Penny ante, or ‘penny winnings’ as it is more commonly known, is a game played between two or more players bet on the outcome of a sporting event. The players are attempting to predict the score of a football game in order to win or lose money based on their predictions. The game is often considered to be among the simplest forms of gambling, and its simplicity makes it appealing to many people, especially when viewed in comparison to other forms of gambling. The object of the game is for each player to choose a score they believe will happen in the game, and then the player with the closest prediction to the actual score wins the game and the stakes attached to it. The game is named after its founder, William L. “Pinky” Kaufman, and is also sometimes referred to as “Around the League.”
Penny ante was developed in the early 1900s as a way to allow people to play sports games and contests that were traditionally reserved for “professional” gamblers. Prior to this, individuals with enough money to spend on private games would often get together in groups of two or more and choose teams based on their favorite sports teams or players. The groups of individuals would then play one-on-one or in small groups of two or three against each other, with the winner determined by the sum of the money wagered on each game. This was often a difficult process to keep track of because it was common for games to be played three, four, or even more times before a winner would be determined. There were also often times when players would get so emotionally attached to certain outcomes of games that it was difficult for them to continue participating in the competition. This is where Pinky came in. He believed that by having multiple players participate in a game, with each player putting up only a small wager, emotions would be kept in check and the integrity of the game better preserved because there would be less of a financial incentive to influence results. The first actual game of penny ante was played on December 3, 1902, and was between the Rockford Peaches and the Chicago Pirates. The game was tied 7-7 at the end of regulation, so it went into overtime. The Peaches’ Charlie Bachman missed a 40-yard field goal that would’ve given them a 10-7 win. The next game was played nearly a year later on January 6, 1903, and was also between the Rockford Peaches and the Chicago Pirates. This time, Bachman hit the ball perfectly and the score was even closer – this time 7-6 in favor of the Peaches. Rockford would go on to win the next two games as well, giving them the 1902-1903 American League pennant and eventually the World Series championship. One of the most famous games of penny ante was played on October 30, 1916, and was between the Chicago Bears and the New York Giants. The Bears had just lost 30-14 to the Red Sox in the World Series, and this was seen as yet another heartbreaking loss in a long line of heartbreaking losses. So, in order to take their mind off their misfortune, the Bears got together with some of their biggest rivals, the New York Giants, and decided to have a friendly wager on the outcome of the upcoming NFL game. The game was tied 7-7 at the end of regulation, and then in overtime, the Giants’ Elmer Smith scored the winning touchdown, giving the Giants the win and assuaging the Bears’ pain. The next year, 1917, saw the introduction of another variation of the game, one that would eventually replace the original. Professional Footballers Association (PFAA) football was first developed in 1917 as a way to allow football players to play games while still being able to focus on their actual football playing during the season. The problem that had arisen was that players were spending more time playing poker than they were playing football, and that was causing serious damage to the sport. Therefore, the PFAA was created to allow amateurs to play football without fear of losing their money. The first game of professional footballers association football was also between the Chicago Bears and the New York Giants. That game was played on August 3, 1917, and the Bears won 7-6. Since that day, football has never been the same, and the penny-anteball era has never been forgotten. Today, the game is still popular all over the world, with variations of the game being played in many different countries, and even in some American states. For example, in 2011 the state of Iowa passed a law allowing residents to play poker recreationally but outlawing it for fun in other venues, such as sports books and casino tables. This has had no impact on the popularity of penny-anteball in Iowa, which is still played regularly and is one of the few states where it is legal to play poker for fun. There are also many different organizations devoted to the study of football and its strategy. One of the most famous of these is the International Federation of Football Researchers (IFFEr), which was founded in 1926 and which publishes a widely read and respected football research journal, Football Research, every two years. Additionally, the Museum of Football in New York City is devoted to collecting, preserving, and displaying items related to the history of football. In 2011 they expanded their collection to include many items from the penny-anteball era, and even a small casino from that time period. The museum also holds frequent open houses, so the public can come in and see the collection in person. The museum is open Thursday through Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm, and admission is free.
There are two simple rules to the game: 1) Each player must put up at least a penny ($0.01) as a wager on each game and 2) In the event of a tie, there is a 30-minute sudden death overtime period. During this time, the players are free to make additional wagers. However, the total amount wagered must stay under $200. When a game ends in a tie, the player with the closest prediction wins. If there are two or more players “on” the tie, the prize is split proportionately. For example, if two players are tied at 6-6, then each would receive $100. If three are tied at 7-7, the prize is split three ways, with each person receiving $33.33.
If you’re interested in learning more, there are a number of places you can turn to for information. You can start with the United States Playing Card Company, which was founded in 1873 and is still producing cards and playing cards today. Another option is the American Book of Odds, which was first published in 1915 and is still considered to be the Bible of serious sports gamblers today. Additionally, the website of the IFFEr mentioned above is an excellent informational resource, as is the Wikipedia page for penny ante. Finally, if you’re interested in sports in general, then be sure to check out the The Sports Encyclopedia, the complete sourcebook for any and all information related to sports. This encyclopedia was first published in 1969 and has been continually updated and expanded ever since. It covers all major sports, including football, and is a phenomenal resource for any fan of the game.
Thanks for reading! We hope this brief overview of Penny Anteball has piqued your interest and has you wanting to try out this exciting game. We’ll leave you with this thought: If poker is the king of all games, then perhaps it’s time for football to make its comeback and reclaim its throne.