Carnival Of Scams - Top 4 fairground cons

by Paul Michael on 26 March 2007 26 comments

Fairground

Go to the fairground, get taken for a ride. Yep, those sneaky Real Hustlers are at it again. This time they've been uncovering the basic tricks and cons performed by your friendly neighborhood fairground staff.

I looked these up before going to a fair (just doing my homework, as any good Wisebread reader should) and was quite glad I did. Of course, I'm not implying ALL carnivals rip you off. No no no. That would be a terrible thing to imply (wink). But take a look at some of the 'oldest tricks in the book' and then decide for yourself whether you want to give your money away next time you fancy winning a giant teddy bear for the love of your life.

Note: All of these videos were filmed in my home country, good old England, but the same rules apply around the world. Where there's a carnival or a fairground, there's a con just waiting for a 'punter.' Here we go...

1: The Steadfast Stack of Cans
Looks easy for any eagle-eyed ball thrower. Just knock 'em down with three balls. No problem. Until you find out that three of the cans are light and three are heavy. And the way they are stacked makes all the difference. Check it out.

 

2: One Dart, Many Balloons...No Chance.
I can play darts. No shock there, I spent many years after work in many a public house in London. But I challenge even the sharpest of sharp shooters to pop one of these balloons. The reason...they're really underinflated, making the skin thicker, and the dart is as blunt as a butter knife.

 

3: Bottle Bowling BS
They were doing this trick hundreds of years ago on the streets of old London town, and it's still working today. The reason is that it looks very very easy to win, but it is in fact almost impossibe. Knocking down two bottles with one ball is simple if the bottles are set-up evenly. Bt if you offset them, one bottle takes all the energy out of the shot and the other bottle will almost always be left standing.

 

4: Hoops Hoopla
I'll be honest. I've tried this one a few times. Most of the time, I didn't even get close. Once I got so close I almost cheered. But it was still a failure. And that's because the way the trick is set up makes the chances of winning almost zero. The secret lies in the base...an offset bunch of blocks covered in velvet that grab the hoop and stop it from sliding down. Sneaky? You bet.

 

 

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Guest's picture
Yan

Great find! I wish they made watching these movies mandatory for everyone entering the carnival grounds. ;-)

Guest's picture
Guest

I agree with Yan.

Guest's picture
chipati

There is a great book I am reading right now called, "How to Cheat at Everything." It gives the same kind of information as this post for many other games.

Guest's picture
Guest1

The next time i see a carny i want to punch him in the face

Guest's picture
Guest

I hope I am there to see that, and then watch him kick you all around the carnival.

Paul Michael's picture

from the library immediately!

Guest's picture
Guest

You know the basketball game where you put 3 balls in the basketball hoop, and you win a huge prize?! Wellll... the hoops aren't perfectly round, they're squished so it's harder to get the ball in. Stupid carni jerks.

Guest's picture
Guest

How many of us is from this that are posting?

Guest's picture
Stephanie

Wow.. next time i go to one.. and i LOSE.. im gonna cry in front of their face and say "SCAM" and yell the whole scam they do OUT! lol

Paul Michael's picture

...that involves throwing balls into metal buckets. But here's the scam. The bottom of the bucket is convex and the bucket is angled just right, so the ball almost always bounces out. How nice!

Guest's picture
I'm From I Am Bored

Yeah I'm From I Am Bored Baby =]

Andrea Karim's picture

I once told a carny that I knew all the games were rigged and that I would never consider wasting money on his little ploy. He then got out of the booth and proceded to throw all three of the baseballs into the bucket.

I don't know how he did it.

Paul Michael's picture

...of I-AM-BORED. Nice to know my post got a mention there, and it certainly explains the spike in traffic. Of course, can't look at that site at work...no time to be bored, know what I mean folks. Ahem.

Guest's picture
Megan

I wish i knew that when i went to the carnival!

Guest's picture
Guest

I have actually won at all of those

Paul Michael's picture

...just very very difficult. How proud you must be.

Guest's picture
Guest

Is Paul Michael's attempt to make us believe these images are actual fairground people ripping people off. The people in these films are presenting a programme. Did they actually show real fairgorund people doing this? Don't think so.

When all is said and done, fairground people aren't in the business for the fun of it. They have to make a living. And if these games were as easy to win as Paul seems to think they should be, then there would be no funfairs, just as if the lottery was as easy to win as we all want it to be, London wouldn't be hosting the 2012 Olympics.

Give us a shout when you find a programme that exposes the shocking truth about gypsies stealing babies.

Guest's picture
Guest

Google: "Before you head out to a carnival," Check out the web site: carnivalcongames.com, or read the book: "Carnival Games: The Perfect Crimes" and you will see evidence ot the truth. Your carny buddies are earning a minimum of $10,000,000,000.00 annually in the U.S. The games are just serial crimes committed by serial criminals who pay public officials to perpetrate scams while uniform police patrol the felonious midways.

Paul Michael's picture

A few remarks on your comments.

First, as I have said before, these are ex-conmen recreating classic cons and scams. If you look at any of the videos, you will see that they are TV show presenters quite clearly.

Second, this is a case of deception. If there was a sign posted on each carnival attraction saying 'your odds of winning are 5000-1 against you' then how many people would hand over the cash? Do you think the lottery would be legit if, before the drawing, someone magically drew 6 winning numbers and won millions. Then it was your turn. This is deception. They make it look possible, but it's all a scam. They are not upfront about it, as legitimate forms of gambling are. I agree that it's a business. So is laundering money.

By the way, did you read my piece on blog commenters? 

Guest's picture

None of this stuff suprises me.

Guest's picture
GuestDanny

in reading this rubbish you have printed it is obvious you know as much about fairgrounds as I know about brain surgery!! All my life I've heard all the stories blunt darts twisted sights on guns there has never been a gun that shoots straight you always have to allow for tguns own performance I suggest you travel with a fair for a season and then you can be a bit more instructed

Guest's picture
JARM

Regarding your comment that carnivals should show signs stating the odds of winning are 5000 to 1 against. Thats a heck of a lot better than the 14 MILLION to 1 against winning a lottery jackpot. I noticed on buying my lottery tickit this week that the store selling it didn't advertise the odds they were offering via a big neon sign, can we take it then that all the lottery ticket sellers are con men?

As to the statement about sights on guns. Take 10 average people off the street, let them fire the same gun and I bet they hit 10 different points on the target. The fact is setting the sights off on a gun do nothing, anyone who knows how to shoot just alters his point of aim, anyone who doesnt know how to shoot is going to lose regardless of how good the sights are.

Guest's picture
Guest

You make a valid point about sight picture adjustment. However the gaff is actually in the target paper and the ammo. Paper freys and ammo too small and not round. Often impossible to shoot one shot at a time. Expert law enforcement marksman were only able to completely shoot out the star in only 8 out of 2000 attenpts (law enforcement testing). Always a speck of red on freyed paper edge showing. The average person always seems to lose. Read the book: "Carnival Games: The Perfect Crimes" and learn about how payoffs are the reason these scams continue. Your elected officials make big bucks from carnival owners. $10-$50 Billion cash industry in the U.S. alone, ripe for corruption and organized crime (laundering, etc.) Cops often patrol carnival midways with blinders.

Guest's picture
Guest

take it from an agent.. the bull **** on here isnt the real deal. come see me. i will give you a fucking education.

Guest's picture
Guest

I've worked in carnivals before. I can't speak for all companies, but I can assure you that the one I worked for never had anything rigged. I saw plenty of people win at the balloon game we had, where we blew up the balloons a fair bit to make them popable (and the darts were sharp enough to pierce them.) our bottle-ring game often had a lot of kids winning some good prizes, and the clown game I ran had plenty of people walk away with decent enough prizes (we also had an all-kids-get-a-prize policy, so it didn't matter their score, they would win something). We also had a striker, that plenty of people won at as well. I don't know if the culture is different in other places, but it wasn't anything like what is often depicted in TV shows and movies.

Guest's picture
Guest

i once won 1600$ at the carnival one time at one of the games