“Hey, how much you bet I could get this in the trash on the first try?”
“I bet you ten bucks she won’t even notice.”
“I’ll bet you dishwasher duty you can’t drink the whole thing in under a minute.”
Sentences like the above are uttered hundreds of thousands of times a day across the seven continents, as children, teens, and adults all nudge their friends and put their money where their mouths are. Betting and gambling are concepts that transcend the arenas and fields of sports, and have permeated many other areas of our lives.
Disagree with your colleague about how long the new secretary will last? Bet on it.
Think it’s a lot farther to the beach than your sibling claims? Bet on it.
Certain that Iceland has the oldest still-functioning parliament even though your friend insists its actually Greece? Bet on it. (It’s Iceland.)
One of the first games to become a wildly popular platform for betting was billiards – indeed, many know it as ‘pool’, a word which comes from an even earlier instance of betting.
Before billiards yet existed, the French used to have a casual game – there was no official name for it – where they’d throw small rocks at chickens. Anyone who wanted to participate would add some money to a literal pot (yes, that’s where the phrase comes from), and then take their turn trying to hit the chicken with a rock. Whoever succeeded first got the pot of money.
In French, the word for chicken is ‘poule’, and soon this became synonymous with the pot – does ‘pooling your bets’ sound familiar? When billiards rose to prominence as a betting game, the word transferred over, and the game of billiards also became known as pool, from the French word for chicken. Just like that word, the concept of betting has jumped from casual settings – like throwing rocks at a chicken with a bunch of friends – to more large-scale, serious ones, like betting on the Super Bowl.
And the circle continues, with the widespread awareness of sports betting inspiring all manner of mundane, personal bets such as the ones at the beginning of this article.
In both casual and competitive settings, betting is an accepted part of society and social interaction. Sometimes the setting is a mix of the two – bingo is normally seen as a relaxed game, a casual activity. Add betting in, however, and it instantly gains that aspect of competition, shifting it to the line between serious and casual. This can often be the most enjoyable type of setting in which betting is involved, since it can lean either way depending on those participating.
On the other side of the coin is something like professional poker, or anything else truly high-stakes.
Whether you’re playing bingo games or putting money down on the Olympics, you’re taking part in a timeless, boundless tradition that has its origins in the French throwing rocks at chickens – and who wants to be left out of that?