Charts & Graphs

Venture Capital

Historical wagers and their winners.

41 bc: Tarsus

Wager: Cleopatra bet Antony that she could spend 10,000,000 sesterces on a single dinner.

Winner: Cleopatra. After an unspectacular dinner, she dropped a priceless pearl in vinegar and imbibed the brew, forcing Antony to concede.

c. 1657: Paris

Wager: Blaise Pascal bet himself that God exists, stating that believing was akin to a “game” in which the coin “comes down heads or tails.”

Winner: Pascal. He decided that “If you win, you win everything; if you lose, you lose nothing.”

1777: Paris

Wager: Marie-Antoinette bet Comte d’Artois 100,000 livres that he would not be able to erect a palace in time for an upcoming dinner.

Winner: Comte d’Artois. He built the Château Bagatelle in sixty-four days, costing over two million livres.

1790: Brighton

Wager: Mr. Bullock (252 pounds) bet the Earl of Barrymore (154 pounds) he could beat him in a footrace, provided he had a head start and choice of course.

Winner: Mr. Bullock. He picked one of the narrowest streets in the city, so the earl could never pass by the large man.

1994: Colombia

Wager: A Colombian cartel bet millions of dollars on their country’s soccer team in the World Cup.

Winner: None. Colombian Andrés Escobar accidentally scored on his own team in a 2–1 loss to the U.S.; ten days later he was shot twelve times, each bullet reportedly followed by the killer shouting “Goal!”