While biting an Italian opponent in the first round of the 2014 World Cup earned Uruguay striker Luis Suarez international reproach and a four-month ban from soccer, some fans received a sweeter reward. European sports betting site Betsson had offered 175-to-1 odds on the proposition that Suarez, a notorious biter, would chomp someone during the tournament—and paid out a total 33,000 euro (roughly $45,000) to 80 winning bettors.
The World Cup may be over now, but there are still plenty of opportunities to wager on sports—many of which have little to do with the outcome of the game. So-called propositional bets (or prop bets for short), which take odds on specific occurrences during a match—such as a player biting another—rather than the winning side or score, are increasingly popular, according to online bookmakers Betsson and Paddy Power. (Paddy Power, for one, is now offering odds on who Suarez will bite next, all the way up to 1000 to 1 that he will bite pop star Miley Cyrus.
Kevin Bradley, sports book manager at Canada-based betting site Bovada, says the company started doing prop bets about eight years ago. He estimates that 30% of Super Bowl bets this year were propositional, compared to just 15% in 2011. From bets that are still tangentially related to sports, to novelty bets nowhere near the stadium, here are some of the weirdest wagers that gamblers have cashed in on.
1. World Cup Beach Balls
What were the chances that another ball besides a soccer ball would end up on the field during the World Cup? After a beach ball interfered during a 2009 Liverpool v. Sunderland match in England—Sunderland scoring when its shot bounced off the beach ball and into the goal—Betsson was inspired to hold a similar prop bet this year. When a giant inflatable beach ball dropped onto the field in the Columbia v. Ivory Coast game in the group round, 82 bettors won more than 13,000 euro, or about $17,700, in total.
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2. Queen’s Hat
At England’s famous Royal Ascot, the June horse race held annually for more than two centuries, most bets are on the horses. But another popular wager is on the race’s guest of honor: What color hat will the Queen of England wear for each of the five race days? This year, after big bets that the Queen would wear yellow on the first day of the race, British bookmaker Coral temporarily suspended betting on the headpiece color, saying that the “significant gamble suggests that the color of her hat is known outside of the palace.” (The Queen ultimately wore blue.)
England’s Royal Family is also the subject of many other bets: Paddy Power, for example, is offering odds on the year Prince Harry will get married, as well as where baby Prince George (son of Prince William and Kate Middleton) will eventually go to college.
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3. Baby Kardashians
Celebrities Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, who just married in May, have not confirmed plans for a second child yet. But Paddy Power is already accepting wagers on the name of the potential younger sibling to the couple’s first child, North West. Apparently, the site thinks it likely that the newlyweds will also name their next child after a compass direction, as it is offering good odds of just 8 to 1 that they name the baby South. (Meanwhile, the odds that the name will be Kimye are much steeper, at 100 to 1.)
Photo by Raymond Hall—FilmMagic
4. Wheel of Fortune winnings
While Wheel of Fortune’s first $1 million prize, awarded in 2008, was at the time the game show’s “biggest payday yet,” it was also the biggest loss for a bookmaker that had put odds on the proposition.
Offering odds of 25 to 1 that someone would win Wheel of Fortune’s $1 million jackpot, bookings site Bovada accepted bets from $1 to $100. When a player correctly solved “Leaky Faucet,” with seven of the puzzle’s 11 letters showing, she took home $1 million—and Bovada had to pay roughly $50,000 to winning bettors. Bovada’s Bradley says the company ended up losing money by underestimating the likelihood of the big win, and the bet “still haunts me to this day.”
Photo by Carol Kaelson—Califon Productions, Inc.
5. Oscar outfits
From friendly office pools to higher-stakes novelty betting, the annual Academy Awards are ripe for gambling. Though there don’t seem to have been any bets that 2014 Oscars host Ellen DeGeneres would tweet a picture of herself with nearly a dozen famous actors—or that the comedian’s “selfie” would go viral, crashing Twitter—bookmakers did offer odds on DeGeneres’s red carpet outfit. Betsson paid $150 to the player who wagered DeGeneres’s first outfit of the evening would be a black suit.
Photo by Kevin Winter—Getty Images
6. Pope vs. Bieber
In 2013, Betsson asked users who would have more Twitter followers by the end of the year: Pope Francis or Justin Bieber. Pop star Bieber, whose Twitter account now has nearly 53 million followers, compared to the Pope’s roughly 4 million, won by a landslide. Ten bettors won as well, collecting as much as 150 euros, or roughly $200, in profit.
Photo by Kevin Winter—Getty Images