Sunday, August 13, 2006

High stakes

I remember a story that I heard a few years back on BBC about a punter from London, who sold his entire assets for something like 200,000 pounds, flew to Las Vegas without disclosing his plans to anybody, walked into a casino and staked the entire amount on a spin of the roulette wheel. The ball settled on his number and he walked away with double the money.

I love such stories involving interesting bets and high stakes. The Mahabharata was, of course, a famous example. So was Jules Verne’s “ Around the world in eighty days”, where Phileas Fogg would stake his entire fortune to demonstrate that one could travel around the world in – you guessed it- eighty days.

P.G.Wodehouse has spun several tales where his hapless heroes would get drawn into high-stake betting encounters. In one of the golf stories titled “High Stakes” in the collection, “Heart of a Goof“, two millionaires play out a game of golf which would decide who gets to keep the butler, with the outcome having serious implications on their respective married lives.

In Roald Dahl’s classic short story, “ The Man from the South”, an old man draws a young American cadet into a bet, that the latter would not be able to light up his cigarette lighter ten consecutive times without failing even once. The stakes? If the cadet would do it successfully ten times in a row, the old man would gift him a Cadillac that was parked outside; if he missed even once, the cadet would need to chop off the little finger of his left hand and give it to the old man. (This episode was ‘borrowed’ in a Tamil film. Aficionados will remember the hilarious exchange between Rajnikanth and Poornam Viswanathan in the ‘80s film, ‘Ninaithale Inikkum’ of K.Balachander. )

Interesting bets, high stakes, high reward-to-risk ratio help in spicing up one’s bland and dull life, what say?


Shruthi said...

Ah yes - That story of Dahl's is typical of him - magnificent, but dark :D

As for Around the world -- it's an all-time favourite.

Viky said...

No wonder people nowadays bet on whether Prince will be rescued from the pit or not...

Usha said...

One thing I learnt by watching Hindi films is that "Kuch paane ke liye kuch khona padta hai" - life itself is all about tradeoffs and stakes for which you play nd the risks you are willing to take for the thing you need the most right? why look outside - it is there whther you like it or not?
Interesting examples.

Raj said...

Shruthi, yes, Roald Dahl was simply brilliant, but had this streak of black humour as well.

Viky : The need to gamble seems to be hardwired in the human brain, right?

usha : that's an interesting philosophical angle.