Summertime is rapidly approaching which means soon, in your neck of the woods, the fair is coming to town.  If you're like me, you've spent tons of cash trying to win some giant bootleg Disney stuffed animal trying to throw balls into a bucket.  Well waste your money no longer!   Here's a handy guide on beating the carnival games so you can have the upper hand!

NOTE:  We've also added some tips discussed in the fine forums of and reader emails.  Check 'em out!

This game seems deceptively easy.  Who can't pop a balloon with a dart?  The carnival has an edge in 2 ways.  The darts are rather dull for both the safety of the kids using them, and to keep them from puncturing the balloons as easily.  Secondly, the balloons are only inflated to about 30% of their normal capacity, which makes them that much harder to break.  A good rule lf thumb for these is to aim near the middle of a balloon cluster.  This increases your odds of hitting a different one if you miss.  If the carny isn't looking heat up your dart tip wtih a lighter or the end of your cigarette before throwing it.  Also, try not to pay attention to all the boobies and J-Lo's ass above the baloons that will distract your aim!

READER TIP (from SP3MM) "for the balloon dart game, the way to win is to throw the dart in a high arc, so that it is almost falling straight down a few inches parallel to the wall with the balloons.  if done properly, you can knock out a whole column of balloons with one dart.

GAIDINBDJ from writes, "Get one of those little dry stones that some with those cheap woodcarving sets. Palm it, and give the tip a quick zip when the carnie is combing thier mullet."

The so called "Looney Ladder" game has been known to make an ass of many of man.  The problem with this game is that each end of the ladder goes to a single point on pulley.  As you climb up one small jerk to the left or right will cause it to flip upside down and leave your drunken ass in the air while the carny hits on your girlfriend.  The key here is to keep your hands and feet on the rope part of the ladder and avoid the rungs altogether.  This gives you better control when it wobbles and makes it easier to hold on.  Chances are still good that you'll fall, but with good balance, you'll have a much better chance of making it to the top.

GROUNDHOG from writes, "I worked a Carny on the west coast of Canada years ago and it was a blast. Big traveling family. Word of a hassle spreads like wildfire and you will ALWAYS be outnumbered. I ran the Looney Ladder and the real trick to it is to distribute your weight across the ladder. Equal pressure on left foot and right hand while moving right foot and left hand. Still takes much practice. By the time I stopped I could go up the ladders forward, backward and almost no hands. We used to have races to the top which made locals think it was really easy. One of the best times I had."

Here's a game that preys on the macho aspects of guys.  The idea here is that you get 50-100 shots from an air rifle to completely shoot a red star off a piece of paper.  Its a bit stacked against you because one squeeze of the trigger will rapid-fire about 40 shots at a time, so you don't have a lot of trial and error to aim.  The other problems is the sight on the gun itself is often off-center, so if you're using it to aim, you're screwed.  The best strategy is to shoot in a circular pattern around the star, instead of trying to blast the star away.  Its pretty much a fool's game to play, however, as there's so many factors to make the gun unreliable.  You're almost better off just closing your eyes and using The Force.

REPSYCHLER from writes, "I've beat the "shoot out the star" game a few times. I usually watch a few shooters. The sights on the gun are always off, who cares, you can compensate. The trick is, look for the gun that sprays the BBs in the tightest pattern."

The old carnival basketball game is another one that depends on guys who want to show off their MAD SKILLZ to take their cash.  In most cases the rim is smaller, while others may have slightly larger balls (hah!).  Your best bet at winning these is to do a Rick Barry style underhanded granny shot and get the arc of the ball to go as straight down in the hoops as possible.

I never understood the allure of winning a goldfish at the fair.  You have to carry them around all day, and you can get them at an aquarium for about 30 cents.  That being said, they're one of the easier games to "win" in that all you have to do is usually throw a ping pong ball into a bowl.  As far as profit is concerned, they'll always come out ahead cause the 50 cents to a dollar you have to pay to play is more than the fish are worth.  If you look at the picture above, you'll see there were other distractions at this game that kept me from winning (click the picture to see close-up).

The "Throw the Ball in The Basket" game, (or "Tubs Of Fun" as its called here), is extremely difficult to win.  If your ball hits the bottom of the basket first, it's guaranteed to fly back out.  Your best bet it to lightly lob the ball so that it hits the front of the top lip, with a bit of reverse spin on it.  Hopefully it will use up enough force so that it hits the bottom side, then roll to the bottom itself.  If this doesn't work, get a friend to distract the carny, and just lean over.  I mean, there's a giant Sponge-Bob at stake, so desperate times call for desperate measures!

UNYON from writes, "Wanna win that 'throw the ball in the basket' dealie? Throw the ball at an angle (ie: at a basket a few doors down from the one in front of you). The ball will rotate around the basket wall before coming to a stop. Some carnivals won't let you do this, and have notices posted. Some don't, so you either win and collect your prize, or get into a knife fight with a carnie."


"For the dime toss game, where you try to land a dime or other coin on a glass plate placed several feet back from where the mark stands, the winning ingredient is saliva." from SP33

"For knocking over milk jugs games, most players mistakently aim for the intersection of the 3 jugs, which means striking the bottom 2 at the top of the jug.  problem is, the jugs have a couple pounds of lead in the bottom, making them behave like weebles.  if you can hit the base of the bottom 2 jugs you have a much better chance of success." from SP33

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If these games are so hard to win, how come you see so many prizes being carried around?  Some carnys have been known to simply give away prizes to pretty ladies in order to fool the masses seeing them walk into thinking "wow, if SHE can win that, I could!"

Another approach many carnivals are taking as of late is to guarantee a prize (albeit a small and shitty one worth less than the cost of playing the game) to kids.  "Come on now, sir!  Your kids are automatically going to win something if you play!"  I always tell my kids that money is better spent on corn-dogs for dad, and that we'll just buy a real toy later.

Last year, the deep-fried Twinkie was introduced at many fairs to wide praise.  I tried one at the El Dorado County Fair last week and thought it tasted "OK".  The real amazing heart stopping treat I stumbled on was, get this... DEEP FRIED OREO COOKIES!  Holy shit!  I know it sounds disgusting, but the 8 people I went with ALL loved them, comparing the taste to a fresh devils food cake donut.

Pretty much anything tastes good when it's deep fried, however.  I'm fully expecting DEEP FRIED CRISCO at fairs next year.

-Robert Berry

Thanks to the fine folks at who linked this article and to the many great FARKers who gave tips (that you see additional quotes added from here).  You can join in the fun and discuss this article if you CLICK HERE and make sure you check out the rest of FARK's great links every day!