in: Featured, Games & Tricks, Living, Visual Guides

• Last updated: June 6, 2021

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

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!

Bar game trick match box heads table knife.

Bar games tricks pile of pennies.

Bar game trick hold napkin tie into knot.

Bar game trick name on paper illustration.

Bar game trick water whiskey shot glass illustration.

Bar game trick body against wall illustration.

Bar game trick dollar bill inverted bottle illustration.

Bar game trick transfer water in saucer to glass illustration.

Bar game trick eight coins right angle illustration.

Bar game trick take coat off illustration.

Bar game trick square matchsticks illustration.

Bar game trick stay under water illustration.

 Illustration by Ted Slampyak

The wager: That you can tell which way the match heads face in a closed match box.

The payoff: Balance the match box on a table knife; the side containing the match heads will be heavier.

The wager: That if you and a friend take turns picking up 1,2 or 3 pennies from a pile of them, no matter how many pennies your companion picks up, you’ll be able to make him draw last.

The payoff: Lay down a pile of exactly 17 pennies and ask your friend to pick first. Make sure the total number of pennies taken in each round is 4, e.g, if he takes 1, you take 3; if he takes 2, you take 2, if he takes 3, you take 1. You’ll always win.

The wager: That you can hold a napkin at the two ends and, without letting go, tie it into a knot.

The payoff: Fold your arms before you gasp the ends of the napkin; when you unfold them the napkin will have a beautiful knot.

The wager: Ask your friend to fold a small sheet of paper into three equal sections, write one name on each section with his own in the center, tear the paper along the creases, fold the three slips and drop them in a hat. You wager that without looking you can pick the slip bearing his name.

The payoff: Your sense of touch will tell you which slip has two rough edges — and that will be the center slip.

The wager: Fill one shot glass with whiskey; fill a second shot glass with water. You offer to transfer all the whiskey into the water shot glass and the water into the whiskey shot glass without using a third vessel of any kind (including your mouth).

The payoff: Place a business or playing card over water glass, turn it upside down, and place it on top of the whiskey glass. Pull the card out a small amount to create a crack between the two glasses. The whiskey will slowly rise into the top glass and the water will sink into the bottom glass.

The wager: That your friend, standing with his left ankle, knee, hip, shoulder and cheek pressed against the wall, can’t lift his right leg off the floor.

The payoff: He can’t

The wager: That you can remove a dollar bill from under an inverted bottle without touching or upsetting the bottle.

The payoff: Being careful not to touch the bottle with your hands, roll up the bill in such a way that the rolled portion gradually pushes the bottle off the bill and onto the table.

The wager: That you can transfer water in a saucer to a glass without moving it.

The payoff: Hold a lighted match under the glass for a few moments; then place the inverted glass in the saucer and the water will mysteriously be drawn into it.

The wager: Eight coins are placed in the form of a right angle with five coins making one leg of the angle and four the other; you offer to put five coins in each leg by moving only one coin.

The payoff: Pick up the last coin in the leg that has five coins and place it on top of the coin at the juncture of the two legs.

The wager: That your companion can’t take off his coat by himself.

The payoff: As soon as he begins, you start taking off your coat with him.

The wager: That you can form a square with two matchsticks, without breaking them apart.

The payoff: Bend each match into a right angle and then place them together so as to form a square.

The wager: That you can stay under water for any specified length of time.

The payoff: Hold a glass of water over your head for the period agreed…. then run, don’t walk, to the closest exit.








Like this illustrated guide? Then you’re going to love our book The Illustrated Art of Manliness! Pick up a copy on Amazon.

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!

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