Carnival Games at Busch Gardens

Do you enjoy playing games when you visit a theme park? You’ll see people carrying giant stuffed animals around the park, so people do win, but did you ever wonder what the odds were or strategies to win?

Like most parks Busch Gardens has its fair share of carnival games. Most of them are concentrated together in Pantopia, but there’s basketball , the bar hang and the ladder climb near Iron Gwazi and a collection of claw games in Sesame Street. YouTuber Mark Rober did a great video that broke down the statistics and strategies. Basically the games fell into a few categories from random chance to next to impossible, but the general rule was that things were set so that players overestimated their chances and/or had a “twist” to throw players off. This “twist” could be something like an 11′ rim for basketball or exceedingly bouncy balls that are unlikely to end up where you want them to.

Mark’s video does break down a few winning strategies for games like tossing a ball into a basket or at milk jugs and explains why things like the ladder climb are exceedingly difficult without high levels of skill and practice. Have also gets into the economics showing that a small park brought in $20,000 in a single day on their games and that the prize often cost the park less than the price of a single play, so even if you win they still win. One can only imagine what a park the size of Busch Gardens makes in a day on their games.

A lot of these games you could even practice at home like the ball basket toss. A few games are just a roll of the dice with minimal or or no skill too, so like playing a slot machine, maybe you get lucky and walk away a big winner. The claw games are another animal entirely and they’re an example of something that masquerades as skill being mostly random chance.

The goal of playing these games should be to have fun and maybe you get lucky once and a while. If you have a small child that really wants a prize I’d recommend something like the Flamingo Farm duck pull where you basically buy a win. In that game every duck has points on the bottom and a certain number of points gets a certain size prize. You can basically keep buying extra ducks until you have enough points. In our case $20 worth of ducks bought enough ducks to score a giant stuffed dragon, but at least our son walked away happy with something.

Even in the long shot games like the claw, people do win. In fact our son Thomas won his first ever game of the claw and it probably wrecked him for life with unrealistic expectations as he cried when he lost the second time, but then won the third, go figure. We then put about $15 in a machine at Impossible Pizza and came away with squat, so hopefully this recalibrated his expectations.

With these games I’m pretty sure Busch Gardens run some of the more fair games around, but even so, be educated about your odds, know the secrets and have fun!

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