What is the origin of Calcutta auctions?

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Roland Scheicher

Nov 26, 2001, 10:26:45 AM11/26/01
At BG tournaments (but also at various poker and other tournaments)
there are Calcutta auctions. Does anyone know something about their

Thank you


Nov 26, 2001, 7:19:18 PM11/26/01
On 26 Nov 2001 at 07:26:45 -0800, Roland Scheicher (roland underline
scheicher at yahoo dot de) scribbled:
->At BG tournaments (but also at various poker and other tournaments)
->there are Calcutta auctions. Does anyone know something about their

The best description of Calcutta auctions I've found is in the
Illustrated Encyclopedia of Billiards, 1993, by Mike Shamos. It says:

"Calcutta: (colloq.) A pari-mutuel gambling arrangement
in which odds are established by having bettors bid for the
chance to win a pool should their selected player win the
tournament. After deduction of a percentage for the promot-
er, the pool is awarded to the bettors choosing the eventual
top finishers. During the selection phase prior to the tour-
nament, as each player's name comes up it is assigned to the
highest bidder."

"In most [U.S.] states, a Calcutta is illegal as a form
of lottery or game of chance. This does little to diminish
its popularity, however, since the authorities appear to take
no interest in the practice. The Calcutta is the modern de-
scendant of 'pool selling,' a notorious form of public bet-
ting at billiard matches during the last half of the nine-
teenth century."

"Pool selling" presumably refers to betting pools, not pocket
billiards (commonly called pool). Shamos goes on to note that such
betting pool arrangements can be undermined by fixing of results among
the players, which he labels as "a scam that still thrives today."
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Roland Scheicher

Nov 29, 2001, 12:32:16 PM11/29/01
Thank you very much for your informations.

Do you also know something about the question, why it is called
"Calcutta"? Was e.g. pool selling invented by British colonial
officers in Calcutta, India, or was it especially popular there in
that days?

Since betting seems so typically British, this could be a possible
explanation, but is it true?

(Just one more remark: according to Auhagen's book on Bridge "auction
bridge" should have been invented by three British colonial officers,
who had no fourth partner for Whist, so they played with a dummy and
had an auction on the dummy's hand - auctions seemed to be quite
popular then.)


Roland Scheicher

Dec 25, 2001, 3:34:25 AM12/25/01
Webster's Third New International Dictionary says:

"calcutta or calcutta pool [from the Calcutta sweepstakes, famous
auction pool held in Calcutta, India]: a form of auction pool in which
each contestant esp. in golf and bridge tournaments is sold at a fixed
price but at a handicap established by bidding in an auction".

"auction pool: a betting pool in which selections (as of starters in a
horse race) are sold at auction, the auctioneer usu. retaining a
percentage of the pool"


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