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Carnival games: don't lose your shirt this summer

If there's one thing that I think of when it comes to summer nights, it's carnivals. Growing up, the church near my house always hosted a carnival and it was the family hotspot for the majority of the summer. Besides the rides, carnival games are a kids' favorite way to spend their parents' hard-earned money. They're fun, you have the lure of winning great prizes (cleverly displayed and hanging right in front of your face) and usually they're fairly inexpensive...until you keep trying to win. But of course, most of them are rigged and the odds are not ever in your favor.Well, I'm going to give you some tips and odds on your favorite carnival games and hopefully improve your chances of going home a winner and becoming your child's favorite parent! Milk bottle throw: Normally the milk bottles are heavy and when two are on the bottom and one on top, people tend to aim for the middle. In fact, aim for the bottom between the two bottles and you have a better chance of getting them all down. Also, one bottle may be heavier than the other two, so if you want to be bold, ask the game operator, or carny, if you can feel them and then have him put that bottle on the top. Otherwise, you'll have no chance of winning.

Basketball free throw: The ball is usually overinflated and the hoop is smaller than regulation. Using the backboard will get you nowhere as the ball will bounce right over the net. The key is to aim high with an arc and swish it in. Nothing but net.

Shoot out the star: This game asks you to shoot out the entire paper star with a BB gun at a distance of 10-15 feet. The trick is to shoot around the star, not at it, but even an expert marksman couldn't do it, likely because barrels are often bent. If he can't do it, what hope is there for the rest of us? Maybe skip this one after all!

Balloon dart pop: It looks easy enough but the dart tips are dull, for safety and strategy, and the balloons aren't fully inflated, making them harder to pop. The key here is to aim high and have the dart come down in an arc, aiming for the middle of a group of balloons. This increases your chances of hitting anything.

Ping pong ball toss: This is one of the easiest games to win because all you do is throw a ping pong ball into a small goldfish bowl. That said, the cost of playing the game is more than the price of purchasing a goldfish at the pet store. So whether you win or not, they still make money. But by winning, you make your child happy, for at least three days until the goldfish dies...if it even makes it home in the little bag that will surely shake all the way back to your digs.

Ring toss: This is straight-up pure luck. Some sites claim a flat throw with a wrist snap helps but most say it's literally a toss-up and simply the luck of the draw. So, you better ask you feel lucky?

Coin toss: In this game you want to land your coin on a plate or other flat surface without it bouncing off. The trick, like many of the other games, is to toss the coin with a high arc. Also, if you want to be sneaky, put a bit of spit on the coin to make it sticky. Hey, all's fair in games and prizes, right?

Do you have tips on winning at carnival games? We'd love to know what's worked for you.

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