Carnival Scam Science (and how to WIN)

Published 2017-10-24
Prepare to drop some knowledge next time you visit the carnival.

I collected data at the carnival for a full day. Then I used that information to figure out which games are the biggest scams using science to analyze them and show you how to beat them. I also figured out how much the carnival actually pays for the prizes so even if you win, you lose. And then I visited the carnival with my professional baseball playing buddy to dominate all the games. It worked well.

I started a company called CrunchLabs where we build a toy together and then I teach you all the juicy physics for how it works. So if you want to learn to think like an engineer and have really fun time doing it, check out the current promotion where you get 2 FREE boxes at

You should also go subscribe to the CrunchLabs YouTube channel cause we’ve got some bangers in the pipeline-

Thanks to these folks for providing some of the music in the video:

Ponder -
Laura Shigihara - @supershigi
Andrew Applepie -
Blue Wednesday -

All Comments (21)
  • @williamosman
    Years ago I was an extra in a commercial playing carnival games. We threw hundreds of rings that day and not a single person landed one on a bottle neck....
  • Lol your wife’s reaction was great! Thanks for explaining this so thoroughly. I knew they were scams but this tells exactly why.
  • @agent5657
    It's heartbreaking to know that most things you enjoyed as a kid were meant to trick you and manipulate you
  • @andywu4177
    Mark getting a professional baseball pitcher to win carnival games (related to throwing) is the definition of overkill.
  • @colebroen718
    At the PNE in Vancouver, I won one of the huge prizes at one of their "impossible" games. They had a weighted baseball that flew like a knuckleball, and you had to break plexiglass bottles. I didn't tell them before hand I was a pitcher who threw an amazing knuckleball. Needless to say after I missed my first throw and realized the pattern, things didn't go the way the carnie expected. I still have my 6 foot tall penguin to this day.
  • @askmiller
    The sad part is that they charge like 3-5 bucks per play and the prizes they give out are worth pennies usually. They don't have to make it impossible. One carnival I went to had balloons on a wall with prizes in them and you threw darts. It was very easy to hit the balloons, in fact it was almost impossible to miss them. Yea most of the balloons just had small prizes on them, but at least that one felt fair.
  • @clbtu1
    I worked at an amusement park. One day there was a terrible earthquake. The entire park was leveled to the ground. The only thing left standing were those milk bottles.
  • @MWM304
    I remember reading somewhere that they will have some employees walk around with armfuls of those giant prizes or push them in a cart or something to make everybody else believe that it is possible to win those things on a regular basis.
  • @Miken_berg
    Another thing I noticed that you didn’t see/mention: the standard three point shot that most people are used to is a high school distance. That is measured at 19 ft 9 inches. The NBA three point is 23 ft 9 inches. So having a carnival shot at 28 ft is approaching half court. It’s VERY difficult for most people to make. Just something I noticed. Great vid!
  • @joedi
    My favourite part was his wife’s/ partner’s reaction. When I got married (at 30)and my husband (29) bought me a stuffed toy, my reaction was the exact same as Mark’s wife 😂
  • @NewsWithDawid
    This guy explains things better than a "trained" teacher in less than 10 minutes. Some of my teachers don't even get to explain something like that in a 1 hour lesson.
  • I’ve seen a guy walk up the ladder standing on two legs (we thought he was David Blaine) so what this guy says about thinking of it as a tightrope really checks out.
  • @elguero9279
    Having the speed gun under clocked isn't "borderline fraudulent". It's straight up fraudulent and hopefully they get sued over it
  • @bthurmond
    Mark, you are hilarious, full of science, a great entertainer, and maybe the best science YouTuber around. Except maybe Physics Girl. She's not hilarious but she does Great Physics! Thank you, Mark. Bring back the squirrels!
  • @lolongo
    our local carnival has ellipsoid basketball hoops, impossible to tell from the usual throwing spot.
    They’re so narrow in that dimension that you basically have to hit the hoop perfectly from directly above, so a very high throw!
  • @clutch1420
    Something i learned with the rope climb. After you get about halfway and even a little past. Its easier to finish the last stretch if you allow yourself to flip upside down. If youre not disoriented and strong enough you end up just doing sqinging monkey bars. This obviously may be against the rules for some.
  • @j22mattones
    You're wife's reaction was priceless! Make sure you keep that clip available the next time the carnival comes to town. 😉
  • @YoDzOnXbox
    Important to keep in mind the reason the prizes are so cheap for them is cause they buy in large volumes. If you were to just buy one it would cost you a lot more.
  • @mydreadmail1
    Mark: The ladder climb is near impossible
    Phat Gus: ...hold my walnut
  • @biff5856
    An interesting different take on scams. I've always wondered why these games were so difficult.