There is a long history of English stereotypes involving heavy gambling, and it should be no surprise as England has a rich history of gambling. Once a hobby of the highest class of society, gambling has found its way into the world’s eye as one of the most popular pastimes of all types of people. England might not have started gambling, but it sure made it a spectacle and an exclusive club, and is a huge part of what has made gambling so popular in the modern era.
[J]ust a short few hundred years ago, the place to be in high society England was in a gentleman’s club. Many exclusive clubs existed, but a few had such renown that they live on by name alone throughout history. Two of the biggest names to remember are White’s and Brook’s, the unofficial headquarters of the Tory and Whigs parties, respectively. Men were ‘elected’ to the clubs by unanimous vote – even one ‘no’ was sufficient to deny entry. As a result, these clubs were highly exclusive and offered private areas where upper class men could socialize and gamble, without the interference of commoners.
Clubs were organized for all sorts of groups, there was even a club for drivers. Naturally, as the best clubs were frequented by upper class men looking to escape from everyday life, gambling was a huge hit and became the main focus of many clubs. Bets were wagered on pretty much anything, from births and deaths to sports or dares. Many of the more extreme bets have been immortalized by history, either because the wager itself was absurd, or the amount wagered was simply so extreme it could not be forgotten.
Perhaps one of the most famous examples of crazy bets was back in the early 1800s, when Lord Alvanley replaced Beau Brummell as ‘arbiter elegantiarum’, the most socially influential person in the club. Alvanley famously bet a friend three thousand pounds over which of two raindrops would hit the bottom of a window first. Of course, ridiculous bets have been made throughout history, including a wager over who the ugliest man in Britain is.
More recently, amazing bets have been made that rival those of the past, and they are definitely worth a mention. In 2004, Ashley Revell amazingly bet his entire life’s worth on a single roulette spin, managing to pull through and double his value. He reportedly gave the dealer a hefty tip, said thank you, and returned to England, where he invested his winnings and continued on with his life. Even better, Russian Andrei Karpov bet his own wife as a last resort in a poker game, which he also lost. If that wasn’t enough, she actually left him of her own will when she found out about the bet—marrying the man he lost to.
If these outrageous bets aren’t enough for you, just remember that some people bet on events they think are ‘sure wins’, such as the football match in which Mali was down to Angola 4-0 with 11 minutes left. For the people who bet their life’s savings on Angola, only to see it slip away in mere minutes, perhaps the famous bets in history are not all that impressive.
Of course, people bet on anything and everything, and while most people make friendly bets or cling to low wagers, as they are not actually willing to risk their livelihoods, people still have a huge history of outrageous gambles. This is especially true in England, which is known for being a fan of betting. Intercasino even has a game called Pints and Pounds, which draws upon the English gambler stereotype. While the nation’s history of gambling might be known around the world, and many might not view gambling as the noblest of sports, it is something to be proud of. Many table games such as poker are becoming accepted as sports, and gambling has grown into one of the world’s leading businesses – it is all thanks to the English and their gambling clubs.
This is a Guest Post by Jackson Stiles. Jackson is a talented writer who enjoys learning about history and culture. In his spare time, he loves to travel and try new foods, hang out with his friends, and dance like no one is watching. Should you wish to be published please check out my Write a Post page.