Saturday, February 12, 2011

MY Million Dollar Prop Bet

Editors Note: I may or may not believe any of this.

I'm fairly certain that 99% of my readers are already aware of the recent prop bet among a couple young poker phenoms, but for those that aren't, catch up here:

Part I

Part II

Today, I went for a nice 6 mile run (okay, it was 5.7 miles, but I'm allowed to round up). I often do creative thinking while running. I've made life decisions, wrote songs, and even invented a perpetual motion machine,* all while running. Today I wrote a blog post.

I love running. I hate when I've been away for a while and try to start up again, because I know that the first month or two will be painful. When you've run a couple marathons, struggling with 2 miles is embarrassing. But, after you get over the initial difficulties, it's fun seeing and tracking your progress. (As an aside, let me apologize once again for inundating you with all of the CardioTracker posts. I'm addicted to the stats, and I'm posting those on FB and Twitter mostly for myself).

As a poker player and amateur gambler, I love a good prop bet. Well, let me correct that. I love reading about a good prop bet. I was excited following Ted Forrest as he tried to lose a ridiculous amount of weight in order to win $2 million from Mike Matusow. He's had other legendary bets including running a marathon in the desert heat. Phil Laak stayed awake for a week playing poker. EDog walked 4 rounds of golf in Vegas. They all did it to win money and we loved watching it. You know what? Each of them could have died for their efforts. Some more than others, but there was an implied health risk in each situation in order to win money.

So, why was this running bet different?

It doesn't take a physician to realize that running 70 miles in 24 hours would put a terrible strain on your body. Believe me, I know what it can do. I will give you that this bet was probably more risky than the others. If you don't believe me, Google "rhabdomyolysis." But so what? Yes, he could have died. Yes, there was some terrific soul-searching on both bettors. Yes, if it was my son, I'd be terrified. Hell, if it was my son and he died, I would be devastated for the rest of my life. But you know what? I'd also be proud as hell. He died trying to prove himself. Isn't that what we all try to do in this life? How will we know what we're capable of if we don't push ourselves to the limit? I don't mean to overplay this, but isn't that the kind of stuff that we Americans envy? Isn't that what makes our country great? Could you imagine a young Iranian kid gambling for $1 million by running 70 miles? Only in America. Or maybe Canada (nah, they're probably too smart).

So, for those of you who argue that this was terrible, I want to know why. There is a very well reasoned blog post by my buddy Grange** who takes the side that this may have been a manifestation of mental illness, and worse, it was taking advantage of someone who is impaired. I'm not arguing that point. I used to play poker with Barry, a wonderful man about my age with cerebral palsy who seemed to have an endless supply of money and kept giving it away at the Muckleshoot Casino. I sat at his table many times, as did the whole poker community. It doesn't detract from the fact that I really liked the guy and would often chat with him away from the table. It's poker, and if you have it, I want it.

So, the argument is that this kid must have been mentally ill to attempt such a feat. What you're saying is that attempting something that has, not just a theoretical chance, but a very REAL chance of getting you killed, means you are mentally ill. Especially if it's for money. Well, you know what? I did the same thing. For $1 million. And guess what?

I won.

Like I said in the beginning of this post, most of my readers know me. For those that don't, or may have forgotten, let me refresh. It was 1988. Two years prior, I had dropped out of college and joined the Army. I chose the Army because it was the only branch of service that let me sign up for two years. I sure as hell wasn't staying in longer than that. But then, in 1988, I was given a choice. If you sign here on the dotted line, you'll commit yourself until 2008 (for those mathematically challenged, that's 20 years). And, BTW, if we go to war, you go too. You might get killed, but it's a risk we're willing to let you take. On the positive side, we'll give you $1 million dollars. It will be spread out over 20 years, but it's yours. Sign?

Of course, I signed. And, I did go to war. And I didn't get killed. And I got the dough. So, my question is, who is crazier, a kid who tries to prove himself by pushing the absolute limits of human endurance one time in a 24 hour stretch, or a kid who signs up 20 years of his life and agrees to fight in wars that he may or may not believe in?

I know I'm a little crazy, too. I guarantee you this: he and I both acknowledged the risk, but it really didn't factor into the decision (Me: I can do this! My Brain: Really, how do you know? Me: Only one way to find out.)

I also know that if I'm going to war (or doing anything that takes risk and determination), I want that kid on my side. Every time.

* I am almost embarrassed to tell you how much time I have devoted to inventing a perpetual motion machine. Think hundreds of hours. Thousands, probably.

** who, BTW, is going to lose a bunch of dough to me on a distance-running prop bet. There's irony!


Shrike said...

In my salad days, I was a pretty intense hockey player. As teenagers, crazy prop bets were the norm as we showcased our (lack of) hockey skills. But the injury risk was minimal.

I think the assumption of risk is what makes this prop bet so ridiculous. Let's say your son grows up and became a millionaire poker player by age 21. Would you really be proud of him if he risked 900K to win 300K by running 2.5 marathons in 24 hours and died? I can't see how. Firstly, it's a terrible gamble to take; secondly, the motivation to complete the bet is supremely misguided.


DrChako said...

Don't misunderstand. I would much rather have a living son than one who died for a prop bet. Even typing that sounds ridiculous. I have such a fierce love for my kids that I would do anything to keep them alive and safe. But in this life, I expect them to test their limits. If they don't, they will be destined to mediocrity. Who wants to be remembered as the guy who was really great at watching TV for 80 years?


Shrike said...

Sure. But what I'm saying is that the prop bet in question is a *ridiculous* way to test one's limits, and it was done for (IMHO) dubious reasons.


lightning36 said...

Two immature kids with waaay too much money risking a life for no good reason. If I was interested in this type of behavior I'd rather watch Lindsay Lohan since she is good looking when she isn't strung out.

Haseeb is a d-bag. The basis of friendship is love. He is no friend.

Ashton is a hopeless addict. To risk all on something so foolish...

Both are so self-absorbed. I hope they are at least somewhat different than the majority of the internet poker wonders of their generation.

Excellent writing of a depressing story.

Schaubs said...

keep on runnin

OhCaptain said...

Thanks for your service.

Unknown said...

Can I get in on that distance running prop bet?

Bayne_S said...

Got to like how peaker jumped in to get in on a running bet.

That's the great part of posts to me is how many of us looked at and said which side of bet would we be getting our money in good?

The Sister said...

I love your blog and I love your writing. I also understand the philosophy which led to your support (understanding?) of the decision to go forward with this prop bet. However, the real question of testing one's human endurance or even their max capacity on some other level other than physical would be one that the reward was not monetary in nature.

How many people died trying to achieve flight? How many died trying to discover undiscovered territories and lands? I believe a passion for something leads to greatness. I don't believe that MONEY leads to stupid decisions.

As I see it, the real question should be "Am I willing to (run, fly, eat swords, etc.) where the reward is success itself?"

The Sister said...

My bad...I meant to type "I believe that MONEY leads to stupid decisions" not "don't" Ha ha! Totally contradicts my viewpoint by one word, doesn't it? :)