Schwartz and Negreanu Negotiating Poker/Lifestyle Combo Bet

Alex Weldon : July 6th, 2015

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Last night saw a bizarre Twitter exchange between Daniel Negreanu and Jason “stealthmunk” Schwartz, in which Schwartz challenged Negreanu to play him heads-up in Pot-Limit Omaha for $100,000 and Negreanu introduced additional conditions related to Schwartz’s health and lifestyle.

In a poker world which is generally trying to present a positive image of itself, Schwartz is a polarizing figure both for his confrontational personality and his life choices. Negreanu, meanwhile, is of course the poster boy for poker’s new, improved image and an outspoken advocate of various contemporary health trends such as veganism, yoga, etc.

The deal Negreanu initially offered was to put his money up against Schwartz’s commitment to change his lifestyle. If Schwartz won the match, he would receive $100,000 from Negreanu, but if he lost, there was a whole list of obligations to which he would be committed, including dietary changes, daily exercise, meditation and – most controversially – enrolment in ChoiceCentre. This last is a “Leadership University” which offers self-improvement workshops and in which Negreanu is deeply involved, but which Schwartz and others have described as cultlike.

Hordes of other poker players and fans flocked on Twitter to encourage Schwartz to take the offer, with many even opining that he would be better off losing the bet and turning his life around than by winning the $100,000. Schwartz indicated that he’d be willing to negotiate more precise terms, but didn’t believe that Negreanu would really come through on such an offer, with no upside for himself. Schwartz even made a $1000 side bet with Michael Laake that Negreanu would back down on those terms.

It seems Schwartz was right, in that Negreanu came back with a formal offer which bears little resemblance to the original. The new arrangement, which currently looks like it may actually happen, is that they will play a heads-up freezeout match for $100,000 as Schwartz wants, but with Schwartz’s losses being forgiven if he can get himself under 22% body fat within some timeframe to be determined, while Negreanu’s would be forgiven if Schwartz fails to meet that target.

Negreanu is still attempting to paint the offer as an act of generosity on his part and a freeroll for Schwartz, but Schwartz correctly points out that it’s just a bet, plain and simple. The way Negreanu has phrased it obfuscates the actual proposition somewhat, but the reality is that, if the current arrangement is finalized, the two of them are effectively making two separate $50,000 bets: one on the outcome of a heads-up poker match, and the other on Schwartz’s ability to lose weight. If Schwartz wins the match but fails to lose the weight, or if he loses the match but succeeds in getting down to 22%, the two bets will cancel out and both Schwartz and Negreanu will break even; on the other hand, if one or the other wins both halves of the bet, they will collect the full $100,000.

That being the case, Negreanu’s real intentions can’t be known by anyone except Negreanu himself. It could be that the bet is in fact the act of generosity he makes it out to be, if he believes that Schwartz will in fact lose the weight. On the other hand, if his opinion of Schwartz is that he’s incapable of actually making the necessary lifestyle changes, then he may still be seeing it as a freeroll… just a freeroll for himself.

If the deal goes through, it wouldn’t be the first or the biggest weight loss proposition bet in poker. Just last year, Jean-Robert Bellande won a similar bet for $70,000 by dropping 43 pounds, nine of them in the final week of the bet. Going further back in history, Mike Matusow and Ted Forrest had a pair of weight loss bets between them – Matusow won the first for $100,000 but ended up losing a whopping $2 million when he decided to turn the tables on Forrest. After losing his own weight, Matusow made a 20-1 bet with Forrest that the latter couldn’t get himself below 140 pounds; Forrest prevailed, although he had to fast for over a week towards the end in order to do so. That bet has been a perennial controversy in the poker world ever since, as Matusow has still not managed to scrape together the money to pay Forrest off completely.

Negreanu even has an outstanding weight-related bet of his own with Forrest, dating all the way back to the year 2000. Negreanu collected $1000 from Forrest up front, but will have to pay him back twenty-fold if his weight ever goes over 170 lbs. So far, that hasn’t happened, but ironically, it’s Negreanu’s fitness obsession which might cause him to lose – as of last year he was up to 160 and change, but the gain has all been in the form of muscle.

Update: Looks like the bet is on, and with the modification that Negreanu will donate the $100k to charity if Schwartz loses the heads-up challenge and fails to make weight. Schwartz will have one year to hit the 22% body fat target.

Alex Weldon (@benefactumgames) is a freelance writer, game designer and semipro poker player from Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

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