Taking a chance on midway games at the 1980 Calgary Stampede

"Almost sure" that the games on the Calgary Stampede's midway were being kept honest, CBC reporter John Cranston was sent to check on the probability of winning.

A CBC News reporter set out to test the odds on winning prizes playing games at the fair

A CBC reporter tried his hand at midway games at the 1980 Calgary Stampede. 1:47

When CBC reporter John Cranston headed to the Calgary Stampede midway in 1980 he went armed with the knowledge that, "thanks to the police and to the carnival operators themselves, you can be almost sure that most of the games are honest."

He was there to answer the perennial question of Stampede and fair games players everywhere — what are the odds?

Big prize winners walked the stampede midway with their big prizes in 1980. (Calgary Newshour/CBC Archives)

And so, with "five of the CBC's dollars," he spent the afternoon on the midway, trying to win at some of the more popular games, and — perhaps no surprise here — the odds weren't great.

First up, at "toss the ball in the milk can," he found that it likely wasn't for want of technique that he walked away without a prize — as he claimed the odds for that one were only 1 in 50.

CBC reported John Cranston tried his hand at the Calgary Stampede midway milk can toss in 1980. (Calgary Newshour/CBC Archives)

Moving on, Cranston made details on the popular "toss the coin in the glass" game a little more transparent. 

There a win seemed more likely, except really the winner was generally the game, since, as he summed up, "the glasses you win aren't worth much more than the money you pay to play."

Tossing a coin at a glass got players what they paid for. (Calgary Newshour/CBC Archives)

Next was the ball in the bushel basket. Cranston cautioned its rules were a little more complicated, with odds that were still only "about 1 in 40."

Basket toss players had to read the fine print on how to play the game. (Calgary Newshour/CBC Archives)

The good news?  His Stampede game roundup offered up a couple of possibilities of easy wins, including "the ever-popular string pull" although "only a few, very few" of the strings were attached to the bigger prizes.

And of course last, but not least, there was always the fishing game, which had netted at least one happy Stampede visitor a plastic pineapple necklace.

The fishing game netted this 1980 stampede visitor a plastic pineapple ring pendant. (Calgary Newshour/CBC Archives)