The World Series of Poker is approaching, and among other things, that means that it’s prop betting season. It’s the one time of year that the virtually the entire poker community is to be found in one place, which makes it the perfect opportunity to settle existing bets and negotiate new ones. That being the case, it’s around this time of year that ideas for bets start getting tossed around.
2016 prop betting year in review
Last year was a particularly good one for side action, and got to an early start when Antonio Esfandiari was disqualified from the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event in January, for urinating in the tournament area.
It’s unlikely that anyone’s forgotten the story behind that episode, but in case you missed it entirely, it was that he’d made a large prop bet with Bill Perkins that he could walk only by lunging for 48 hours. Towards the end of the bet, with his bladder bursting and his legs failing him, he decided to try relieving himself into a container without lunging all the way to the bathroom. He failed to do so unnoticed, however, and was disqualified by the tournament staff.
Next up was Dan Bilzerian’s cycling prop bet, requiring him to travel 300 mils from Las Vegas to Los Angeles on two wheels and under his own power. He achieved that goal easily, albeit not without some controversy. A similar feat was then attempted by Brian Rast, with greater restrictions and less preparation; he succeeded as well, but with more difficulty.
During the series itself, there was Vanessa Selbst’s contentious bracelet bet with Jason Mercier; having bet against Dzmitry Urbanovich winning three bracelets at 200-1, she was talked into a similar bet by Mercier at 180-1.
She claimed to have been drunk when she agreed to the bets and wanted to get out of the one with Mercier, but he refused all her offers of a buy-out. Things proceeded to become heated when he got off to a strong start in the series, picking up two bracelets in rapid succession; potentially on the hook for $1.8 million, Selbst was forced to sell most of her action to other players. The general poker public became involved on Twitter, with misunderstandings abounding about the sequence of events; Selbst ended up taking a lot of flak due to the perception that she’d attempted to put social pressure on Mercier to let her out of the bet.
Finally, the series concluded with PocketFives Editor-in-Chief Lance Bradley talking Bill Perkins (who is a common theme in many of these bets, you’ll notice) into giving him an $8,000 freeroll to wear the same dress shirt in public for one full year. He’s now less than three months from collecting, and it doesn’t appear likely that he’ll have any trouble completing the bet.
Where boys fear to tread
No insane bets have been finalized and shaken upon yet this year, but some ideas are already being batted around. One of these was proposed by Jason Mo and brought up on Twitter by his friend Ryan Fee; Mo believes that he can tread water for 24 hours continuously and is willing to bet on it at even money, if Fee can find him $80,000 worth of action.
. @cuntycakes123 aka jmo thinks he can tread water continuously in a pool for 24 hours. He needs $80k at 1:1 against to try, anyone want in?
— gN Ryan (@RyanFeePoker) April 20, 2017
Some of the nitty-gritty is yet to be ironed out, but based on the response, it seems the money is there if Mo is true to his word. According to Fee, if the bet goes forward, Mo’s attempt will likely be made some time in late May, in his own swimming pool.
Any sort of sustained physical activity for that period of time may seem like a tall order, especially for someone who, like Mo, is not particularly athletic to begin with. However, there are a few facts in his favor which should be considered by anyone thinking it’s a slam dunk to bet against him.
Firstly, the world record for treading water is 85 hours, so 24 is not a superhuman feat by any stretch. Secondly, Mo’s pool is salt water; although Fee says that provisions will be made against excessive levels of salinity, even standard ocean salt levels make a person more buoyant. Thirdly, we know little about Mo’s cardio, and a muscular build would actually work against a person for this challenge; body fat is buoyant, so between his body type and the salt water, it won’t require much actual power to keep his head above water.
Really, then, the bet is largely about whether he’s willing to keep his arms and legs moving for 24 hours while floating mostly submerged. It may become very unpleasant for him if he starts cramping up, but overall, the challenge is likely to be more psychological than physical. That may be just fine by many of the people betting, as because of his online persona and tendency to troll, watching him suffer seems to be a major incentive for some of the people offering to put up money against him.
Meanwhile, Mike Noori floated the question of whether it’s possible to consume $1000 worth of non-drink McDonald’s food in 24 hours. No actual offer to attempt was made, but one assumes that when a professional poker player asks a question like this, either he’s considering whether to offer the bet, or has been offered the bet by someone else and is wondering whether to take it.
As is often the case with these prop bets, the phrasing of the proposition is somewhat misleading. When one thinks of McDonald’s, one tends to think about burger-type items costing in the ballpark of $5. Eating 200 quarter-pounders in a day is clearly impossible, so the majority of initial reactions were to say that no, the bet is not possible.
However, not all McDonald’s products are as filling per dollar as the burgers. Happy Meals would be one possible route to victory, unless you’d be obliged to eat the toys as well. Chicken McNuggets are fairly small in volume for their cost, but fairly dense. Salads were another commonly floated option, but even so, eating 500 80-gram side salads at $2 apiece equates to consuming roughly 40 kilograms of lettuce in a 24-hour period. Apple slices might be a little bit better, at 70 grams per portion and a similar price, but you’re still looking at 35 kilos – 77 pounds – of apple in a day.
The question then becomes whether it’s possible to reduce the volume of food required by buying it at a McDonald’s with inflated prices. Airports are a good possibility, while Norway’s McDonald’s are known to be the most expensive, charging the equivalent of over $20 for a Big Mac Meal, or roughly four times the cost in the US. There doesn’t appear to be a McDonald’s in the Oslo airport, however, so a fourfold increase in price may be the best one could manage.
If that applies to apple slices or salads as well as to burgers (which is may not), then we’re looking at more like 20 pounds of food in a day, which is only about four times the average and should be possible, especially since apples are mostly water and you can therefore refrain from consuming any liquids during the challenge.
Both of these bets are interesting to think about and potentially amusing to watch, but neither is as good on its own as a combination of the two. After all, there’s a reason that you’re not supposed to go swimming after eating a big meal, which is that the body diverts energy to digestion and leaves less available for staying afloat.
Furthermore, treading water is a bit more boring than swimming, and the fact that the McDonald’s bet reduces into a proposition about how many apples you can eat in Norway likewise makes it a bit less fun than it appears on the surface.
Therefore, here is the bet that I would propose instead: A decent swimmer can complete a 100m lap in two minutes. Likewise, two minutes is probably a reasonable time to eat a burger without choking to death (especially while out of breath), though professional eaters do it in well under a minute. In terms of how many it’s possible to fit in a single stomach, the world record for Big Macs eaten in a single one-hour sitting is 25.
Time-wise, then, it would be easy to eat 15 burgers and swim 15 laps in an hour, if not for the problems of stomach capacity and how much digestion interferes with swimming. With those taken into account, perhaps a reasonable challenge level is ten.
So, here’s the bet I want to see undertaken this summer (with appropriate safety personnel supervising, naturally): Ten 100m laps in a regular, non-saline competitive swimming pool, in an hour, stopping to eat one Big Mac after each lap. Any takers?
Alex Weldon (@benefactumgames) is a freelance writer, game designer and semipro poker player from Montreal, Quebec, Canada.