Sunday, October 14, 2012

Arcade Claw Games are Rigged

The claw game (aka “crane games” or “fairground grabbers”) are pretty straight forward in appearance: put in your money, position the crane over a prize, drop the claw and hope your aim was good enough to bring home the prize.

But, winning a prize requires a lot more than skill. These machines are like slot machines, except children are allowed to play. Just like a slot machine, the operator can dial in how often the machine should pay out.
The crane game machine reduces the claw strength when the player is supposed to lose and increases its grip strength when the player is allowed to win. In that sense, they’re worse than slots because the player still requires some skill when the odds are in their favor.
The odds of the machine giving the claw enough strength to win a prize is regulated by some states and therefore varies. In California, the claw must have enough strength to win during an average of 1 in 12 games. In Nevada, it’s 1 in 15 games. In other words, during 1 in 15 games the claw will be strong enough to pickup a prize, but you still have to aim it well.
The following is an excerpt from a crane machine’s operating manual, indicating how two different knobs can be turned to adjust the claw strength in different ways. The full manual is available by clicking here (PDF).

If you really want to win, your best bet is to sit back and watch other people play. Count the wins and losses and put up your money when it’s due to grip again.
Alternatively, much older (less sophisticated) claw machines rely on spring tension and may be easier to beat if they’re calibrated with a decent grip. Also, be sure you aim the claw at the heaviest part of the prize, if the grip is tight this will make it easier for the claw to hang on.

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