Unusual betting event of the week has to be the Nenana Ice Classic, an annual event on which the folks in Alaska have a good-natured wager every year in trying to guess when the Tanana River ice will break. In recent years the jackpot for the correct prediction has grown considerably, although this year it was down on last year's $304 000 and stood at $284 000.

Associated Press reports that the 2009 ice break came at 8.41pm last Friday, signalled by an ingenious arrangement that involves a large wooden tripod out on the ice wired to a watchtower clock onshore. When the tripod dips due to the ice breaking, or "going out," the wire trips the clock and the winning ticket is awarded the prize.

This year it went to Claudia Russell of Juneau and Stephen Gregory of Galena, who split the substantial prize for predicting exactly the right time.

Russell has placed bets on the classic since 1966 and once came within a minute of the correct time, she said in a phone interview with Associated Press.

The Nenana Ice Classic was launched in 1917 by Alaska Railroad workers trying to pass the time in winter while waiting for spring breakup. Now thousands of Alaskans - and even some outside the state - participate in the classic.

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