Classic Hacks: Improve Your Chances At Winning Arcade Claw Machines

Everyone knows that arcade claw machines aren't exactly a game of skill — most of the time the claws let go too early, or just don't grip properly at all in the first place. But how do the machines decide who wins, and how can you take advantage of that?

Claw Machine Image via Shutterstock

Back in 2012, UK TV show Brainiac published a segment revealing how the machines decide when to award prizes — and it's all based off a little yellow box that sits inside the machine, with settings chosen by the machine's owner.

You can game the system by staking out a machine and seeing how many tries it takes someone to win an item and then playing yourself after that number of tries has been reached again. For example, if the machine is set to let the seventh person win, after someone wins I’d ideally wait out six more tries before giving it a go myself.
Also keep in mind the second setting for the claw’s grip strength. Even if you’re due to win if you try for a prize that is partially covered by other prizes or tightly packed the strength of the claw may not guarantee a win. Also keep in mind that a toy perched on top of other toys may be a trap as sometimes the machine’s owner may intentionally tuck a stuffed animal’s leg under another toy making it difficult to lift.

Keep in mind that even if you manage to find a 'winning' round, you still have to properly hook the toy or box you want. Good luck!

Lifehacker's Classic Hacks is a regular segment where we dig up the most popular, useful and offbeat advice from our archives and update it for your modern lifestyle.


    years ago i was at timezone ,they had cheap watches in the machine i was getting them out left right and centre , i got 3 in one hit at one stage , the manager spotted me , came over tweaked the machine and i never won another watch , after that experience i have never played another machine

    Going back a number of years, a few mates found a machine that was bugged where we were. Put your dollar in, if you won, you got the prize and everything was normal, but if you lost, you got a free credit. So basically every win cost that single dollar.

    We cleaned that machine out, except for one last toy. Poor kids were devestated when they ran up to play and saw it empty, but to our credit we did give each of them a toy anyway. What were we going to do with 100 or so stuffed animals?

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