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Crazy Bets

17 May 2003

By John May

Fancy a bet on the discovery of the Loch Ness Monster? 500-1.

How about the second coming (confirmed by the Vatican)? 1000-1.

What about Michael and La Toya Jackson proving to be the same person? 2000-1.

English bookmakers William Hill have taken bets on all these events, under the stewardship of Graham Sharpe, bookmaker to evangelical Christians, cryptozoologists and out-and-out lunatic conspiracy theorists.

Hill's will take odds on anything. They used to quote odds for expectant parents on the sex of their child, 10/11 for a boy, 10/11 for a girl, before modern antenatal scanning techniques made determining the sex of an unborn child practical.

Undoubtedly, the weirdest bet Hills ever took was a wager that the world would end at 12:50PM on the 11th August 1999. Hills gave miserly odds of 1,000,000 to 1.

Amusing as all this is, these bets are not always quite as silly as they sound. Hills offered a 1,000 to win against a man landing on the moon before 1971. Hills were forced to pay out ten thousand pounds sterling (roughly $1500) to David Threlfal of Preston, Lancashire when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon in 1969. Doubtless Threlfall's wager would have seemed less credible at the time it was placed than many of the above bets do now.

If you are looking to place a crazy bet with Hills, you can do worse than the 33-1 offered against the discovery of intelligent extra-terrestrial life. That sounds crazy, until, in the words of Arthur C Clarke, you consider the alternative, that we are completely alone in the universe. The latter possibility seems more fantastic still.

John May
John May is one of the most feared gamblers in the world. He has developed "advantage play" techniques for many games that are considered unbeatable.

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