There are two steps to become a magician. 1) Know the tricks and 2) Practise it. I believe any and everyone of us can be a magician. However, some of us prefer to be naive about the subject which allow us to be genuinely surprised by what magic has to offer. The other group that some of us fall into would be exposing the tricks. We do intense research. We look through multiple videos. We study the logic and science behind some of the most simple yet amazing acts in the world. Then we stop there. We don’t try to recreate the magic on our own, because we realised it is too tedious. Unless you’re a professional magician of sorts (not to be confused with your yearly birthday party banter), the amount of material preparation required is not worth it for that few seconds of “Oh my god!” moment from your family, friends or colleagues. The next group of people try to recreate the magic only to discover halfway through that a simple card trick (E.g. double lift, card palming, etc) requires months of practice. Not only does it require a significant amount of rinse and repeat, there is a high chance that if you stop doing it for awhile, you’ll need to retrain the muscle memory once more. The thing about magic is that its muscle memory works slightly different from normal tasks such as exercising. It is okay to drop weights by 10–30% to retrain your body again, but magic tricks has to be precise.
Magic is arbitrary, either you fooled me or you’re the fool. There is no in-between.
Instead of exposing various magic tricks per se, I will be exposing the magic of claw machine today. Specifically, I will be revealing some of the common settings that claw machine owners tend to adjust in order to tweak the game in their favour. It is beneficial to know that it is possible to create a setting that is totally unwinnable (E.g. claw strength is so little that it can’t even lift the toy above the chute), of which I would recommend you to do one of two things. 1) Walk away or 2) Pepper spray the claw machine owner.
1. Claw Strength (Measured in Voltage [V], E.g. 0.0–48.0)
If a huge heavy soft toy requires at least 5V to be lifted off the ground, 10V to be carried to the height level of the chute and 14V for it to be carried to the top, a decent claw machine owner will set the claw strength voltage to be between 10V to 14V. A standard play (without swing) would result in the claw being able to catch the item and lift it high enough to be above the chute (showing that it is possible to be caught) but the claw releasing its catch upon reaching its highest point. With multiple tries and some lucky rolls, players will be able to bring the soft toy nearer to the chute and potentially catch it out. A scammy claw machine owner will set the claw machine voltage to be between 5V and 10V, resulting in the toy to be able to be lifted off the ground, however it is never past the height level of the chute. Once customers play once or twice and discover that such a setting will never result in a win, customers will walk away and never return to play the same setup. The aforementioned scenario is under the circumstances that claw strength is constant throughout the play.
2. Positioning of Claw Strength (Still measured in Voltage [V], E.g. 0.0–48.0)
If it is a more advanced machine, claw machine owners can set the claw strength to be different at various positions. There are two main positions that claw machine owners will dictate the difference in claw strength. 1) The moment when the claw closes and catches the soft toy when the soft toy is lying down. 2) The moment when the claw is returning to its highest point. A decent claw machine owner will set more than usual claw strength at position (1) [E.g. 20V] to show that the claw strength is good and set the claw strength at position (2) to be 14V. A scammy (but arguably smarter) claw machine owner will do the same settings for position (1) but dropping the claw strength at position (2) to 5V. Once again, if customers are able to visibly see and feel the major difference in claw strength, I highly doubt they’ll return for a next play.
3. Length of String
When you press the button to release the claw downwards to catch the toy, the claw can typically catch the toy. Claw machine owners can specify the duration of how low the claw can go which then dictates the length of the string given for the play. An example would be 0.3 seconds is too fast and insufficient, resulting in the claw to only dangle mid-air and close without even touching the toy. A decent claw machine owner would set the duration of the claw going down to be sufficient to fully wrap the toy with all 3 claws which vary between 0.8–1.2 seconds depending on various factors such as height of platform and height of soft toy.
A scammy claw machine owner would set the duration of the claw going down to be only sufficient to 3/4-wrap or 1/2-wrap the toy with all 3 claws. Yes, the customer can still grip the toy up, however due to the insufficient grip on the toy, the claw strength will not be enough to sustain the height above the chute depending how high the claw strength is set to. Either way, it is much more favourable for customer to be able to freely dictate when to close the claw (pressing the button once will release the claw down, and pressing the button again allows you to close the claw whenever/wherever you like) as compared to a stubborn scenario where they can only grip 3/4 or 1/2 of the toy.
4. Delay of Claw Closing Upon Pressing Button
The ability to freely dictate when to close the claw upon letting the claw down is commonly known as the double-tap function (二收). In a normal scenario, decent claw machine owners will set the setting for the delay of claw closing to be 0. This means that there is no delay or lag for the double-tap function. You press once, the claw goes down. You press it again, and the claw immediately closes. A scammy claw machine owner will set the setting for the delay of the claw closing to be longer than 0, perhaps 0.2 or 0.4 seconds. This means that there will be a slight delay when you do the double-tap function.
In the event that your favourite soft toy is at the edge of the chute with half its body dropping out, you would want to grip a tiny bit of it and make it inch into the chute as compared to catching it in its entirety and risk having it drop away from the chute. However, if there is a delay in the double-tap function, it is difficult to dictate exactly when you want the claw to close. Sometimes that 0.2 second delay is what makes you walk away with a $30 loss or 2 loppy bunny in hand.
5. Delay of Claw Going Down Upon Pressing Button
A more experienced claw machine player will usually know how to swing the claw (甩爪) and create momentum to bring the toy nearer to the chute. Instead of catching it normally numerous times and waiting patiently for the toy to bounce over to the chute, the experienced claw machine player will swing the claw based on the speed and rhythm of the setting to catch the toy and time its release of claw to the side nearer to the chute. The standard speed and rhythm is two-beat (二排). If the toy is on the right of the chute, you can try to position your claw slightly to the left of the toy, swing continuously left and right, and once the claw is swinging towards the left, you hit the button, the momentum of the swing will propel the claw to move to the right towards the toy and you press the button again to close the claw upon touching the toy. The momentum is still in play, which results in the claw to swing back to its left nearer to the chute and hopefully the claw releases its catch resulting in the toy to be dragged from the right to the left nearer to the chute.
A decent claw machine owner will set no delays in indicating when the claw goes down. This means that when you press the button, the claw immediately goes down. However, a scammy claw machine owner will set delays (E.g. 0.2 seconds) in indicating when the claw goes down. This means that when you press the button, the claw only goes down after 0.2 seconds. The delay will disrupt the natural speed and rhythm of two-beat, as the player will need to adjust his swing and timing of the button accordingly.
6. Drastic Speed Difference in Claw Speed (Up vs Down)
The other setting that scammy claw machine owners can do is to adjust the speed of claw going down and up. A decent claw machine owner will set the speed to be a standard two-beat / three-beat play. However, a scammy claw machine owner may set the speed to be ridiculously fast/slow or at an odd speed that results in the player not being able to catch the rhythm of his swing. A common gimmick would be to set the speed of the claw going down to be the standard two-beat, whereas the speed of the claw going upwards to be crazy slow such as five-beat. Imagine a scenario whereby the claw reaches the item in 2 seconds, but only goes back up its highest point in 5 seconds. This results in any swinging momentum to be reduced drastically.
These are some of the common settings that claw machine owners can play around with to tilt the game in their favour. The slightest difference, be it length of string all the way to that 0.1 second delay, is the divide between a win and a loss. Chances are, if it is an expensive item in the claw machine setup you’re eyeing at, it will be an uphill battle. That being said, all claw machine owners want to earn money and scamming people isn’t exactly the best way to go about doing it. At most, you scam every new victim of $10 and he will never return.
A smart(er) claw machine owner will prepare a setting that doesn’t feel like a scam, and a scam that doesn’t feel like a scam is, in my opinion, the greatest scam. No matter what settings are being altered to, the player has to have fun playing it. More importantly, the player must feel that he can actually win the item, be it with skill, luck or both. Even better, the player wins the item, but at a cost that is acceptable to him and at a cost that is profitable for the claw machine owner. This way, it is a win-win situation where one gets to have fun and the other gets to earn, albeit a small profit margin. However, the difference between a scammy claw machine owner and a smart claw machine owner is that no one returns to the scammy claw machine owner after losing 10 bucks and most people return to the smart claw machine owner after winning a soft toy that costs considerably more than its cost price. I will be listing out more claw machine tips and tricks in my next piece. You might be wondering — How do you… Because I am a claw machine owner now.