Earlier this month, a New Hampshire man lost his life savings of $2600 trying to win an Xbox Kinect at a carnival. After losing several rounds at a game called “Tubs of Fun,” where he had to land balls in a bucket, Henry Gribbohm was given a consolation prize—a plush banana with dreadlocks—and filed a police report, claiming the game was rigged.
Last week, the website CollegeHumor took some pity on Gribbohm and purchased the stuffed banana from him for, you guessed it, $2600. They even threw in the Xbox! What nice guys.
Anyway, let’s say that Tubs of Fun was rigged. How would a carny go about pulling one over on a rube?
According to Bill L. Howard, who literally wrote the textbook, Carnival Fraud 101, on shady carnival games, the trick goes like this. "From inside the booth, the carny tosses a softball and from his vantage point, it stays inside the tub," Howard told the AARP last year. "Then he gives you the second softball for a practice throw—and it stays in for a win." The first ball deadens the landing of the second one and keeps it from bouncing out, but once the customer’s money is on the line, both balls are removed and handed over to them. From where they’re standing, and without a ball already in the bucket to help things along, there’s very little chance most players can keep the balls from bouncing out.
This seems to have been Gribbohm’s exact problem. As he explained to CBS, the practice shots were easy, but “something changed when he started playing for the prize and the balls kept popping out.”