It’s time to put your game face on…if you want to bag a season’s worth of stuffed animals, that is.
The whole claw machine enterprise is a bit sketchy, but the system can be beaten.
First, the bad news:
#1. Prepare for the overwhelming odds you’re up against.
Yes, some claw machines are rigged. But not in the way you might think…
Vox pulled a PDF of a manual for the Black Tie Toys’ Advanced Crane Machine off of the BMI Gaming site in 2015, and found a section that allows the vendor to set the “claw strength” and “dropping skill” ratios.
The machines can even make those decisions automatically when an owner selects a win percentage.
That would be like playing a slot machine that also requires skill.
After Vox published their article, BMI took the PDFs of that manual down. Bastards.
#2. Learn from experience, and do your research.
Vending Times claims that some companies are eliminating the “auto percentaging” feature and that, “Leading amusement vendors are moving toward 100% skill offerings on their routes and in their game rooms, or simply giving away a lot of prizes.”
Yamato believes every machine is winnable, but, “It’s just a matter of how much I want to stand there and keep playing if I already know that this particular machine is sort of stuck.”
Morgan prefers machines in the California desert: “I have incredible luck out there, I always play in the desert.”
Multiple people responded to the Vox article claiming that the Sugarloaf brand claw machines at many Walmarts tend to have good odds for them.
#3. Walk around the machine.
Take a look at the machine and what’s in there.
Yamato also stays away from machines with money wrapped around the prizes, because, “those are usually the ones that are rigged.”
Pick a prize before you put any money in. More on that later.
And stay away from machines that are packed full of stuff. The claw needs room to grab. Yamato doesn’t even bother with those machines she knows are overstuffed: “I won’t be able to reel anything in.”
Morgan agrees that it’s “…much better to find those weird lone claw machines in places that seem more abandoned—they don’t get stuffed as much.”
#4. Watch somebody else play before wasting your money.
Don’t worry about the person playing. Watch the machine at work.
Yamoto told Mental Floss, “I can see if the claw grip is too loose, or if it’s designed to let go or give a jiggle after it grasps something…”
#5. Bring a friend.
There’s a wikiHow on beating claw machines, and they suggest using a friend to spot the other axis.
If you don’t have any friends, a lot of machines have mirrors that can help.
#6. Pick your prize carefully.
These are amusement machines. You’re looking to win. The trophy is a bonus. Both Yamato and Morgan go after the prizes that look the easiest.
Morgan told The Daily Beast that sometimes, “…you’re going to have to settle with the ugly duck/monster thing with red shoes and a cape or whatever the hell it is and live with it.”
FYI: balls are also harder to grab than stuffed animals.
#7. The prongs matter.
Morgan told The Daily Beast, “The two-pronged claws seem weaker to me.”
And he must be right, because the wikiHow doesn’t even bother with two-prong. Four-prongs are great for grabbing the bodies of stuffed animals, but you might want to go for the sides with a three-prong.
#8. Take a practice run.
Even if you watch other people, you’re still probably going to blow a turn just getting a feel for the machine.
If you can, use that first run to move the prize to a better spot, like closer to the chute. That way, a weaker claw has less opportunity to drop the prize on its way to the promised land.
#9. Use your time wisely.
Machines typically give you anywhere from 15 to 30 seconds. Some might even give you 45. Most of that time goes to maneuvering the claw.
And, make sure you know if the button has to be pressed to drop the claw. Some machines return without dropping once time runs out, but others drop automatically. Don’t blow it.
#10. Know when to say enough is enough.
Yamato doesn’t usually spend more than a couple of dollars, and Morgan won’t go past ten tries, because that makes her “feel like a junkie.”
“You got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em, know when to walk away,”… from a plush fur-ball that kinda looks like a duck.
Do you play? Have any tips you’d like to add?