Experts Say Rich Alati Bathroom Bet Risks Not As Severe As Expected

Rory Young (and Rich Alati
The risk that Rich Alati (right) is assuming in his $100K bathroom bet against Rory Young (left) may not be quite as big as first assumed, according to doctors.

When the details of the Rich Alati bathroom bet first emerged two weeks ago, many of the armchair quarterbacks at home decided that Alati was going to do serious damage to his mental health or his vision – and potentially both – over the course of the 30-day prop bet.

As a reminder, Alati is attempting to spend 30 days in a bathroom in complete darkness with no contact with the outside world. If he makes it, Rory Young has to pay him $100,000, but if for any reason Alati leaves the room, he loses the bet and has to pay Young the $100,000.

Even Young admitted to being worried about what the impact of this bet might be on Alati’s vision.

“I have a bit of concern for his eyesight, but we’re taking all of the necessary conditions,” Young said. The actual contract that Alati and Young signed to make the bet official even protects Young from any legal action if Alati suffers “blindness, diminished vision, loss of any eye function” as a result of the 30 days. It turns out, he may not have anything to worry about.

“There’s really no risk to his eyes. The eye is a really, really interesting organ, and it has both light-adapted and dark-adapted states, and it can function perfectly fine in either state,” said Dianna Seldomridge, MD, clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology and an ophthalmologist at Duke (University) Eye Center in North Carolina.

Spending up to 30 days in that dark-adapted state may not have any negative impact on his eyes, but Seldomridge believes that Alati’s circadian rhythm could be in for a rough ride as it’s actually regulated by the release of melatonin that comes from light stimulation of the retina.

There’s also little reason to believe that when he leaves the room after 30 days that any exposure to light, natural or otherwise, could harm his vision. Seldomridge emphasizes that just like the eyes adjusted to the dark-adapted state, they’ll revert back to normal once he returns to the real world.

“He may be a little bit light sensitive the first time he comes out into the light, just like you may notice that if you go from a dark room out into the bright sunlight, you may put your hand up to shield your eyes, because you’re a little bit more sensitive to the light,” said Seldomridge. “But there’s no danger to his eye, but he just may be a teeny bit light sensitive as his eyes readjust to going back to the light.”

One of the items Alati was allowed to take inside the room was a Rubix Cube. Seldomridge believes he’ll have a hard time being able to use it, though. The complete absence of light means he won’t be able to see any of the colors.

Dr. Joel Dvoskin,  a clinical and forensic psychologist now teaching at the University of Arizona, is an expert on the impact that solitary confinement has had on prisoners’ mental health. While the conditions that Alati is under for the 30 days may seem harsh, Dvoskin believes there’s a key factor many people are overlooking.

“It probably matters that he chose this, rather than having it done to him,” said Dvoskin. “To say that there’s a risk of psychological harm, while you can’t prove it, I agree with it. But how big that risk is, nobody knows.”

Having studied and spoken to prisoners who have found themselves in solitary confinement for longer stretches, Dvoskin stresses that there is no standard here for how an individual will deal with that level of isolation.

“Some guys in prison don’t ever want to leave their cell,” Dvoskin said. “They don’t want to work. Their meals get delivered. They don’t mind solitude. They regard it as their preferred way of doing time, probably because it’s safer. Some people hate it. I think the point about you never know how you’re going to deal with something until you experience it is probably true.”

The main issue for Alati could be not knowing how much time has passed. His food deliveries are randomized and he’s not allowed any device which tells him the time or date.

“Some people have a better internal clock than other people do, so that might matter,” said Dvoskin. “For some people, it’s like, ‘Hey, I got this. I’m 15 days in. This is a piece of cake.’ For other people, if the stress is cumulative, it could get worse as time passes.”

Dvoskin also believes that Alati’s chosen career – professional poker player – could play a factor in how he deals with the stress of the bet.

“[Poker players] are different than other people,” said Dvoskin. “Most people don’t choose to do that for a living. If you’re a professional gambler, if you’re gambling against other professional gamblers, you could lose. The real professional gamblers aren’t gambling. They know they’re going to win because they’re that much better than everybody else. But the people in the World Series of Poker … I’m not an expert in that world by any means, but you have to be able to handle some stress. If you know there is a million dollars riding on the next card that comes up and you have no control whatsoever of what that card’s going to be, not everybody would choose to do that.”

Young and Alati have decided to limit the amount of updates from the bet. For Alati to win the bet, he needs to stay in the room until December 21.