basketball rims are often smaller and bent into an oblong shape to appear larger. So, if a game looks too easy, be prepared for a challenge.

Watch before you play: Observe other players before putting down your money. Take note of the carnie’s actions, such as using different balls during the demonstration. Pay attention to what works for successful players.

Ask questions: Don’t be afraid to ask the carnie about the game’s rules or how it works. Games may have slight variations from fair to fair, so make sure you know exactly what you need to do to win.

Use the same equipment and position: When stepping up to the counter, ask the carnie if you can use the same ball they did and stand in the same spot. If the carnie hesitates, it’s a sign that the game is gaffed and can only be won under specific conditions. In that case, it’s best to take your money elsewhere.

Remember to have fun: Ultimately, remember that these games are meant to be enjoyable. Don’t let losing ruin your experience. Treat it as a chance to test your skill and match wits with the carnie. After all, it’s all about having a good time. On to the deep-fried Snickers bar!

How to Win Five Popular State Fair Games

Milk Can

Milk Can Game

Milk Can is a classic state fair game that has been around for over a century. The objective is simple: toss a softball into a 10-gallon metal milk can from a few feet away. Sounds easy, right? Well, here’s the catch: these milk cans are specially designed to make it challenging. A small steel piece is welded to the rim, creating a hole just slightly larger than the softball. But fear not, because there’s a technique to master this game.

Aim for the back of the rim: Instead of trying to sink the ball straight through the hole, aim for the back of the rim. The goal is to give the ball enough backspin so that it slides into the hole rather than bouncing off.

Toss the ball underhanded but grip it on top: To achieve the necessary backspin, throw the ball underhanded while gripping it on top. This grip allows you to apply the right amount of spin.

Give the ball backspin as you release it: Flick your wrist slightly as you release the ball to impart backspin. This will help the ball slide into the can instead of bouncing away.

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Throw the ball softly and with little arc: Some suggest a high arc throw to land the ball directly into the hole, but the small margin for error makes it difficult. The best approach is a soft throw with little arc, combined with backspin. Aim to bank the ball off the back rim, ensuring it sinks into the hole.

Rope Ladder

Rope Ladder Game

The Rope Ladder game can be both captivating and frustrating. Your mission is to climb up an angled rope ladder with nine rungs and ring the bell at the top. The challenge lies in maintaining balance. Here’s the technique to conquer it:

Make your center of gravity as wide as possible: Instead of placing your hands on the rungs, grip the rope itself and spread your feet as wide as possible where the rung and rope meet. This widens your center of gravity, helping you stay balanced.

Counterbalance every movement: To maintain balance while climbing, counterbalance every movement on the right side of your body with a movement on the left. Think of how a dog walks, moving opposite legs together. This technique keeps you steady as you ascend.

Lean forward: Keep your weight forward to prevent yourself from tipping backward. Leaning forward helps maintain stability.

Watch your knees and feet: To avoid getting caught in the rope or on a rung while climbing, keep your knees and toes pointed to the outside of the rope.

Beware of carnie tricks: Carnies may try to destabilize you by releasing their foot, causing you to spin and fall. Stay alert and watch for any shenanigans.

High Striker

High Striker Game

Test your strength with the High Striker game, where the goal is to hit a pad with a heavy mallet and launch a small puck up a tower to ring the bell at the top. It’s not about sheer strength but rather mastering the technique:

Swing accuracy is key: While strength plays a role, hitting the pad dead center is crucial for success. Aim to strike the pad directly in the center for the best chance of ringing that bell.

Swing like you’re splitting wood: There are two techniques to consider. The first involves swinging the mallet as if you were splitting wood. Start with your stronger hand closer to the head of the mallet and your weaker hand at the end of the handle. Swing the mallet up and over your head, sliding your strong hand toward the end of the handle as you swing down. This technique offers greater control and balance.

Aim for the center of the pad: Focus on striking the pad’s center, as it’s the sweet spot for generating maximum force.

Hit the pad squarely: Ensure that the face of the mallet hits the pad flatly and squarely. A tilted impact reduces the swing’s effectiveness.

Shoot the Star

Shoot the Star Game

Step up to the challenge of Shoot the Star and showcase your marksmanship skills. Armed with a BB gun and 100 BBs, the objective is to shoot out every bit of the red star from the target. Winning this game requires skill and strategy:

Check the size of the star: The smaller the diameter of the star, the higher your chances of winning. Ideally, look for stars that are an inch wide or smaller.

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Take note of the paper type: The type of paper the target is printed on can affect your success. High fiber paper or linen makes shooting out the star more difficult.

Self-zero the gun: BB guns used in the game may not shoot straight due to wear and tear. Make adjustments by aiming slightly above the top point of the star and firing a few shots. Observe where the BBs hit to calibrate your aim for better accuracy.

Shoot a circle around the star: Instead of trying to shoot out the star piece by piece, aim to shoot a circle pattern around it. By encircling the star, you increase your chances of knocking out every bit. Accuracy is key, so take your time and utilize the tips mentioned above.

Flukey Ball

Flukey Ball Game

Flukey Ball is a game that challenges players to bank a wiffle ball off a slanted board and into a basket. It may seem easy, but don’t be fooled. Mastering this game requires precise technique:

Ask if you can lean: Whenever possible, lean over the railing to get as close to the board as you can. The closer you are, the better your chances of landing the ball in the basket.

Use the carnie’s ball: Some carnies use heavier wiffle balls during the demonstration to make winning seem effortless. If you notice a difference between the ball they used and the one they give you, ask to use their ball instead.

Graze the board: There are two techniques for winning Flukey Ball, but both involve gently grazing the board with the ball. You can either use the High Toss method, throwing the ball high and grazing the middle of the board on the downward arc, or the High Bank method. With the High Bank method, graze the top of the board as the ball goes up, causing it to arc back down into the basket. Choose the technique that works best for you.

Add front spin: Regardless of the technique used, give the ball some front spin as you release it. This spin can help guide the ball into the basket after it banks off the board.

Games to Avoid

While most games at carnivals and state fairs are fair, there are a few that you should steer clear of due to their rigged nature:

One Ball

One Ball Game

One Ball is a popular game that appears enticing but is nearly impossible to win. The stack of three milk bottles you need to knock off the box is rigged. One of the bottles is heavier, making it challenging to topple the stack with a direct hit. Despite the carnie’s demonstration, it’s best to avoid this game, as the gaff is often difficult to detect.


Swinger Game

Swinger may seem like an easy game, where you swing a ball past a wooden pin and knock it over on its return swing. However, the game is rigged by placing the pin directly beneath the hanging ball. When swinging the ball to the side to pass the pin, basic physics dictates that it will return in the same arc, missing the pin entirely. Unless the pin is slightly offset from the ball’s point of suspension, it’s best to skip this game altogether.

Now that you’re armed with these tips and techniques, it’s time to become the king of the midway. Take on these state fair games with confidence and outsmart those carnies. Good luck, and may you bring home an armful of oversized plush toys!