Hometown Tales Podcast

Monday, April 04, 2005

Blasphemous Betting?

The Irish will place a wager on anything: sports, weather, politics … why not the new Pope?

Currently the Irish bookies have Italian Dionigi Tettamanzi and Francis Arinze of Nigeria neck-and-neck, both listed on 11-4 odds. Oscar Maradiaga of Hunduras is a distance 3rd at 9-2 odds. Off the board, but still in the running are Joseph Ratzinger of Germany and Claudio Hummes of Brazil.

Someone laid down $1,300 on Dionigi Cardinal Tettamanzi. If he becomes Pope, the guy who placed the bet can cash in for almost $4,000. How much of that do you think will go into his local church’s collection basket?

Here are a couple of the more outrageous wagers in history:

British author Tony Hawks bet a friend 100 pounds that he could hitchhike a circumnavigation of Ireland while towing a small refrigerator inside of a month. He won.

Cleopatra [ruler of Egypt and big drinker] bet Mark Antony [ruler of Roman Empire and big gambler] that she could down $500,000 worth of wine in one sitting. Mark Antony accepted. Cleo dropped two pearls worth $10 million into her glass of wine and drank them. She won.

Britain’s Earl of Barrymore was one of the faster Englishmen of the 18th-century and proud of it. So why would an over-weight, middle-aged butcher named Bullock wager that Barrymore couldn’t beat him in a 100 yard dash on a course of his choosing with a 35 yard head start? The bet was on! Bullock chose his course: Black Lion Lane, the thinnest street in England [only 40 inches wide in spots]. Barrymore easily caught up to Bullock but couldn’t find a place to pass him. Bullock won.

Henry VIII King of England lost a gigantic church bell in a wager.

In 1980 William Lee Bergstrom came to the Binions Horseshoe casino with one empty suitcase and one suitcase filled with $777,000 and placed it all on the “Don’t Pass” line at Craps. He wins, taking his original $777,000 and his winnings of $777,000 and packs them into two suitcases and leaves. He comes back and wins a $590,000 bet, then he comes back and wins a $190,000 bet, then again he wins $90,000. Then he came in 1984 to make his famous $1,000,000 bet and loses. Three months later Bergstrom kills himself, still $647,000 ahead.