If you have seen Josh and Benny Safdies’ darkly hilarious movie, “Uncut Gems,” you are familiar with the three-tiered bet that is central to the plot. Protagonist Adam Sandler, playing gambler/philanderer/loser Howard Ratner, places a so-called parlay bet on a Boston Celtics-Philadelphia 76ers playoff game.
For Ratner to live happily ever after, three things have to happen: The Celtics need to control the opening tip; they need to win the game; and Kevin Garnett, playing himself in the movie, needs to score more than 26 combined points and rebounds.
This wild world of betting was terra incognita to me — and what a wild world it is. Pursuant to a recent Supreme Court decision, sports betting is now legal. But so, it turns out, is betting on almost anything you can imagine, and then some.
At the most prosaic level, you can bet on the 2020 presidential election. I find it vaguely credible that Donald Trump is a slight favorite for reelection on certain websites, but the odds shift constantly. At actionnetwork.com, Trump was a favorite on Super Tuesday, lost ground a week ago, and now enjoys a slight edge over the Democrats’ presumptive nominee, Joe Biden.
Alex the Greek’s advice: Save that $1,200 stimulus check to buy toilet paper.
Betting on politics is for chumps. The Super Bowl always generates myriad “proposition” bets, or what my late mother called side bets, e.g., what color Gatorade will be tossed on the winning coach (choices are: orange, yellow, blue, purple, and red), or how long the national anthem will last. Last month Demi Lovato clocked in at 1 minute, 49 seconds — six seconds quicker than the consensus betting line of 1 minute, 55 seconds.
Forget the Super Bowl. You can also bet on cheese-rolling, bog snorkeling, ferret bingo, and wife-carrying. Betting on the Oscars has been a thing, although an in-depth Wall Street Journal article published a week before this year’s ceremony showed how tricky movie betting can be. “Things are looking bright for Brad Pitt,” the Journal correctly opined, as the former Mr. Jennifer Aniston won a statuette for Best Supporting Actor. The same article quoted the author (“a Harvard applied-math graduate”) of “Oscarmetrics: The Math Behind the Biggest Night in Hollywood” suggesting that “Joker,” “The Irishman,” “1917” or “Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood” had the strongest chance of winning Best Picture.
The long-shot winner was the dark Korean comedy “Parasite.” Aren’t you glad you spent that $1,200 on toilet paper?
I am a betting man. Many years ago I bet a gullible intern $75 that Oliver North, the fall guy for Ronald Reagan’s Iran-Contra scandal, would never spend a night in jail, and I won. For most of Trump’s first term I’ve been betting that he would not be indicted or impeached before the 2020 election, and if I could remember who I bet with — oddly, no one has stepped forward to pay me — I’d be a few simoleons ahead of the game.
It’s heartening to see that the legendary London-based Ladbrokes betting exchange isn’t taking bets on the coronavirus scourge, e.g., how long it will last, and so on. They do offer their customary menu of betting “specials.” For instance, you can bet on Meghan Markle becoming president — a long shot at 50-1 — or a classic parlay bet: whether Trump will win reelection in 2020 and his daughter Ivanka wins the 2024 and 2028 elections. The odds are 100-1.
With professional sports all but closed down because of the coronavis pandemic, New York magazine reports that jonesing bettors are hot to wager on the weather, which, like a Bruins game, has a discrete and measurable outcome.
Sunnier days ahead? Wishing it for you and me both.
Have a point of view about this? Write a letter to the editor; we’ll publish a select few. (We’re experimenting with alternatives to the comment section for creating online conversation at Globe Opinion over the next month; you can let us know what you think of our experiments here.)
Alex Beam’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @imalexbeamyrnot.