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A hook-a-duck stall at a funfair in Salisbury, England

Hook-a-duck is a traditional fairground stall game, also known as Duck Pond. A number of rubber ducks are floated in a water trough. The ducks have metal rings fastened to their heads. Although the ducks appear identical, a chosen few bear a hidden mark on their base. Ducks with hidden marks are considered winning ducks, and those without are considered losing ducks.[1]

The contestant is required to capture ducks using a pole with a hook at one end. Each captured duck is examined to reveal whether it is a winning duck or a losing duck.

The contestant is typically given three attempts per game. The number of winning ducks captured during the game corresponds to a prize: Three winning ducks is equivalent to a top prize; two winning ducks to a middle prize; and one winning duck to a low prize.

Hook-a-duck ducks

Although presented as a game of skill, it is really a game of chance with the odds stacked against the contestant. The ratio of ducks with a hidden mark to ducks without a hidden mark is always low. As such, very few contestants secure three winning ducks. The majority secure one or two winning ducks. In some cases the contestant will be unable to secure any winning ducks. There is no prize for this.[2]

The modern British version of hook-a-duck seen at fairgrounds is much simpler. After paying to play, players hook any duck and then choose a prize. The business model is that the cost to play the game is higher than the original purchase price of the prizes, which are bought wholesale.[3]


  1. ^ Witter, Bret (2003). Carnival Undercover. Plume. pp. 88–89. ISBN 9780452284289. Retrieved 17 August 2020.
  2. ^ Neal, Andrea (July 17, 1983). "Rigging the Carny Games". United Press International. Retrieved 17 August 2020.
  3. ^ "10 reasons Secret Cinema Presents Back to the Future is a rip off". Metro. 8 August 2014.