updated 4/19/2005 5:37:27 PM ET 2005-04-19T21:37:27

When Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope, he was hardly the only winner. Thousands worldwide placed bets on him through the Web — and an inspired few hundred even correctly guessed he'd take the name Benedict.

Among a handful of Internet-based bookmakers who offered odds on the next pope, the biggest player was Paddy Power PLC, the No. 1 bookie in Ireland, which has taken bets on John Paul's successor for the past five years.

Minutes after Benedict XVI appeared in St. Peter's Square, Paddy Power was collecting — or paying out — on more than 10,000 bets totaling more than $260,000.

The biggest winners: Someone who put down $1,050 Saturday on a Ratzinger victory at odds of 6 to 1, which meant a payout of $7,350; and somebody else who waged $260 on the new pontiff's taking Benedict, which at 3-to-1 odds meant $1,050 back. The money kept flowing in until the white smoke appeared.

"We were kind of hoping the conclave would run for two weeks," said Paddy Power, spokesman for the firm of the same name, in a telephone interview from Rome, where the company has been promoting its Vatican specials.

Paddy Power, fellow Dublin betting site Intrade and three British bookies — betfair.com, Pinnacle and William Hill — all rated Ratzinger either as favorite or second-favorite. His victory meant they all still made a profit, because of all the other bets placed on a field of more than 100 other candidates, but only a modest one.

"If a real long shot had won it, we'd have taken home the full 200 grand," Power said, referring to his firm's total of bets, in euros, on a field of about 90 cardinals.

As it was, he said, the backers of Ratzinger would get more than $162,000, while those who backed other winners — including the name of Benedict and the successful election on Tuesday — would take about $13,000 more, leaving the company a profit of more than $85,000.

Other betting sites had Ratzinger as clear favorite. At Pinnacle, for instance, he opened two weeks ago at odds of 7 to 1, but those narrowed to just 3 to 1 by Tuesday.

At Paddy Power, Ratzinger was once listed at odds of more than 20 to 1. Since John Paul's death, Ratzinger had surged ahead of initial favorite Dionigi Tettamanzi of Italy. But the star then rose of Nigeria's Francis Arinze, pushing Ratzinger back into second; Arinze remained No. 2 on other sites.

At the moment white smoke rose in Vatican City, Paddy Power froze betting with the odds on Arinze at 7 to 2 and Ratzinger at 11 to 2. In joint third were Tettamanzi and French Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger of France at 7 to 1.

"The only worse outcome for us would have been if Arinze won," Power said. "A Lustiger win could have been just as bad for us as Ratzinger because we took some big bets on him at high odds a week or so ago."

Paddy Power was the only bookmaker to take bets on the papal name. It listed Benedict as favorite, just ahead of John Paul.

But Power explained that Benedict was ranked so highly because of its connections to Lustiger, not Ratzinger. He said St. Benedict had predicted that the Catholic church one day would elect a former Jew as pope; Lustiger converted from Judaism.

"Just our luck. Ratzinger got us on that one too," he said.

Power said the firm's oddsmakers would take a few days to think up some new pope-related bets — such as the chances of Ratzinger's permitting women into the priesthood. "It'd be a brave man or woman who'd put money on that one," he said.

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