Man Loses Life Savings on Carnival Game

A New Hampshire man lost his entire life savings playing a carnival game. What he walked away with wasn’t exactly the prize of the century.

Henry Gribbohm of Epsom New Hampshire says he lost his entire life savings of $2,600 at a carnival, playing a game where the object is to toss a ball into a bucket without the ball bouncing back out.

What does Gribbohm have to show for his trouble and lost money? A giant stuffed banana with dreadlocks.

Gribbohm’s objective was to win an Xbox at the game, called “Tubs o’ Fun.” When he practiced playing the game it seemed easy. However, when he started playing for money, the game got a lot harder, leading him to conclude the game must have been rigged. Frustrated, he kept putting down more and more money for more chances and quickly found himself $300 in the hole.

Gribbohm then went home for more money. The game’s operator says the game isn’t rigged, merely difficult. Gribbohm, meanwhile, says he’s never gambled before.

While the image of a man trading his life savings for a giant Rastafarian banana is a funny one, there’s nothing funny about gambling addiction. According to, Americans spend over $5 billion per year on gambling activities. Families of gambling addicts suffer more domestic violence and more instances of mental disorders from stress and depression.

According to carnival game fraud expert Bill L. Howard, author of Carnival Fraud 101, there’s a reason Gribbohm’s practice session with the Tubs o’ Fun game made it seem easy. The tub’s bottom is elastic. When someone tosses a ball into the tub, it bounces back out every time. During the practice sessions, the carnival game operator tosses a ball in from close range, which allows the first ball to stay in the tub without bouncing out. The player’s practice shot, therefore, hits the bottom of the tub with the first ball already inside, deadening the tub’s elastic bottom. For every paid shot however, the carny removes the previous ball, ensuring any new balls will bounce out.

According to Howard, other carnival games rigged to look easy but impossible to win in real life include the milk bottle pyramid game, the balloon dart throw and the basketball shoot. The milk bottle game can use heavy lead bottles and light cork-filled balls. The balloon dart game often uses underinflated balloons that are harder to pop and lighter, dulled darts. The basketball toss uses small, oval hoops and overinflated, extra bouncy balls.

Article Source: 7 Rigged Carnival Games – AARP