Forget the 2 to 1 odds in Las Vegas that favor the Netherlands against Spain in Sunday's World Cup finals, the best and most accurate odds are coming from Paul, the psychic octopus.
This eight-legged tipster's unblemished record in this year's soccer World Cup match-ups is creating a cult-like following and forcing the bookies to defend their picks based on the tried-and-true stats.
Mark Pearson, of Gilbraltar-based online betting firm Betfred.com, said the picks by the octopus, which sometimes goes by the alias "Oracle Octopus," are costing his company some real money.
"If his run continues, he will cost us a few squid," Pearson said. "The bookmakers will want this tipster to become calamari."
How does the octopus make picks? It's pretty simple really. It began with Paul's keepers at Sea Life Oberhausen in Germany deciding to harness his powers.
Picking the Right Box
Paul's handlers drop him into a tank with the choice of two glass boxes, both containing a mussel. Each box is adorned by the flag of one of the two competing teams. The octopus then floats down to either one of the boxes. At some point he opens one of the boxes and eats the food inside -- thusly proclaiming the winner.
Paul correctly "predicted" all of Germany's results, which were set at 1 to 64 odds. Bookies had picked Germany as the favorite in their semi-final game against Spain, but some betters went with Paul's recommendation and cashed in. During the 2008 European championship, when Paul was less than a year old, the mollusk predicted nearly 70% of Germany's results.
Two years later, Paul has found a groove.
Spain Wants to Protect the Invertebrate
In the nail-biter prediction before the third-place Germany-Uruguay game to be held Saturday, Paul settled on top of the Germany container, then flopped over to Uruguay, then floated back to Germany, opened the container and began munching on the mussel.
All fun aside, Paul's kind hasn't been the most favored dish in Germany, ever since he correctly picked Spain.
Worried that the invertebrate might be showing up on a tapas platter, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luiz Rodrigues Zapatero said he will offer state protection to the octopus, whom he affectionately called "el pulpo Paul."
"I am concerned for the octopus," said Zapatero. "I'm thinking of sending him a protective team."
It might not be a bad idea. Television networks in Germany, Spain and the Netherlands stopped regular programming to show the Oracle Octopus's floating decision.
Earlier this week, the Spanish environment fisheries minister said she would ask for a fishing ban in Germany so Paul doesn't get eaten.
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