A parting look at the world of betting possibilities brings us out of the sphere of the casino and into that of the personal, one-on-one wager. Since the dawn of time men have been willing to hazard their teeth on just about anything, the number of minutes a chicken will last against a bear, the distance from here to the asteroids, how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, anything. We know, for example, that Count Buckenburg, A German author, once bet (and won) that he could ride from London to Edinburgh sitting backward on his horse.
George, Lord Oxford (called Mad Lord George for the fact that he rode through London in a chariot pulled by three reindeer) bet another nobleman that a drove of geese would beat an equal number of turkeys in a race from Norwich to London. Which flock was the winner we do not know, although it has been recorded that when the Duke of Chartres wagered Count Fenlis that the latter could not ride from Paris to Fontainebleau and back in the time it took the Duke to prick five hundred thousand holes in a piece of paper, the good Count was victorious.
Thomas "Jerusalem" Wholly, another high roller, gained his strange nickname through a spur-of-the-moment challenge. While he was sitting comfortably one day in his private club in London, a friend bet him that he would not have the nerve to go downstairs, saddle his horse, and ride directly to the city of Jerusalem without even returning home for a change of clothes. Mr. Wholly accepted the bet on impulse and galloped off the moment the agreement was signed. He returned a year later and collected a huge amount of money.
Some people, it seems, will bet on anything. Nonetheless there are certain types of head-on bets that through the years have become standards. Usually these bets are to the point, easily performed, and quickly decided. They can be made in a barroom, at sporting events, in the living room, any place where people congregate. Some of the most popular bets of this kind are:
The Flip of a Coin - Whenever a final authority is needed, a coin will be produced, perhaps because a flip is particularly simple and decisive. The bettor wagers which side of a coin will turn up on the next toss, winner take all. Gamblers who want to get to the point find this a wonderful means of fast-money turnover, and often the flipping becomes a game in itself. Beware of double-faced coins.
The Cut of the Cards - This bet is as quick as the coin flip, provided one happens to have a pack of cards handy. Opponents cut for the highest card (or occasionally the lowest) with the single cut determining the outcome. This type of bet is often used as a last-chance wager ending a night's game of cards. The big winner agrees to cut the cards with the big loser for double-or-nothing. Watch out for card sharks.
The Fact Bet - The fact bet is a favorite in and around the tavern. Often it is innocent enough. Someone asks how many miles it is from wherever they are to, say, Miami. A discussion ensues and pretty soon people are taking bets on the answer.
Sometimes fact bets are more devious. One person states a dubious-sounding piece of information like "Hawaii is farther south than Florida" or "The sun is closer to the earth in winter than summer." Someone refutes him, a bet is made, and a reference book consulted. As might be expected, the unlikely fact turns out to be true.Share on: