Countless diversions form in the minds of men while they waste away the hours in their favorite saloon, but betting seems to be the one that takes up much of the time.
Bar bets are made on just about anything-a foot race between patrons, arm wrestling, push-ups, or shuffleboard or pool if they are available.
Food consuming contests take up time: How many hot dogs a man can eat, or hard boiled eggs, clams, crackers, oysters or whatever one comes up with.
Drinking an ounce of beer every second sounds easy, but it has brought the strong to their knees.
Sporting events on television prompt all kinds of bets.
There are games of luck and games of skill, liar's poker played with dollar bills, the match game and pitching quarters into a shot glass.
There are hustlers who move around the bars with a couple of good tricks; a person might bet he can build a pyramid with straws after he has built a thousand before.
A hustler might point to a wine bottle and challenge, "I bet I can drink from that bottle without taking the top off." The bottle will have an indented bottom and the guy will tip it upside down, pour some beer into the hole and sip it.
Then there are the memory games-wagers on almost any event that ever took place.
Tony Razo was a "know-it-all" bartender who knew dates, averages, figures and wasn't bad at memory games to everyone who hung around his saloon in New York was out to get him.
He had a good memory for facts, read the Information Almanac page-by-page and won about every bet he instigated.
On a slow night he would bring up the Penn Relays; the old timers knew he probably spent all afternoon reading the records and backed off the bet.
But eventually he would suck some guy into a bet, usually on some statistic, and win.
His bar was a newspaperman's hangout and one night several patrons brought off a bet that had been plotted for some time.
The conversation turned to German sabotage around New York during World War ii and Tony waded right into it, with both jaws going fast, as he related one possible sabotage after another.
The Normandy fire, an explosion at a pier in New Jersey. . .all pretty accurate with dates and a brief description.
During a quick break, when he went to pour some beer, a reporter said to him, "Remember the time they blew the head off the Statue of Liberty?"
Tony bit by shouting, "They never did that. I'll bet $5, no $10, they never blew the head off."
Guys gathered around as the first one asked Tony, "Were you in the harbor around the winter of 1944?" They knew that Tony stayed away from the harbor even in the summer.
Tony, lying, nodded yes, his knuckles resting on the bar in front of him as he defied his adversaries to prove it happened.
"Why wasn't it in the papers?" he wanted to know.
"Because the government asked that it not be printed for morale purposes," a reporter said.
"I was sent out there that day to cover it," another said and added, "Took the head right off the old lady.
"We still have the only picture ever taken.It's up in the safe."
Tony, ignoring thirsty customers, couldn't believe there was something so big so close to his home in Brooklyn that he knew nothing about. As he shook his head from side to side, his heavy lips shut firmly.
The newsmen knew they had him in the trap and wouldn't let up as one said, "They put a big canvas bag over her head for a couple of months until they made a new head, somewhere in Hoboken," he said, "and late one night floated it out on a barge with a big crane and stuck it back on again."
Tony plunged. He bet a lot of fives and shook hands to seal the bets.
The next day a photo editor on a newspaper and a skilled photo retoucher cooperated and soon the head blended in with the clouds in the sky.
A copy was made of the photo, the original was washed off and placed back in the file, and everyone trooped over to the bar to show Tony the "evidence."
He looked haggard, probably from spending the day in the public library, becoming the latest expert on every inch of the Statue of Liberty.
The bet was brought up again as Tony, reassured by his research, told everyone they were crazy.
He was handed the photo. He took his glasses off and stared at it closely. He put his glasses on and stared at it closely. He held it up to the light, he held it away from the light. He rubbed his finger across the photo, he wet his finger and did the same thing, and he looked crushed.
"I never knew this," he said in barely a whisper, "I never knew this." "I'll take my five in beer," the first winner said, and it was repeated up and down the bar as Tony went to the tap to pour.
He was quiet for the rest of the evening and during each lull in serving he would go back and stare at the photo, shaking his head slowly.
He revived a bit the next day and had everyone trying to guess who the clam-eating champ of Coney Island was and how many he had eaten.
The next night he grew stronger and hammered away with several bets going at once, things like one-armed boxers and Cleopatra's real age when she met Anthony.
Within a week he had won all his money back and then some and we heard he was using the Statue of Liberty photo around his neighborhood bars in Brooklyn, picking up a loose five here and there.