Science Helps Reveal Which Carnival Games Are a Scam, and Which Ones You Can Actually Win

The prizes, the lights, the sounds, and a quick-talking barker make it hard to resist playing carnival games, but is every game a fool’s bet? In his latest video, Mark Rober, an ex-NASA JPL engineer, breaks down the science of what makes some of these games so challenging, and others near impossible to win.


For instance, the regulation height of a basketball hoop is 10 feet off the ground, but Mark found the hoops at his local carnival were actually 11 feet tall, which would throw off even an NBA star. As for games that are almost impossible to win? Don’t bother trying to shoot the star off a paper target with a BB gun. You’ll have physics and the laws of the universe working against you ever winning that stuffed bear you’re eyeing.



Who Is Man Diego?

Uhh... the height difference on a basketball hoop isn’t why those basketball carnival games are hard... it’s because the hoops aren’t round. My dad used to watch the carnival barkers, they would always “test out” the hoops to “show that it’s possible.” He would watch from the side, because two of the hoops would be more oval, and one would be slightly rounder. The height shouldn’t really matter if you’re good at throwing things through a hoop. It’s not like you’re doing it with no visual context. I don’t think even Steph Curry is so “locked in” to his “muscle memory” that he wouldn’t be able to adjust for 28 feet out 11 feet high.