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Poker News | PokerWorks Op-Ed

Poker Plus – The High-Rolling World of Prop Bets

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Just what is it that makes them different from us - the high rollers, the professional poker players that are in the news making headlines? One thing that separates them from us is the big scores they make at major tournaments. Another is their bankrolls are big enough get them a seat in those big cash games. But the one thing that really sets the Pros apart is that most of them are not just poker players – but true gamblers in every sense of the word.

While many every day poker players pride themselves on the fact they are not gamblers but in fact poker players who rely on skill to win; the true gambler makes no such statement. That is why at almost every high stakes game, the prop bet action usually rivals or outshines the poker action. Many of these successful poker players got to where they are because they’re truly gamblers at heart. Whether going all-in or throwing money on the pass line, many professional poker players are known to be loose with their cash and nowhere are they looser than with the prop bets that they make at the poker table. High stakes poker players are notorious for the proposition bets they set up with each other.

But what is a prop bet? It is a wager made between two or more people in the form of a side bet based on some proposition or outcome.

When it comes to prop bets, there is one name that has been indulging in this form of gambling longer than most of today’s poker players have been alive. That is one reason why there is one poker player whose name is synonymous with ‘Gambler’ and that name is Doyle Brunson.  In his book, ‘The Godfather of Poker,’ Brunson recounts not only his lifetime of poker escapades, but also his hundreds of proposition bets. Over the years, Brunson lost a small fortune betting that he would lose weight. It wasn’t until 2003 when a group of his fellow poker players offered him10 to 1 on a $100,000 wager that he finally succeeded in dropping below 300 pounds with help from Weight Watchers and Atkins. Not only did he shed the fat, but he pocketed a cool $1 Million in the process.

Another weight loss bet didn’t work out as well for Mike ‘The Mouth’ Matusow when just before the 2005 World Series of Poker he made a bet with fellow pro Erick Lindgren. The wager was to see who could lose the most weight with the winner receiving $20,000.  Complaining later, Matusow said, “I dropped 17lb and still lost the bet. He lost an extra 2lbs, but he sandbagged me. He told me he couldn’t lose any more weight – he looked like a fat pig and I believed him. It was bullshit. He admitted it later. But I don’t care.” In 2007 at the WSOP, Matusow was ready to try again, so he accepted when Ted Forrest bet him that he couldn’t lose 60 pounds before the 2008 WSOP.  Matusow prevailed and gained $100,000 by losing 62 pounds.

On the flip side of the losing weight prop bets are the ‘Bet You Can’t Eat That’ wagers.

Vegetarian Howard Lederer took David Grey up on his $10,000 bet that he couldn’t eat a cheeseburger. Howard promptly proceeded to demolish a juicy cheeseburger and then remembered that Grey hated olives. Howard offered Grey a chance to win back his money if he would eat some fruit of the olive tree. Grey responded by tossing Howard the $10,000 he won, declining the challenge. A few days later, Lederer and Grey were at a party and while they were walking by the buffet table, Grey said, “Look – there are millions of dollars worth of olives!”

The World Series of Poker is a breeding ground for prop bets and this year’s event was no different. In another food wager,  Andy Bloch accepted a $25,000 bet from Erik Sidel and Howard Lederer that he couldn’t eat 24 cupcakes in 90 minutes. After five cupcakes things looked grim for Bloch as he Tweeted he was thinking of quitting. He gave up after forcing down another one and a half cupcakes. Then to make things worse, the icing on the cake was when he was eliminated from the $5,000 No Limit Holdem Shootout event shortly after he lost the cupcake wager. As he prepared to leave the table, Bloch graciously offered everyone at the table a cupcake.

Prop bets have been a favorite form of gambling among poker players going back to before there were even Texas Hold em poker games in Vegas. A favored bet of poker legend Amarillo Slim was to get a conversation going about bowling where he would recall a fellow he once saw bowling blindfolded and how the guy never could break 100. Without fail someone would always swallow Slim’s bait and insist they could do it. Slim, knowing that a blindfolded bowler gets too disorientated to hit the pins, always won.  

The most common and favored prop bets among pros has long been sports bets, and nowhere does more money get wagered than on the golf course.  World Series champion Huck Seed once took a six figure bet that he could break 100 on a desert golf course four times in one day and do it using just a five iron, sand wedge and putter. To make it even harder, whoever took the bet could pick the day Huck would play. Even though Huck teed up in over 100 degree desert heat, he ran the course all day and won the bet in six rounds.

There’s nothing like hitting the golf course with a buddy on a beautiful day, which is what Daniel Negreanu and Patrick Antonius did. But unlike most friends who go golfing together, these two gamblers were playing for $20,000 a hole. During the first nine, Negreanu was down, but he was able to get his game on track on the back nine and collect $20K from Patrick in the end. And for long odds golf story; the outcome of a golf wager between Erick Lindgren and Phil Ivey may not be known for years. Erick who is known to be a good golfer and Ivey, who is well known for being a duffer, have bet a whopping half a million dollars on their golf match. To win, Ivey has to beat Erick over 72 holes. The clincher is that Ivey has eight years to try to win the $500,000 bet, but rumor is that Ivey has started to hedge his bet by beating Erick out of his cash in match plays.

When it comes to prop bets, nothing is off limits and no single prop bet proves this better than the $100,000 bet Brian Zembic accepted from his gambling friends. The catch? Zembic had to get breast implants. Proving the old adage that some people will do anything for money, Zembic was soon sporting a set of 36C’s. And while that is odd enough, the weirder part is that Zembic kept his new appendages, citing the fact they proved to be a babe magnet.

And while the gambling old guard may have drawn the line at prop bets involving the addition of female body parts, they were not opposed to physical peril. Back when Johnny Moss was in his prime, he and his cronies were in a bar drinking beside a big brute who bragged of never having lost a bar fight. Moss’ buddies gave him 15 to 1 that he couldn’t knock-out the bar brawler. Moss got up and started sucker punching the guy from behind. His sneaky attack didn’t work however and Moss wound up in hospital with several broken bones. Later, when asked why he did it, Moss replied as only a true gambler would, “15 to 1 was too good to pass up.”

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