If I had to to list my top five things in the world it would look like this:
1. My wonderful daughter 2. My other, slightly less wonderful daughter* 3. My amazing wife 4. Science 5. Scams
That’s why it was so exciting to see numbers 4 & 5 show up in this educational video from YouTuber Mark Rober. Rober is an engineer by trade and he’s spent serious time deconstruction the science behind why these games are so hard to beat.
From shooting galleries to ladder climbs to basketball games, he exposes them all. Rober breaks them down into three types. Games of skill (that you can get better at), games of chance (whose odds never change) and total scams (that you can never beat.)
If you toss a ball into one of a hundred cups, the odds of winning don’t change making it a game of chance. There’s always the same number of winning cups. And of course, there’s never many of those.
If you attempt a three throw at a carnival basketball hoop, it is a game of skill. But don’t assume your years of playing b-ball outside of the school will help. Carnival basketball hoops are taller, further away and sometimes not even round. Your muscle memory will always be a little off. All your practice will actually work against you.
Of course, it doesn’t really matter if he reveals the tricks of the carnies trade of course. There will always be new rubes who don’t know how the games are rights and stubborn suckers who refuse to believe that they can’t beat the game.
There’s a sucker born every minute, and two to fleece him.
For more on carnival scams, check out my interview with Glenn Hester, a magician and former cop who spent many years busting these games.
Nicholas J. Johnson is a Melbourne magician, author and collector of scams.
*I’m not telling you which is which girls. You’ll find out in my will.