Tab Payers: 12 Classic Ways to Get a Friend to Buy You a Drink

by Brett & Kate McKay on October 23, 2012 · 37 comments

in Manly Skills, Out on the Town

Going out to the local bar can get expensive. Instead of paying for all your drinks, trick your friends into paying for some of them with a few classic bar tricks. Below we’ve created a list of 12 classic bar tricks, or “Tab Payers,”  inspired by Esquire’s 1949 Handbook for Hosts. The tricks are pretty clever, some a little goofy, and they’ll hopefully elicit a laugh from your friends even when they have to pick up your tab — at least if they have a good sense of humor! These Tab Payers aren’t just good for winning free drinks at the bar either. You can use them at parties to simply entertain and break the ice with folks.  Enjoy!

 Illustration by Ted Slampyak

What bar tricks do you have in your arsenal to score free drinks or simply to entertain your friends at the bar? Share them with us in the comments!

{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Justin October 23, 2012 at 10:05 am

Brian Brushwood provides social engineering for at the bar and on the street. He goes over many of the “Tab Payer” type games described here – but also goes into openers (how to get the eyes on you in the first place) and tricks (to get them interested). The big thing is to establish the “pay for solution” dynamic early on in the evening. Once you do that, you can drink free all night!

Also, the guy’s a fire eater. How more manly can you get than that?

2 Lee October 23, 2012 at 10:36 am

I’ll have to try some of these next time I’m out…though some of them seem more likely to get you a slug in the arm than a free drink…

3 Jack October 23, 2012 at 10:39 am

Wager: That you can hold a lighted match upside-down for 10 seconds (or a bit longer – usually doesn’t work past 15 or 20 seconds) without burning your fingers.

Payoff: Light the match, hold it upside down between thumb and forefinger and slowly sway your hand back and forth. The heat will rise, but your hand moves out of the way of the rising heat.

4 Doc October 23, 2012 at 11:02 am

Bet that you can talk for a minute straight without using a word with the letter A in it. Solution: count from 1-100 which takes about a minute. No A’s in any of the numbers.

5 Edvin October 23, 2012 at 11:29 am

I’ll wager you a beer, that you can’t take a full step over this bottle here with it standing on the floor..

put the bottle on the floor an into the nearest corner.

6 Mike Landry (@mike_landry) October 23, 2012 at 11:37 am

I thought for sure you’d mention the “Bottles and Cents” quarters/dollar bill/bottle trick.

Take an empty beer bottle, lay a dollar bill atop the bottle, and then stack 4 quarters neatly on top of the bill/bottle. Bet your pals that you can remove the dollar bill without knocking over the quarters.

Unless they know the trick, they’ll have no idea.

I leave it up to you guys to scour the internet for the solution because it’s somewhat tricky to explain.

7 Colin B October 23, 2012 at 11:41 am

One they can’t get out of: I’ll make it so you cannot put down your beer. Have them put down money on the table for the beers. Make sure their beer is full all the way to the top, not with foam but with beer. Be careful not to spill any, and ask the person to put out their left or right hand, palm up. Place the very full beer on their wrist, ask them to use their pointer and thumb to steady the beer, but have them grab their whole wrist AND the bottom of the beer, so their free hand is now wrapped around their forearm/wrist area and is holding the beer on the other side. Pick up the money and go buy yourself a drink! Try it, you can’t set down the beer without spilling it and usually can’t even take a sip of it without spilling.

8 Bryan October 23, 2012 at 12:25 pm

I’ve scored free drinks with the following numerous times.

Start with 3 of any glasses in a row, with the outer two face down, and the middle face up. Tell your mark that you can make all three glasses right side up in 3 moves. Every move you will turn two glasses at once. (The first two moves are for show) Turn 1) flip the two right glasses. Turn 2) flip the outer two glasses. Turn 3) flip the right to glasses. They will all be face up!!
Tell your mark that you bet that he can’t repeat what you just did, and turn the middle cup upside down (so that the middle cup is now facing down) If he repeats, all three cups are facing down!

Most of the time people aren’t paying close enough attention to the orientation of the glasses at the beginning of your bar trick to notice the switch.

Enjoy your drinks!

9 Jude October 23, 2012 at 12:27 pm

This isn’t exactly a fool’s wager; it’s more of a dirty trick:

For the purpose of the trick, ask your drinking buddy to place a $20 bill on the bar, and to place his palms face-down on either side of the bill. Call for two tumblers full of water. When they arrive, gently balance the glasses on top of your friend’s hands, then use the $20 bill to pay for your drinks. Leave as quickly as you can.

10 Bryan October 23, 2012 at 12:29 pm

I’ve used the following numerous times to win free drinks.

Take three shot glasses and place them on the bar in a row with the two outside shot glasses (the ones on the left and the right) rightside up and the middle glass upside down
Bet your mark that you can put all three shot glasses bottoms-up in three moves, turning only two glasses in each move.

First move: flip glasses 2 and 3
Second Move: flip glasses 1 and 3
Third move: flip glasses 2 and 3
All the glasses are now bottoms up. Let your mark try the trick, only this time, turn the middle glass face up, with the outer two face down.

The mark won’t be able to figure out why the glasses can’t be put bottom up in three moves. It’s because he doesn’t realize that you’ve set the glasses up differently than you had set them up for yourself. Even if he copies your moves exactly, the glasses will only end up bottom down.

Enjoy your free drink!

11 Bryan October 23, 2012 at 12:30 pm

Tell your friend that you can drink two beers before he can drink one shot as long as you get a one beer headstart. Explain to your drinking buddy that he can’t touch your glasses and you can’t touch his. He also can’t start to drink until you put your first glass down. If he accepts, drink your first beer and place your empty glass upsidedown over his shot glass. Since he can’t touch your glass you can take your time on the second beer. Make sure your friend has a sense of humor before you try this on him/her

12 MorganGray October 23, 2012 at 12:30 pm

I’m reminded of a Harry Anderson gag where you have the bartender pour a shot. You then drop a hat over the glass and bet someone you can drink the shot without touching the hat. (It is important to position yourself at a corner of the bar for this trick)
As soon as the mark agrees, you duck below the edge of the bar and make a loud gulping sound. Stand up. Tell the mark the drink is gone.
He, or someone else will not believe you, and lift the hat. At that point… well, you can figure it out from there.
I did it a few times, until once my favorite bartender decided to play a fast one on me. Rather than whisky, he filled the glass with 151 rum.
That came as a bit of a surprise.

13 Claude October 23, 2012 at 12:48 pm

Only do these with friends, unless you like starting fights.

14 Lord Vader October 23, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Honestly, if anyone tried these tricks on me I would thump them. Then, grudgingly and with a poorly disguised smile, buy them a drink.

15 Richard October 24, 2012 at 8:34 am

Of course, all these tricks are on the order of the Jack of Spades and an earful of cider…. But it’s easily worth the cost of one drink to see the trick demonstrated, especially when you can then go and spring it on someone else!

16 Ben October 24, 2012 at 9:49 am

What I like are the unabashedly smug looks of the perpetrator in these illustrations.

17 Albert Roosevelt October 24, 2012 at 8:26 pm

I don’t get the last one… why run to the closest exit?

18 Tom Naulty October 25, 2012 at 11:29 am

I guarantee 90% of us tried the leg lifting one ourselves.

19 Public Defender October 26, 2012 at 1:02 am

Number nine’s illustration above has a MUCH better bar trick. You take a match stick from a book, and you write your name (or his or hers) on one flat side of the match stick. Then you say, “Let’s bet a drink. I’ll toss this matchstick in the air. If it lands on the name side, you win. If it lands on the blank side, you also win. But if the matchstick lands on its side, then i win.” Before tossing the matchstick, you bend it as in the illustration above, and it lands on its side.

20 Frank Gordon October 26, 2012 at 10:05 am

Tell your drinking buddy that you’ll bet him a quarter–because you don’t want to take a lot of money from him–that you can make the contents of his glass disappear without touching his glass or its contents in any way, shape, or form. If he says he doesn’t believe you can do it, reach over and drink his drink, give him a quarter for his four dollar drink and tell him he won the bet.

21 B.E. October 27, 2012 at 1:23 pm

My favourite trick to score an extra drink out of a friend is after him having a couple drinks himself bet him that you can drink three pints of beer before he can finish three shots of [insert drink here, even water]. However, there are two rules, he must give you a pint head-start and neither of you can touch each other’s glasses. Drink your first pint. Then, once done the first pint, place the mug upside-down over one his shot glasses. Since he can’t touch your glass to get to his final shot, you’re free to drink the other two pints at your leisure!

22 WR October 30, 2012 at 10:42 am

This is really just a funny trick that may actually cost you a beer, but it was done to someone I was with by some Brits and we all had a good laugh. Basically you bet someone a beer that you can trap them with a beer. When they agree, you tell them to place each of their thumbs on the edge of the table in front of them about shoulder’s length apart. Then you take their beer, and gently rub the bottom of it on each thumb and ask “which felt colder?” Whichever they say felt colder, you tell them to move that hand halfway closer to the other hand. You repeat that process until both thumbs are directly next to each other on the table in front of your victim (I mean betting partner). Then, you take the beer and one last time rub it gently on top of both their thumbs, except instead of asking which felt colder, this time you just balance the beer on their thumbs, which are resting on the table. Then you say something witty and laugh with everyone else that the poor person is effectively stuck with a beer teetering on their fingertops in front of them, which they can’t move without spilling it! Beware, however, the person may be TO-ed and just upend the glass anyway (which happened when I witnessed this trick… and the beer went directly onto my digital camera. Happily, it recovered later but still smells of Guinness. Not a total loss.).

23 Dave October 31, 2012 at 9:27 am

Matches in a bar?! Now that is a trick in itself these days

24 Jim November 1, 2012 at 10:43 pm

I’ve won a drink and gathered a crowd with this one. Bet your friend you can tear a phone book in half. Let him try, maybe let a few others give it a go, then take it, find the center page, and tear it along the spine.

25 Kit November 14, 2012 at 3:06 pm

One related trick that I’ve done is a bar-hopping pyramid scheme. You and a friend go to a bar and find some lonely person, and you invite them to join your party. You say, “we’re on a bar crawl and each bar we go to we find a new person to join, but you have to buy a round to join. We both did it and someone will buy your drinks at all the bars going forward, so it’s a good investment.”

They will realize this is a good deal and hopefully you can repeat it several times before your ponze scheme falls apart and someone realizes they’re buying more drinks than they’ll get back.

26 red November 16, 2012 at 2:58 pm

walk up to a group of ladies, and bet one of them a drink, that you can make her breastickles wobble without even touching them……..then grab the jubblies and have at it with them…… ask her what shes drinking and tell her you lost….. no matter what bar your in, thats worth the cost of a Barcardi Breezer, :) mght not get you a drink though, but gets you something more special, :)

27 Jonathon November 18, 2012 at 10:34 pm

Take 5 toothpicks and break them so that they are bent in half, but not fully broken. Place them on a table with the broken points at the center, creating a 10-pointed star. Wager that you can turn the setup from a 10-pointed star into a 5-pointed star without touching the toothpicks. Take a small drop of water and drop it into the center of the star. The toothpicks will absorb the water and begin to swell, each toothpick attempting to straighten out. The result is that the ends, or points of the star, will come together, forming a 5-pointed star.

28 Nick January 7, 2013 at 6:29 pm

Bet your friend the you can finish 2 beers before he finishes 2 shots but that he can’t touch your glass and you get to finish a beer first. Finish your first beer and flip it over on top of his shot glass. He can’t touch your glass nor can he finish his shot. You win.

29 Jared January 11, 2013 at 8:05 pm

After a game of billiards, place your cue across the table sideways so you create a gap between the felt and your cue. Show your buddy that a ball wont fit under the cue and bet them a drink you can roll the ball under your cue. When He or She accepts, roll the cue ball on the floor under the table and therefor under the cue as well.

30 Juan January 26, 2013 at 5:05 pm

Hi!!!, Wow, amazing this post. I´ll use it tonight. the 17 pennies trick. hahahaha With luck i´ll get a drink of a girl

31 Andy March 14, 2013 at 5:02 pm

The Trick: Make 10 matches out of 9 without breaking a match.

The Wager: Take 9 matchsticks line them up and ask your mark to make 10 out of the matchsticks without breaking them.

The Resolution: Spell the letter TEN with the 9 matches: 2 for the letter T; 4 for the letter E; and 3 for the letter N.

TEN (10) matches out of 9. It works every time.

32 Jace March 15, 2013 at 11:24 pm

More of a dirty trick. Love doing this to the kids or their friends. Tell them you’ll give them $20 (or more) if they’ll let you crack TWO eggs over their head. If they accept, crack the first egg over their head. Then “accidentally” drop the second one. The deal was two eggs – one doesn’t count, and they still have a mess to deal with.

33 travell bernard July 8, 2013 at 12:09 pm

these are some sick tricks, cant wait to try them

34 Taylor October 21, 2013 at 11:30 pm

@ Justin
I like his method. Offer to show you how the trick is done for a drink. That way, you get a drink for payment instead of through trickery. That way, they keep asking you for more. You get free drinks, and some new friends.

35 Chad October 22, 2013 at 11:39 am

Wager: That you can make a beer bottle stick to the wall.

Payoff: find a corner in the bar that has PAINTED walls, place the beer bottle in the corner (label side facing the corner) and rub vigorously, this will create static and if done correctly I’ve seen bottles stay there for days. Works the same with flat bottle caps on a flat wall as well.

36 Todd @ Fearless Men October 22, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Unfortunately I never carry 17 pennies.

37 Jon January 22, 2014 at 7:05 pm

One of the simplest tricks is to bet someone that you can roll the cue ball from one end of the table to the other without touching the felt. So easy I wont even disclose the answer.

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