The World Series of Poker (WSOP) tends to produce a lot of prop bets, some serious, others not so much. The focus this summer was on Jason Mercier’s extremely serious bracelet bets with Vanessa Selbst and others, but the tail end of the series produced one of the silly variety.
Pocket Fives editor Lance Bradley was hanging out at the Rio, watching the lead up to the Main Event money bubble with fellow poker journalists Donnie Peters and Remko Rinkema. Antonio Esfandiari was seated at one of the tables they were watching and they were all chatting it up and commenting on a pair hideous fur-lined slippers he’d brought with him. Knowing that Esfandiari is the type both to accept and to offer wacky prop bets, Bradley half-seriously asked Esfandiari how much he’d be willing to pay for Bradley to wear the slippers in question for a full year.
Esfandiari was apparently fond of the slippers and didn’t want to give them up for a bet, so he countered by asking Bradley how much he’d need to keep wearing the shirt he was wearing at the time for a full year. Bradley asked for $15,000, Esfandiari countered with $8,000, and Bradley, fearing that Esfandiari would back out if he attempted to haggle for more, accepted the offer.
It’s a freeroll for Bradley, who loses nothing if he backs out, except for his chance at a free $8,000. Moreover, the terms of the bet make it fairly likely that he’ll be able to pull it off without too much inconvenience. Crucially, he’s allowed to wash the shirt, so he doesn’t have to worry too much about his smell and appearance. The most likely way for him to lose the bet would be if the shirt starts to fall apart from wear, gets ripped, or gets an unremovable stain in a prominent location. Fortunately, he’s only required to wear the shirt when he’s out of the house, and he does most of his work from home, so he’ll be able to give it plenty of rest to avoid wear and tear, and won’t have to worry about staining it during meals at home.
These sorts of bets, where the bettor doesn’t really expect to win but just wants to pay to see someone do something are quite common in poker. Usually, though, they involve some measure of physical endurance and/or discomfort, like remaining immersed in a swimming pool all night, or Esfandiari’s own bet with Bill Perkins that he could move around only by lunging for 48 hours, which resulted in him being disqualified from the PCA Main Event when he urinated into a container in the tournament area to avoid having to lunge all the way to the bathroom. In that regard, Bradley’s getting a pretty good deal; taking care of the shirt may prove to have a cost in terms of taking up a portion of his intention, but as long as it stays in good condition, chances are he’ll rarely feel bothered by the bet.
Would you have taken the bet in Bradley’s shoes? I think I would have, but it’s close; $8,000 is a decent chunk of change, but of course a year is also a long time. We’ll see how Bradley feels about it in six months time. At that point, he’ll be far enough in that he’ll be reluctant to quit, but may have begun to regret it, depending on what kind of shape the shirt’s in.
Alex Weldon (@benefactumgames) is a freelance writer, game designer and semipro poker player from Montreal, Quebec, Canada.