Crypto traders have found a novel way to generate returns as bitcoin (BTC) remains flat and the decentralized finance (DeFi) sector fails to fully shake off the bear market lull.

Actual hamsters – the living, breathing, and oft-cute rodents – have been put to the races on the blockchain-based platform Hamsters.gg. “The hamsters are real and the bets are real. The hamsters are running on a track and the first hamster to cross the finish line wins,” the site explains.

Star hamster racers like “Rocky” and “Buster” are already drawing bets of up to $500 per race. Others like “CK” aren’t so lucky – losing 326 races; winning just 8. These races seem to occur every few hours, during which a chatbox lights up, drawing at least 1,000 viewers and complete with virtual beer and hotdog emojis.

“Sipping wine, betting on hamster racing…does it get any better than this?,” a recent message on the Hamsters chatbox reads. Some others are trying to mathematically win: “Who’s got some stats on these hamsters? do we have weight classes?”

Crypto traders have a knack for jumping on gambling platforms and memecoins, mainly after the rise of tokens such as dogecoin (DOGE) and shiba inu (SHIB) – which jumped to tens of billions in market capitalization in the previous bull market.

Anyone can call a smart contract and issue tokens on Ethereum (or other blockchains) for a few cents, and the presence of decentralized exchanges means tokens can instantly be issued, supplied with liquidity and traded soon after.

Most of these do not last beyond a few weeks. Last year saw hopefuls bet on articles from the English language to McDonald’s branded Grimacecoins, both of which fell to nearly zero after a few weeks of trading. But some, like Pepecoin (PEPE), jump to billions in market capitalization and seem to become big-name projects.

Data shows HamstersGG went live earlier in July and live-streamed a series of races through Twitch on Thursday. Bets could be placed via U.S. dollar-pegged binance USD (BUSD) by depositing tokens from either Ethereum or BNB Chain.

Racer “Teddy” won a race in Asian morning hours – raking in thousands of dollars for those who bet on its victory. (Hamsters.gg)

And – to little surprise – there’s a HAMS token as well. A whitepaper on the Hamsters.gg site explains the platform takes a 5% cut of all bets, of which 4% is distributed to HAMS token holders.

The Ethereum-based HAMS has zooted to over $6 million capitalization nearly overnight. On-chain data shows each HAMS exchanged hands for 60 cents at the time of writing time, a nearly 1,000% increase compared to Thursday. A Uniswap pool holds $450,000 in liquidity and has garnered $9 million in trading volumes over the past 24 hours.

Meanwhile, Hamsters.gg developers say this is just the start of the novel hamster betting platform. “Our vision is for long-term development and scalability. We’ve been working on this project for over three months, and we’re committed to building a sustainable and thriving ecosystem,” they said in a tweet last week.

Ridiculous or not. It’s fun. Just as the wild west of crypto should be.

Edited by Parikshit Mishra.