Poker player Mike Noori’s bet to supersize himself on McDonald’s this weekend is part of a long tradition of outrageous prop bets. From Paul Ivey to Dan Bilzerian, Paul Phua picks out 10 favourites
Starting from today (Friday May 19), poker player Mike Noori has just 36 hours in which to eat $1,000 of McDonald’s food. Many people believe it cannot be done, estimating that he will need to consume about 70,000 calories – the recommended daily amount is less than 3,000! Others say it can: hundreds of thousands of dollars have by now been wagered on the outcome by poker players.
And why is Mike Noori putting his body through this ordeal? Because he was challenged to do so in a prop bet.
Some poker players will gamble on just about anything: whether it’s as small as what the next woman to enter the room will be wearing, or as big as eating several weeks’ worth of food in 36 hours! The most outrageous of these prop bets make great stories. Here are just ten of them, starting with some old-timers:
Titanic Thompson and the golf ball
Titanic Thompson, who hosted the very first World Series of Poker, is one of the most famous gamblers of all time. Sky Masterson, the hero of the musical Guys and Dolls, was based on him. He was no fool: when Titanic Thompson made a prop bet, he always had an angle. He would first secretly count all the watermelons in a truck and later wager, during a seemingly casual conversation with bystanders, that he could guess the exact number. Another time he bet he could throw a walnut over a building, having first secretly weighted it with lead. And when he bet he could drive a golf ball 500 yards, further than any golf pro had managed at that time, he found no shortage of takers for this seemingly impossible feat. But he simply waited till winter, then drove the ball, bouncing, over a frozen lake!
Amarillo Slim and the ping pong battle
Amarillo Slim was one of the great old-school poker players, who won the first of his four WSOP bracelets in 1972. He, too, would bet on almost anything. Perhaps his most famous prop bet was when he challenged Bobby Riggs, a former tennis champ, to a table tennis match. Slim’s one condition was that he could choose the paddles they used. He showed up with two frying pans, having secretly practised with them for months beforehand. He won the match. He successfully repeated the trick years later against a Taiwanese ping-pong champion, though this time his weapon of choice was Coca-Cola bottles!
Brian Zembic and his 38C breast implants
A magician and high-stakes gambler, Brian Zembic was famous for his bizarre prop bets: he lived in a box for a week and in a bathroom for another week. For another bet he slept the night in Central Park with $20,000 on his person. But one prop bet in particular made the headlines. In 1996, for a $100,000 bet, he agreed to have breast implants – 38C, to be precise – and keep them for a year. He even won the $4,500 cost of the operation from a cosmetic surgeon at backgammon. Not only did Zembic go through with it, he kept the implants for two decades. It was only last year that he appeared on the reality TV show, Botched, saying he had finally decided to have them removed.
Antonio Esfandiari and the lunges
What is it with magicians? Poker pro Antonio Esfandiari is also a former magician, and one of the most entertaining people you could share a card table with. His willingness to take a prop bet is legendary, though he often lives to regret it: he once swore off eating bread for a year, but cracked after a few minutes; a bet to remain celibate for a year was cancelled after nine days. But the prop bet that made the headlines, for all the wrong reasons, was one where for 48 hours he was not allowed to walk, only to lunge forward (going down on one knee then the other). It caused him so much pain that at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, rather than face going to the toilet, he made use of an empty water bottle at the table, and was promptly disqualified for “breach of tournament etiquette”. To Antonio Esfandiari’s credit, he offered up a sincere public apology for taking things too far, and donated his $50,000 winnings from the prop bet to charity.
Phil Ivey and the $150,000 steak
Phil Ivey is another player who is never afraid to take a big bet. His golf course wagers with Doyle Brunson and Daniel Negreanu are the stuff of legend, and he famously had a $5 million wager on whether he could win two WSOP bracelets in two years (despite his 10 bracelets overall, he only managed one bracelet in that period). But his craziest prop bet was when Tom Dwan challenged him to go vegetarian for a year. Phil Ivey stood to take down $1 million if he could swear off meat, something he had been thinking of doing anyway. But in the event, Phil Ivey said, he was too busy to work out how to eat healthily, and found eating pasta three times a day affected his poker. So he bought out of the bet after just nine days. The cost of that first juicy steak? $150,000…
Read part two of this Top 10, along with the eagerly awaited result of this weekend’s McDonald’s prop bet.