Here's a blog post quoting a bit of a book. Evidently the Chinese used to wager on the frequency of surnames on the list of those passing an imperial exam. Something like, "I bet twice as many people named Zhou pass the exam than people named Li."
There's a simple name for this kind of gambling: insane. Wasn't there an episode of NewsRadio where Jimmy went around betting on ridiculous items? Actually, a similarity between 19th-century Chinese and Jimmy James would explain a lot of things going on in the world today.