7 wagers with big consequences: How some bets changed the course of history

4 min read

Everybody loves a wager. Betting is one of those universal traits that seem to cut across cultures and classes. Queen Elizabeth II, widely considered one of the richest and most respectable people on the planet, is said to begin her day reading The Racing Post. Her stable of thoroughbreds have won more than 1,600 races.

There are people who will bet on anything at all. Back in the roaring ’20s, a young socialite seated next to the reticent President Calvin Coolidge at a dinner party told him she’d made a bet that she could get at least 3 words out of him.

“You lose,” said Coolidge. They didn’t call him Silent Cal for nothing.

Win or lose, though, some wagers have had larger consequences than the bettors intended.