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In the money

Want to prank your golf buddies? This betting game will do the trick

In the money

Got cash? Try this game.

Want to prank your golf buddies with a seemingly innocent betting game called Double Down? Of course you do. And here’s how you explain it:

On the first tee, tell your group that you have a new game with low stakes that everybody has a chance to win because each hole is a new game. Tell them even if somebody loses the first 17 holes, he can still win the match – and the most money – just by winning the 18th hole.

Then tell them you’re playing for a penny on the first hole. Low ball (including handicap) wins the hole and a penny from the other three guys. Then you double the stakes on No. 2 and play for 2 cents, then 4 cents on No. 3, 8 cents on No. 4, 16 cents on No. 5 and so on. Simple as that.

You double the amount on every hole. Tell them you played the game last week and that it kept everybody in it until the end and nobody got hurt. Tell them whoever wins the most can pay for drinks at the 19th hole.

But, of course, the game isn’t that simple. And it might not become apparent how much you’re playing for until the back nine. That’s the beauty of the prank – to see how long it takes somebody to realize you’re playing for huge stakes.

How huge? Would you believe the 18th hole is worth more than $1,000? You can do the math. Continuing to double the amount after each hole, you’ll be playing for $81.92 on No. 14, $163.84 on No. 15, $327.68 on No. 16, $655.36 on No. 17 and then – drum roll, please – a whopping $1,310.72 on the final hole. That means if you win the last hole, you’d win almost $4,000 from the other three guys.

Theoretically, of course, because you wouldn’t make your buddies pay that. Right? So when somebody finally figures out what’s on the line, reveal the real math and switch to a $1 skins game. Or make them sweat for a couple holes. Then laugh, confess to the prank and change the game – before somebody starts chasing you with a 3-iron.

Playing Double Down reminds me of a betting anecdote involving a few members of the men’s club at Costa Mesa Country Club years ago. John “J.T.” Thompson of Huntington Beach explained to me how an innocent 25-cent wager turned into a nightmare for an accountant in their weekend group. Back then, they had a group of regulars who’d get together and dream up exotic betting games to take each other’s money.

“Our typical bet was a quarter per person per hole,” Thompson said. “Even if you had a bad day, you could theoretically only lose $4.50.”

Theoretically. There’s that word again. On this day, an accountant in their fivesome chose a game in which the designated captain of the hole – it changed every hole – would predict on the tee what he thought his score would be.

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