Worst Gambling Game Ever: Cockroach Racing

Cockroach Racing. (Image credit: purdue.edu)
Cockroach Racing. (Image credit: purdue.edu)

Slot games, bingo and poker; established masters of the casino universe. While the popularity of these games shows no signs of slowing, there have been other casino games, internet, or on land, that didn’t take off.

Think of how many card games are played regularly and wagered on. Now, of these games, how many are available at your online casino. Besides poker, of differing variants, and Baccarat, how many more? Bridge, a game whose governing body recently tried to re-package as a sport, remains off the menu at a casino, as does Gilet.

And yet, in a bid to be different, other gambling venues have given rise to other unusual betting opportunities. In the past, the Cell Space Casino in San Francisco made high stakes cockroach racing a feature event, while other venues have been known to offer rat roulette. Admittedly, not many casinos offered this type of gross betting but, punting on anything racing is hardly new and, for one country, has become a way to celebrate their national day.

Countries like Australia in fact. Here, they celebrate their national holiday by racing cockroaches. It’s not hard to understand why this hasn’t caught on elsewhere. They stink and they’re disgusting and hardly fit the elegance of a casino. Just to be clear, I’m talking about cockroaches, not Australians. Yes, roaches. Them that scuttle under the fridge when the lights go on and who will be the last survivors on earth after a nuclear war.

Race Those Roaches

Every January 26th since 1982, the Story Bridge Hotel in Brisbane has been hosting races featuring the insects. Brisbanian legend has it that two local pub regulars were drunkenly celebrating Australia day when a heated exchange flared up about who’s part of town had the fastest cockroach in all Brisbane.

Deciding there to be only one way to settle things, they staggered out to the car park, and with the rest of the pub in attendance, raced their roaches.

Note: This does beg the question did they go home and collect one each or already have them in their pocket inventory on the off-chance the subject arose? And, if so, is keeping a live roach down one’s trousers a peculiar Brisbane thing or a trend for Australian males? Anyway, the carpark crowd loved the inaugural event and the Cocky races were born.

Despite its billing as “the greatest gathering of thoroughbred cockroaches in the known universe,” there is only a bit of sponsorship, a smattering of television interest, and some live bands. Otherwise, things have pretty much remained the same, even the hotel that housed the legendary bar that birthed the event remains the host.

Past thoroughbred champions include Lord of the Drains, Osama Bin Liner and 2013 champ Alfred Hitchcocky, who, upon retirement, was put out to stud for Cockstock to create the next batch of winners. OK, that last bit was made up. In all likelihood, he was probably squashed.

There are rules too, clearly set out and displayed in the race program, including penalties for substances that enhance their cock’s performance, and threats of fines for pitch invaders. Anyone who disagrees with the rules will be labelled as un-Australian.

Race Day

By midday, the first of the day’s fourteen events begins and the crowd, largely dressed in cockroach clobber, gathers and the band starts up while the first competitors of the day enter the arena. A head race steward displays the would-be winners in a clear plastic container, which he holds aloft proudly, shaking occasionally to get the beast’s blood pumping.

No one likes a quitter and the shaking ensures that all the competitors give their all, something the now rowdy and drunk crowd demand. The runners are individually introduced to the cheering mob. Then, its go time!

Upon release, the dizzy cockroaches scuttle in every direction as appointed stewards contort themselves to keep an eye on the leading three. Yet, for some, stage fright sets in as the size of the occasion gets the better of them, opting instead to sit this one out and remain in the middle of the ring. Other more vengeful racers escape into the crowd, wreaking havoc among the gathered inebriated masses.

After literally seconds of nail biting, edge of the seat insect racing, the winners are announced before the management crew of owners, trainers and people who switch the light off and wait jar in hand to collect roaches, come to the front to warmly accept the adulation from the crowd.

While early casino cockroach races, were a simple case of betting on the outcome of the contest, Ozzie Cocky races differ slightly. There is no betting as such. Rather, punters pay $5 to buy a roach and $5 to enter it or their own in a race, with all proceeds go to the Variety children’s charity.

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