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Posted: Monday July 12, 2010 4:11PM ; Updated: Monday July 12, 2010 4:11PM

Oracle octopus gets own World Cup for winning streak

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BERLIN (Reuters) -- Paul the oracle octopus was given a replica of the World Cup on Monday as a reward for his perfect eight-for-eight record in picking matches as bettors worldwide collected their winnings based on his selections.

The two-year-old octopus with possible psychic powers turned into a worldwide celebrity for accurately predicting the winner of Germany's five World Cup wins as well as their two defeats. Paul also tipped Spain to beat Netherlands in Sunday's final.

"We've had a lot of offers for Paul but he will definitely be staying with us and returning to his old job -- making children smile," Sea Life spokeswoman Tanja Munzig in Oberhausen told Reuters after presenting Paul with the World Cup replica.

"There's no rational reason why he always got it right."

Bettors around the world made small fortunes based on Paul's uncanny picks, said Graham Sharpe, media relations director at William Hill in London, one of Britain's largest bookmakers.

"I've seen a lot of things in my lifetime but this is the first time I've ever seen people making their picks based on what an octopus tells them," Sharpe told Reuters.

"We had people coming in saying they didn't know how to place a bet but heard about this German octopus and wanted to bet with him. It's ludicrous. But he kept getting it right," said Sharpe. "It's one of the finest tipping feats ever."

Sharpe said that anyone who had placed a 10-pound accumulator bet on Paul's picks from the start of the World Cup would have won 3,000 pounds ($4,500) by the end of the tournament.

Paul's home at Sea Life aquarium in Oberhausen has been inundated with visitors and media from across Europe. Many networks broadcast his picks live. Hundreds were on hand to watch the World Cup replica lowered into his tank on Monday.

WINNING BETS

"Paul now wants to say goodbye to the whole world," Daniel Fey, a supervisor at Sea Life, told Reuters. "He really enjoyed all the media attention but now he's returning to his old job."

Yet interest in the 50-cm long octopus remained intense, especially after his last two picks on Friday were once again accurate. Germany won Saturday's match for third place and Spain won Sunday's final -- as Paul had called it on Friday.

Last week Germans were shocked and distraught when he picked Spain to beat Germany in the semi-final after tipping German wins over Argentina, England, Ghana and Australia.

And after Spain beat Germany, many wanted to publicly grill him. Sea Life installed extra security to protect their octopus.

"We have to remember he's quite old now -- 2-1/2 years is quite old for an octopus," Fey said.

Probability experts were quoted in media reports saying the likelihood of getting eight consecutive picks right is 1/256. Sharpe said the odds of getting eight straight right was over 1/300. Humbled professors were quoted saying Paul got lucky.

The octopus, considered by some to be the most intelligent of all invertebrates, had a choice of picking food from two different transparent containers lowered into his tank -- each with a national flag on it.

The container Paul opened first was regarded as his pick.

Sharpe at William Hill said he had at first been sceptical about the oracle octopus. But he became a believer.

"I suspect that Paul's predictions could have made about a half a million pounds," Sharpe said, adding he estimated William Hill paid out 100,000 pounds on his picks at its 2,300 outlets.

"We had people coming in asking who Paul had picked before they placed their bets," Sharpe said. "I'm sure there were a lot more people too who were too embarrassed to tell you they made their bet based on what the octopus said."

He said it was the first time in 30 years of work that he had seen "such widely orchestrated use of a non-human tipster".

Sharpe said he, unfortunately, did not follow Paul's advice. "It'd have been too embarrassing," he said. But Sharpe said he was going on holiday soon. "I'm going to the seaside and intend to eat as much octopus as I can cram down as revenge," he said.

Copyright 2010 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

 
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