In an undisclosed location somewhere in Las Vegas, Nevada right now, pro poker player Rich Alati is hard at work trying to win another $100,000. Friends and family are tuning in from home. He’s not sitting at a poker table working his way through a tournament or grinding a cash game against some tourists, though.
Alati is locked in complete darkness in a bathroom where he has to stay for 30 days without any communication with the outside world. It’s the latest crazy prop bet that has the poker world talking. If Alati finishes the 30 days, he’ll profit $100,000 – but if he quits, fellow poker pro Rory Young pockets the cash. The bet came together a few months back at the Bellagio poker room where Alati and Young are often playing cash games. This isn’t a basic run of the mill game of global poker with a bunch of newbies.
“One day, there was this young dude sitting at an empty table with like $40,000 in front of him and I sat down and we started playing heads up,” said Young. “We started getting along okay and then over the next couple of days we were talking at the table and stuff. I play a lot of Lodden Thinks and this is one of my go-to questions, ‘How long do you think you could last in a dark room, with no human interaction?’”
Young has heard all kinds of answers and believes most people often overestimate their own abilities when answering. Responses are usually in the 20-25 day range, but Young says Alati surprised him with his answer of 30 days.
“I was like, ‘Oh, that’s interesting – would you ever consider putting any money on it?’ and he said, ‘Yeah, but it would have to be a large amount to make it worthwhile,’” said Young, who found out that amount meant somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000. “We talked a little bit more and within an hour we had something booked.”
Each of them escrowed $5,000 with somebody they both knew and trusted. Alati had six months to attempt the bet. If either of them decided not to proceed with the bet, the other took home the $10,000. If the bet went forward, they each got their $5,000 back.
“The conditions are complete darkness, so no electronics, no light-emitting devices, no drugs of any kind,” said Young. “He is allowed any type of food that he wants. He has a bed in there, he has a shower and a bathtub. He has pretty lavish toiletries like Epsom salts, sugar scrubs, that kind of stuff.”
Along with food from Flower Child (a Las Vegas restaurant), some sliced fruit, almond milk, cereal, and Pop Tarts he has in his fridge, meals are being delivered to Alati during the 30 days, but not on a regular basis so as not to give him any indication as to how much time has passed.
“Food is delivered every three to six days and we’ve randomized what days it’ll be delivered and we’ll drop off six days worth of food so he doesn’t know how long it’s been,” said Young. “It could be three days, it could be six days. He’ll have no idea of how long it’s been, so no watches or clocks or things like that.”
There are five night-vision cameras broadcasting around the clock and the only privacy Alati gets is when he’s in the shower or the toilet cubicle. Alati’s family and a few select others have access to the feed.
Young thinks that he’s getting by far the best of it – especially at even money.
“I don’t think he ever thought to ask for odds,” said Young. “He just kind of wanted to do it. He didn’t think about it. I guess I was lucky in that regard. I feel like the true odds are between 5- and 10-to-1. His hourly throughout the whole thing, if he wins, is only $140. That’s a good hourly, but it’s not a good hourly for this and he loses a decent amount of the time.”
When they were finalizing the terms of the bet, Young included a clause that subjected Alati to a cavity search before entering the bathroom. Believing that would deter Alati from even attempting to smuggle something into the bathroom he shouldn’t have, Young felt he didn’t have to enforce that clause. Alati does have to provide urine samples throughout the 30 days for drug testing, though.
With six figures on the line, Young thought Alati would do some advance research and prepare himself for the prolonged isolation, but that’s not at all what happened.
“He spent, I believe, 10 minutes in a dark bathroom,” said Young. “He was in the Bahamas for the partypoker event, flew back, and within 24 hours he was in the bathroom. He hadn’t prepared any of his food, he hadn’t gotten anyone to bring his food in, so I’ve had to do it. I think he’s done zero preparation.”
The around-the-clock footage is being recorded and Young and Alati are hoping to turn it into a reality show and find a home for it once all is said and done.
One of those watching the live feed is Alati’s sister. Young has talked to her on a near-daily basis since the bet started on November 21. Not surprisingly, his sister, a lawyer, tried to get him to back out and just give up the $5,000.
“They tried to get him to not do it but he doesn’t listen to anybody but himself. She tried very hard to get him to pull out and he wasn’t having it. She’s pretty worried,” said Young, who admits to having some worries over potential health issues for Alati during and after the bet.
“I’m a firm believer in that there are two consenting adults and if it doesn’t do any harm to a third party, then it’s morally justifiable,” said Young. “I don’t have any hangups about the ethical side of this. I think it’s different if it was a freeroll. I think I can have some ethical concerns there.
“I have a bit of concern for his eyesight, but we’re taking all of the necessary conditions.”
Young likes his side of this prop bet so much that the terms for him to be in Alati’s shoes would be quite different with a much, much bigger payoff.
“It would have to be a freeroll or crazy odds like 50-1 where it’s essentially a freeroll,” said Young. “My number on a freeroll would be $5,000,000. I’m pretty comfortable, I enjoy my life as it is and I don’t think my life would change that much if I had an extra $5,000,000. I’m not crazy wealthy or anything, but I’m already pretty happy and I don’t think it would improve my happiness enough – it’s torture.”
With word of the prop bet making its way through the Las Vegas poker scene, Young heard from somebody else wanting to take on the challenge, but for far more money.
“The other night, I get a phone call from a random number and it’s Huckleberry Seed. Long story short, he wants to do it for a million, but he wants much tougher conditions,” said Young, who said he’d consider taking the former WSOP Main Event champ up on the offer if a broadcast partner or other third party put up some of the money. “[Seed] said he wants to do it with no bed, no food for the first 21 days, he’d do it for a total of 40 days, and just water. Also, he said I could put some cockroaches in the bathroom.”