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The World's Craziest Gambles

From joking bets with friends to high-stakes play in a luxury super casino, we all enjoy the thrill of gambling. And in today's world, where we can use our mobile phones to log on to an online casino and play live roulette, it's never been easier. For some people, however, a friendly bet or a quick card game isn't enough. Throughout history, some people have always had to go the extra mile, staking huge fortunes or even the fate of nations on some very peculiar bets. Here, then, are a few of the world's craziest jackpot gambles -- both in and out of the casino.

big win rouletteWithin casino circles, British gambler Ashley Revell's bet is legendary. After selling off everything he owned, down to the contents of his wardrobe, as well as soliciting corporate sponsorship for his daring bet, Revell managed to raise around $136,000 (roughly £84,000). Travelling to Las Vegas, Revell staked this money -- all that he owned in the world -- on a single red-or-black roulette spin. Amazingly, he won. Showing remarkable self-control, Revell tipped the dealer, collected his winnings and walked out. He used the funds to start his own business.

Professional poker players are veterans of the betting world, expert at calculating the odds of a hand of cards. However, they're also known for their love of "proposition" bets -- bets on whether one of the challengers can drink ten beers in 30 minutes, do a back flip, or perform some other feat. Since professional gamblers spend a lot of time sitting down, one of the most common proposition bets within the poker community involves poker players betting that their colleagues won't be able to lose a specified amount of weight.

Crazy bets aren't limited to casinos, though. In fact, more gambling goes on in the world of science than most people might suspect. One of the most famous scientific wagers began in 1975 when physicist Stephen Hawking bet colleague Kip Thorne that a particular source of radiation, Cygnus X-1, was not a black hole (the existence of black holes was highly theoretical at the time). In 1990, Hawking conceded, purchasing Thorne a year's subscription to "Penthouse" -- much to Mrs Thorne's outrage. Ironically, Hawking was betting against his own theory, since much of his work relies on the existence of black holes.

In the 18th century, wealthy noblemen spent vast sums of money on gambling, both in conventional forms, such as card games and sporting wagers, and in more unusual circumstances. Richard Barry, 7th Earl of Barrymore, was one such gambler. Known both for his wild lifestyle -- he was known as "Hellgate" or "the rake of rakes" -- and for his fitness and love of sport, Barry would bet on anything. He even bet on prizefights in which his wife participated. Legend has it that Barry received a challenge from a particularly fat individual who bet that the Earl could not beat him in a footrace with a 35-yard handicap. Barry agreed to the wager without paying attention to the details. When the race began, Barry found himself chasing his rotund opponent down Black Lion Lane in Brighton, one of Britain's narrowest streets. Try though he might, the Earl could not get around his opponent's bulk and was forced to pay up.

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