Light Angle: Wanna bet?

As punting around Britain’s royal baby reaches a feverish pitch, the author looks at far more ridiculous wagers.

Updated - November 17, 2021 12:23 pm IST

Published - July 20, 2013 07:10 pm IST

What are the odds Ashton Agar will do an encore tomorrow? What are the odds he will marry Justin Langer’s daughter? What are the odds that the royal baby will be named J’on J’onzz? What are the odds that Sachin will retire, ever? What are the odds of you finding odder things to wager on? How about five to one —

The King will return

The year is 2002. It could have been the mushrooms, or just a millennium hangover that refused to go away. Either way, Ian MacMillan, a homeless Briton, placed a 5 pence bet at odds of 20 million to one, and this is where you take a long breath, that — Elvis Presley would ride into London on Shergar, and play in the Wimbledon final against Lord Lucan. Lord Lucan, an English peer and murder suspect, went missing in 1974. Elvis Presley died in 1977. Shergar, an Irish racehorse, was stolen in 1983. Ridiculous, really. But the Wimbledon bit now, that doesn’t seem too far-fetched, does it?

The butcher who drew Barrymore

Sometime in the 18th Century, Bullock, a portly butcher who was built like a cart, invited the Earl of Barrymore to a foot race. The challenge was rare, but the Earl, in the pink of his health, thought it too meaty to pass up. But in good conscience and bad pride, he let the arthritic butcher choose the place and time, and also gave him a 35-metre head start. On the appointed day, the race was under way, in a lane just wide enough for Bullock and his belly. The Earl, unable to squeeze past, conceded defeat and was squeezed out of a fat payout. He caught up, but wished he’d caught on instead.

I’ll have the winning combo, please

Here’s more millennium madness. An anonymous Welshman, in 1989, placed a cumulative bet on pop singer Cliff Richard being knighted before the turn of the millennium, the band U2 staying together past Y2K and specific pointers about BBC’s programming schedule. The betting shop snickered and pocketed the loose change, but 11 years later, the Welsh returned, with a soiled betting slip now worth 194,400 pounds. He skipped off, singing Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau at the top of his voice. No idea what the words mean. Does it really matter?

Man enough for mammaries

Canadian Brian Zembic hugely complicated his wardrobe choices when he bet he’d get breast implants for an entire year. For those who’ve seen the movie Fight Club , this isn’t too much of a shock. Let’s give the uninitiated a moment to recover, though. If you think Brian lay low and stayed home for the duration of the bet, think again. After winning $100,000 dollars for the bosom bet, he decided to keep them, and milked a fortune in public and in media appearances. But he didn’t mind staying indoors, either. A few years later, he won $15,000 after he lived in a men’s room for a month.

The colour red

Pure gambling, according to Ashley Revell, is about putting all your eggs in one basket, or all your cash on one roulette pocket. Revell sold all his property, including his clothes, and placed a 50/50 bet with $135,000 in Las Vegas. He bet that the little white ball would land on red. Which it obligingly did. In seconds, he had doubled his money. Revell revelled in his victory by walking out of Vegas and setting up an online poker site.

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