11 feet, 11 feet.
It’s no secret that carnivals exist to make money
And to do this most effectively, they do a bunch of little tricks
to make you overestimate your chances of winning
in some cases to such an extent
that it’s basically a scam. So I spent a couple days coming down
to this carnival and observing and collecting data
on all the games. So I’m now I’m going to tell
you exactly which games are the biggest ripoffs and the scientific reasons why.
I even nancy drewed how much they actually pay
for the prizes you can win. But there is hope…because I’ll also
show you some legitimate tricks on how to the most popular
games and along
with what happens when you show up to the carnival with your professional baseball playing buddy
who happens to play for the Mets.
Let’s get started!
Any kind of legitimate investigation needs to start with solid data
as the foundation. So with the promise of unlimited churros,
I had some friends secretly help me collect data on all 24
games at the Carnival for a full day.
Not only did we collect
how how many times each game was played but we recorded how many
times people actually won each game and what prize they won.
And so the first observation was that based on our data
is tht this relatively small park
this place makes $20k/day just on their carnival
So to help frame the rest of the observations,
let’s divide the games into 3 groups.
You’ve got your Random chance games-
Games like these that don’t utilize any skills and are basically
rolling a dice.
2nd you’ve got your Skill based games
Like basketball shot or the milk bottle throw or the basket toss
game where if you bring some kind of skill or strategy to the table
you can increases your chances of winning
And the final category are
the games that are pretty much Impossible- These ones are borderline
There are 3 games that
lots of people attempted and nobody won, and if they did win
once like in the case of the ladder climb it was for a very specific reason,
which I’ll talk about later.
So let’s start by talking about the random chance games. Calculating
your chances of winning chances here is pretty straightforward. You just divide
winning outcomes by the total outcomes
and you’ll get a percentage.
So in this case there are about about 1600
total cups and 160 winning cups.
That’s about 10% chance or 1 in 10 throws
There are a ton of games similar to
this. But catch is they always use balls that are light weight and have a high
coefficient of restitution meaning they bounce really well.
The makes it much less likely the ball will end
where you originally aim it.
To illustrate this point, think how much easier this game would be with
bean bags which are heavier with and don’t bounce.
in your throw is magnified, which essentially
If you have no skills these
are the games you want to play. But don’t’ get too excited
because even when you win you lose.
I did some investigative work and uncovered the sources they order
their prizes from and discovered even If you got lucky
on your first throw that would cost you $1.50
for a prize that that cost them 45 cents.
But you usually won’t get it on your first try
and treating this as expected value problem it would
take you average
(7/30) 5 tries to land in a yellow cup for a small prize which means you pay $7.50
for something that costs 45 cents.
In the case of the big prize by landing in the rare
gold cup it’s worse and would take an average of
25 tries, which works out to $38
for a prize that costs them $6.
The number of people we observed winning matched up well with these
statistical predictions.Now let’s talk about the
skill based games. One of the most popular
the basketball toss with 825
the day we obseved. A standard 3 pointer is
about 24 feet back on a 10 foot rim.
In this case however, the line is 28ft back on a rim
11 feet high. Which is subtle but if
you have a deadly 3 pointer locked
into your muscle memory you will tend to miss short which is
exactly what happened a bunch.
The reason they always have all big sloped tarp in front
is so that someone can’t stand underneath the rim where they height difference
would be much more apparent.
Here again though even if you go Steph Curry
and sink your first $3 shot, you still lose 2.20 cents
because this ball costs them 80 cents Here is another example of getting
you to overestimate your chances of winning by making subtle changes by slanting the table
which will reduce the horizontal velocity after
the bounce so even if you played this game all through college
your previous experience almost becomes a handicap.
This measure your pitch speed game is borderline fraudulent
as their Radar gun registers about 15mph slow.
I know this because I measured the distance and then
filmed in high speed
and counted the frames and this pitch was much closer to 84 mph.
For the milk bottle game the only catch here is that the bottles are metal
which makes them more stable and harder to knock down than a normal bottle that size.
I’ve seen some carnivals where they are bottom weighted
which would make them even more stable and thus less likely to tip.
You can ask to hold it use the trick
of balance it on your finger to determine where the center of mass is.
They key to this game is hitting them right here
with a hard enough throw to introduce sufficient kinetic energy
but don’t throw it too hard because we noticed those who threw their hardest
usually compromised on accuracy.
About 1 in 14 of people knocked them over on their first try.
And then finally the basket toss game. The key here is to
have your first bounce hit on the front lip to reduce the kinetic energy
enough so it doesn’t rebound out.
About 1 in 10 people win this game according to our observations.
And now this brings us to our final category of the near impossible
games and there are three of them. On this first one, the goal
is to shoot out the red star with this automatic
bb gun. So the best strategy is to basically shoot
a circle around the start to cut it out.
are the guns not accurate or precise but the bigger issue is
that you start out doing really well because there is enough surrounding paper
so the bb will rip through the paper.
3rd law tells us you can only push on something as hard
as it can resist your push and so at the end there will be barely
supported pieces of the star that just move out of the way
off the bb without building up enough stress
to rip the paper. Out of 120 plays we saw
no one win this one all day
This ring bottle game
is also impossibly difficult. Again, it’s a lightweight object
that is really bouncy to encourage randomness
but the actual inner diameter of the ring is really close
to the outer diameter of the bottle. This means any throw
besides this perfect one, will
send it bouncing away instead of settling in on the bottle.
If you really want this bear I suggest going to Amazon and getting it for $47.
I literally can’t even tell you how much money that wills save you because of the 840
rings we saw thrown, none stayed on. Which brings
up a obvious rule of thumb, if you want
to have the feeling of winning a game, don’t play any game that offers
really big prizes. And for the final near impossible
game let me reiterate that for a carnival owner the most lucrative
games are those which the customer over
estimates their chances of success. No game is a better example
of this than the ladder climb.
There is a subtle issue
with this game that I think people realize, but don’t internalize the significance.
The ladder converges to be supported on the wall by one point
instead of two. If it was attached in two points it’s like
crawling across a bridge
which is really easy. Let’s pretend this is
you and If you shrunk all the weight of your body
down to the average location which we call the center of mass,
which we’ll mark
with this dot. Again, you know this is the spot
because it balances perfectly. If you draw
two imaginary lines connecting the diffrent support points
and as long as your center of mass dot is
it is impossible to fall off.
But As soon as you center of mass is even a little bit out of the area
of supports you start to rotate and fall off.
If you’ve ever bent over to pick something up
you actually know this fact whether you realize it or not.
In this case the region of support is between the heel
and the toes of your foot.
When you reach over you will
naturally move your butt back to keep your center of mass
in between your support points.
If you don’t believe me
try picking something up standing against a wall
so you can move your butt back, at the very moment your center of mass
moves beyond your toes,
you tip over.
In the case of the ladder game even though it looks wide because of the ladder rungs, it’s only attached
at one point but
even though it looks wide because of the ladder rungs
that area of support reduces down to a line. So
So if you don’t keep your center of mass directly above that line
you will start to rotate and fall
off. In other words, to win this game
you basically need to crawl across a tightrope.
And you might think we’ll I can do a slack line so I can do
this but a slack line is actually much easier for 2 reasons
You can flail your arms and legs out to adjust
your center of mass to keep it above the line
of support and your center of mass is higher
up which makes you more stable
In the same way it’s easier to balance this umbrella when it’s extended vs. when collapsed.
So while there are a few videos that say tricks like maintain three points
of contact at all times, they’re basically useless because
keeping your center of mass directly above a line
is just something you need get a feel for that
takes a lot of practice. But once you’ve had enough practice you this is the one game at the
carnival that is all skill. So you can win everytime
and clean them out. Unfortunately, the carnival owner knows this which is why it’s
the only game with this super lame caveat.
So now that we were carnival experts, I called up my buddy Matt Winaker
who played baseball for Stanford and was just recently drafted to play for the New York Mets
So we could maximize the chance of winning any game relating to throwing
So clearly Matt had deadly lock on any throwing game
But basketball is more my game so to finish off
the day I decided to bring his ego back into check
As it turns out, if you are a world
class athlete in one sport
you are a really, really good athlete in all sports.
So in conclusion, you should play the games if you think they’re fun
just know that the odds are heavily stacked against so if you
don’t win it’s nbd unlike this dude who lost his
life savings playing carnival games. And if
your motivation is to gain the love and admiration of someone
special by means of a stuffed animal you don’t need a
carnival to do that. Amazon works just as well.
“A little purchse for you ma lady”
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