By William Hageman, Tribune Newspapers
May 30, 2012
Want to make it a summer to remember? Go to a carnival, pick out one of the midway games and Beat the Carny. That's easier said than done, of course, because many of the games defy physics — or, worse, may be rigged.
But Matthew Gryczan says you can Beat the Carny.
Gryczan, author of "Carnival Secrets" (Zenith Press) and president of SciTech Communications in Grand Rapids, Mich., says there are three types of games on the midway: games of entertainment, games of chance and games of skill. It's the last category that affords the best shot at carnival glory, because a game of skill is something you can practice and get good at.
The game he suggests mastering: bottle setup. It involves lifting a bottle that's lying on its side to a standing position, using a pole and string with a hoop attached.
DIY home version: To polish your skills, Gryczan suggests building your own version of the game at home. You'll need a foot-square piece of wood for a platform, some blocks to put underneath it so it is raised, a 3-foot-long 1/2-inch wooden dowel, a 5 1/2-foot piece of string, a small nail, a wooden curtain ring and a long-neck soda or beer bottle. Tie the ring to the string, stick the nail in the end of the dowel, and attach the other end of the string to it. Cover the platform with a piece of tile, Formica or another hard, slippery surface, put it on the ground and lay the bottle on it (either toward or away from you).
Practice makes perfect: Grasp the pole at its midpoint and hold it nearly vertical. Lean over a barrier — all midway games have barriers — position the pole over the bottle and slip the ring over the neck. The secret, Gryczan says, is to make the neck of the bottle move in an arc. Don't pull it straight up or straight back.
Lift the pole a couple of inches, but not so high as to make the ring slip off. Then bring the pole toward you in an upward arc, with a firm and constant motion. With practice you'll get a feel for the bottle's movements and will learn to adjust accordingly. Congrats. You are on your way to a lovely prize.
Player beware: Of course, you can become a world-class bottle-setup player and still get skunked if the game is rigged. Gryczan offers a couple of tips.
"Look at the prize," he says. "If the prize is a huge stuffed animal, you can bet it's a difficult game. Carnies aren't throwing out those prizes regularly. People should never play for money, or never play for anything that's truly valuable — gold or a TV set. That's a real good tip-off the game is rigged."
Also, have the carny demonstrate how to win. "If he can't win, you have very little chance. And if the carny is demonstrating a game, ask to use the same equipment he used."