If you cover the spot you win.
Carnival games have a history of being unfair. Over the years there have been many exposés of rigged games that showed how impossible it was for a player (also known as a victim, "mark" or sucker) to win.
Cover the Spot is one of these games. The idea is for a player to pay money for a chance at covering a painted spot with five metal disks. If the spot's completely covered, the player wins a prize.
There are ways for the guy running the game (the "operator") to cheat by rigging the game. An operator could switch the disks for smaller disks that would never cover the spot, or he could bump the table and jostle the disks, or he could have a rigged setup with the spot painted on canvas that the operator could stretch to make the spot bigger.
But this game doesn't need to be rigged. This carnival game is a puzzle that looks deceptively easy, which encourages people to play. The operator can show potential players exactly how to cover the spot, and then clear the disks off and say, "See how easy it is. Go ahead, you can do it."
Like many carnival games, the deception is not in the physical game being rigged, but in the circumstances. Operators will target guys with gals, directing their spiel at the guy, telling him he can win a stuffed animal (called a "plush") for his girl. And when the guy looks at the game and sees how easy it is, of course he'll try.
When a player plays the game, he can get very close to covering the spot, but not quite. (If he doesn't know the exact secret of laying down the disks.) Many times the operator offers multiple chances for one price (three tries for a dollar), and afterward says, "You were so close, you almost got it."
Bystanders become engaged, and think, "If only that guy would have placed the disks like that... I think I know how to do it."
It's the same effect that gets people, who aren't at first interested, to try and place a piece in an uncompleted jigsaw puzzle.
And there's a reason the disks are made of metal. It's hard enough to place the disks to cover the spot, but many times the rule is that a player has to drop the disks from a small height ("only an inch or two") to cover the spot. So even if a player knows the solution, he must have the skill to drop the disks, a skill that the practiced operator can easily demonstrate.
Now the game has multiple elements for a player to beat - knowing how to cover the spots, knowing how to drop the disks, and resisting the deceptive simplicity that makes it look so easy.
And dropping those metal disks sure makes a lot of noise to attract other players...
Want to try it for yourself? Try this online version where you can try your luck, no money required. Cover the Red Spot Game Online: Smart Kit Puzzle Playground>>
Buy your own Cover the Spot Game: Jack's Games>>
Watch the secret solution to the Cover the Spot Game: