Should The Poker Community Be Celebrating Weight Loss Prop Bets?

Steve Ruddock March 27, 2018 2749 Reads
Weight Loss Bet

Poker playing brothers Jaime and Matt Staples won a substantial amount of money this weekend, but it wasn’t won at the poker tables. It was won via a prop bet.

Twelve months ago, the two brothers made a bet with Bill Perkins that they couldn’t weigh within a single pound of one other in a year. Getting to that point would be no small feat, as Jaime weighed 305 pounds and Matt 134 pounds at the time of the bet. The Staples got 50-1 odds from Perkins on a $3,000 wager, meaning they would collect $150,000 if they could pull it off. And pull it off they did, with both weighing in at 188.3 pounds on Sunday.

Following the weigh-in, the Staples brothers’ Twitter accounts were flooded with congratulations.

But not everyone felt the achievement should be celebrated by a community that complains it’s unfairly labeled as gambling degenerates, nor do they feel the person instigating these bets, Perkins, be let off the hook for what some believe is nothing more than a wealthy person acting as a marionette for his own entertainment.

The criticisms are not without merit.

If the poker community wants to celebrate this type of betting it’s hard to get upset at the general public looking at poker players as little more than glorified gamblers.

And yes, many of these bets have the ugly stink of rich people dangling money in front of people simply to make them do something they see as embarrassing – Antonio Esfandiari paying Lance Bradley $8,000 to wear the same shirt for a year — or in some cases, dangerous things, such as the infamous running bet between Haseeb Qureshi and Ashton Griffin.

What category does the Staples bet fall into?

I don’t know what Perkins’ motivations were for offering the bet, but despite some of the criticisms of Matt Staples being forced to gain weight, Jaime and Matt both looked healthy and happy at their weigh-in, and both seem better prepared to lead healthier lives.

Their risk, a combined $3,000, also made it ok for them to not achieve the goal but still come out ahead in “life points” if Jaime lost some weight and Matt gained some weight. The $150,000 (plus any side action) was a tempting carrot, but neither is hurting for money, and my guess is the new lifestyle benefits outweigh the $75k each pocketed in the long run.

Jaime lost over 100 pounds and wasn’t forced to drop to an unhealthy weight, or engage in dangerous saunas or week-long fasts (more on this in a moment). And while Matt had to gain about 54 pounds, he gained a lot of muscle in the process and can easily adjust his diet to lose the excess bad weight he gained pretty quickly.

As a former 130 pounder who ate a ton and exercised like a madman to get up to 195 pounds (it took me two years though), I can tell you that the lifestyle that causes you to weigh 130 pounds is extremely unhealthy.

So, while not all of Matt’s new weight is “good weight,” a lot of it is, and he now understands how to eat and exercise to gain or lose weight and more importantly, to be healthy.

Does that mean the bet should be celebrated? In this case yes, but where the Staples bet may have been good clean fun, some of these bets are far riskier.

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A dangerous game

Perkins was also involved in a weight loss wager this year that didn’t sit well with me. Around the same time as the Staples Brothers bet, Perkins offered 2+2 PokerCast host Adam Schwartz $25,000 to shed 80 pounds in 10 months and keep the weight off for a period of eight weeks. Schwartz would be going from 230 to 150 to win the bet… he did.

If Perkins’ goal was to get Schwartz motivated to lose weight he could have set the goal at a more healthy 165 pounds. Instead, Schwartz looked like hell warmed over at each of his weigh-ins (sorry Adam but it’s true), and essentially spent 10 weeks in a starved and weakened state.

A similarly dangerous bet occurred back in 2010 when Mike Matusow bet Ted Forrest $2 million that the 188-pound Forrest couldn’t weigh less than 140 pounds by the WSOP. The 5’11” Forrest weighed in at 138 pounds.

Matusow famously quipped he thought Forrest would die trying to accomplish the feat:

“As soon as he made the bet, I said, ‘I don’t want you to die,'” Matusow told ESPN. “‘If you do, I don’t have the $150,000.’ Then I told him, ‘I don’t have the $2 million to pay out.’ That’s how it came down. I made that bet because I didn’t think it was feasibly possible.”

In both cases the people cutting weight were doing dangerous things. From extended stays in the saunas with a rubber suit on for Schwartz, to a near zero-calories and six-hour workouts for Forrest.

Bottom line: there’s a difference between prodding someone to improve their lifestyle, as was the case with the Staples Brothers, and prodding someone to do something that could be dangerous. And we, the poker community, should be careful what we promote.

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