How Do You Win the Claw Game?

Answers to your questions about the news.
Feb. 7 2012 6:34 PM

How Do You Win the Claw Game?

Use a partner.

How often can you win when you play a claw game?
How often can you win when you play a claw game?

Photo by Robert Benson/Getty Images For Bloomingdale's.

An Australian 3-year-old climbed inside a coin-operated claw game at a family restaurant Sunday, and proceeded to hand out the game’s candies and toys. Similarly frustrated players have busted into claw machines in Wisconsin and Minnesota over the last few years. If you’re playing by the rules, what’s the best way to grab a prize with the claw?

It depends on the machine. Claw games can be adjusted to make the prizes either easier or harder to grab. The difficulty is controlled by setting the length of time allotted for each attempt and the number of attempts given for each quarter spent. Operators can also change the strength of the claw’s grip. Given these variables, claw-game experts recommend spending a few minutes on the sideline while others play. Once you have a sense of the machine’s idiosyncrasies, ask a partner to stand on one side of the machine to help you align your claw on the depth axis. If the prize is a plush toy or stuffed animal, aim for the chest, which allows for the firmest grip. If the claw has a weak grip, try knocking objects sideways into the prize chute. Experts differ as to whether it’s easier to win with a three-pronged or a four-pronged claw.

There are other ways that a claw-game operator can tweak the odds. In some machines, the prizes are crammed together such that it requires more force to pull them out. According to the British TV show Brainiac, some claw machines (or “fairground grabbers,” as they’re known in the United Kingdom) are programmed so that they only maintain a firm grip on every fifth or 10th play; they’re guaranteed to drop the prizes the rest of the time. Whatever their methods, claw-machine operators lean toward settings that allow a ratio of about $3 worth of prizes doled out for every $10 in revenue.


While claw games have been compared to kiddy slot machines by critics, the law considers them to be to be games of skill, as opposed to games of chance. In several states, so-called “Chuck E. Cheese laws” ensure that children’s arcade games won’t be tagged with regulations designed for casinos. (Even under these rules, claw games are illegal when they don’t give players a fair shot.)

Got a question about today’s news? Ask the Explainer.

Explainer thanks Robert Jarvis of Nova Southeastern University.

Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer. 



Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 1 2014 12:20 PM Don’t Expect Hong Kong’s Protests to Spread to the Mainland
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?