There’s something exhilarating about handing over your hard-earned cash to prove that you can win an over-sized neon plush toy. Even if the person taking your money is wearing a funny hat and shouting “THREE GAMES, $10!” or “Roll up, roll up!”
The motivation is there but do you have the skill (or, more importantly, the dumb luck)? You could try and flirt with the carnival game operator, maybe bribe them or beg them but it’s not nearly as satisfying as beating them at their own game.
Here’s how to (probably) win those tricky carnival games and take that HUGE toy home with you until you start wondering “Why did I even want this?”
GAME 1: Basket/Bucket Toss
Most basket/bucket toss games require you to toss a ball within the wall fixture without it bouncing back out. Usually, the basket/bucket is fixed on the wall at an angle that seems to repel your attempts. Try tilting your hand down, palms down, and throw with a little backspin. The ball should hit the rim and spin back into the bucket/ basket. My dad taught me this one but it still takes some practise and general hand-eye coordination.
GAME 2: Water Gun Race
The best way to approach this game is to observe a few races and try to suss out which gun/s might have the highest water pressure and might be the most accurate. Once you’ve figured that out, it’s up to you to focus the gun at the target and hope your observations paid off.
GAME 3: Milk Bottle Pyramid
Even with a strong arm and good aim, this game can be quite difficult. In some iterations of this game, one of the bottles at the bottom of the pyramid is heavier than the others, which means it will be less likely to fall and bring the whole thing down. Instead of aiming at the intersection where the rows of bottles meet, aim exclusively for the space between the bottles at the base. If you can knock over the bottle that you suspect is heavier, you should be golden.
GAME 4: Mallet Striker
Want to hear a ringing bell proclaiming your feat of super-strength? It’s not just a matter of “Do you even lift, bro?” This is a game of strength AND extreme accuracy. Try to hit the target with the mallet head square and flat, not at an angle. As unlikely as it might seem, sometimes this game is easier for the shorter people! Hey, we have to have an advantage at SOMETHING!
GAME 5: Rope Ladder Climb
Some games will encourage you to climb a ladder horizontally or vertically to reach a goal to win a prize. Most of the time they don’t specify that you need to actually use the ladder rungs, and not using them is actually better for your odds. Using the outside ropes to climb on and applying equal pressure of your arms and legs as you shuffle up/along the ladder will help you master better balance and hopefully win that big ol’ teddy!
If you can master all these techniques, brilliant! Let’s be honest, though: you’re more likely to play carnival games for the fun of it than to become a plush toy mogul. Just remember to have fun, set aside a (reasonable) budget for games and enjoy the experience!