Economics of underground fights in the movies
January 22, 2016 2:44 PM   Subscribe

Lots of movies feature fights where the hero is fighting in some underground type of pit-fighter place. (Opening of Rambo III is a perfect example) Invariably, there are shouting crowds betting on the fight, all waving around wads of cash. My question: who are they betting with?

Why are they waving around wads of cash? Is this just some lazy visual shorthand that film directors use? How would any betting system like this actually work? It seems to me there's no "house", and if there is, why aren't they waving betting slips? Why wave around your cash in a crowd where someone could easily snatch it?

I'm probably way overthinking this.
posted by cosmicbandito to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Yeah this bugs me too. Then something will happen and maybe some money will grudingly change hands.

Frankly, in most movies, it becomes clear that movie directors and writes don't know how money works at all.
posted by RustyBrooks at 2:48 PM on January 22, 2016 [7 favorites]

I think it's lazy shorthand. The implication I've always taken is that the bettors are betting with each other, and each is keeping track of their own side-bets. But I've never bet on pit fighting before so I don't have any firsthand knowledge.
posted by craven_morhead at 2:54 PM on January 22, 2016

I saw something similar to what you describe when I saw a muay thai fight in Bangkok. After a bit of googling (searched for muay thai gambling) I found this article that explains how it works.
posted by sacrifix at 3:25 PM on January 22, 2016 [19 favorites]

When we play two-up in Australia it looks like that. People on the side lines hold up the denomination they want to bet (our money being coloured helps) and call out their bet, e.g. "odds" someone wanting to bet the opposite for the same amount matches up with them. One person holds both notes (I think it's standard but can't remember if it's the odds or evens person) and then every one goes quiet for the toss and the winners of all the little side bets get their winnings from their partner (I.e. both bets).

It makes it very social and people wouldn't dream of snatching your money, they'd get their heads bashed in by everyone else.
posted by kitten magic at 3:44 PM on January 22, 2016 [9 favorites]

There's a description of a prize-fight swindle in David Maurer's The Big Con which touches on this. The book discusses Anerican in the early 20th century. Boxing itself was illegal and (swindle or not) usually fights took place in the back room of saloons. Money for bets was literally kept in a big satchel, with some trusted third party acting as the stakeholder. A fighter's manager would stake a sum on him, other gamblers could make their bets, all the money goes into the sack.
posted by Diablevert at 3:56 PM on January 22, 2016

They're betting with everyone, with each other. Take a look at a financial trading floor, or the independent "rails bookies" at a British horse track. Crowds of people screaming at each other, but to them, it all makes sense.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:56 PM on January 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

D'oh, just occurred to me I got the terminology wrong. If you're tossing coins it's heads and tails, not odds and evens. I blame the cat for waking me up too early.
posted by kitten magic at 5:31 PM on January 22, 2016

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