In case you didn't know, poker players tend to like to gamble with their money, and I'm not talking strictly in cash games or poker tournaments. Prop betting offers another way for poker players to be in action and have their money on the line. Working in the industry, oftentimes some of the members of the media enjoy feeling the same adrenaline rush from making a prop bet, especially when they're able to make such a wager against a player. The excitement is only greatened when that player is of a high caliber and well known, because then you're gambling with the best of them. Yes, we all know anyone, anywhere can plop down a certain amount of money and buy into a poker event to play with those players, but it's not so often you get to compete with them off the felt.
Last week, in Melbourne, Australia, a few of the members of the media, myself included, ventured out to dinner with two Team PokerStars Pros, Daniel Negreanu and Jason Mercier. The venue of choice was Ichi Ni Izakaya, a Japanese restaurant down by the water in St. Kilda. The conversation was lively, the sake was flowing and everyone was feeling good -- maybe too good.
One of the members of the PokerNews team, Remko Rinkema, brought up the idea of challenging someone to a best-of-seven sports competition. Maybe it was the ego, maybe it was the sake or the vodka cranberries, maybe it was just something in the air; whatever it was, Rinkema decided to challenge Mercier.
Now, before we get into more specifics of the bet, let me give a little background on where the bet stemmed from. Rinkema made a bet last year against former Team PokerStars Pro Noah Boeken while at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. It was a weight-loss bet and at the time Rinkema weighed in at 128.5 kilograms. The details of the bet were that for every kilogram over 100, Rinkema had to pay $500 and for every kilogram under 100, Boeken owed him $500. Rinkema had just under one year before the final weigh-in took place during the 2012 PCA. When it was all said and done, Rinkema weighed 95.2 kilograms. Partial kilograms didn't count, which meant Rinkema lost four kilograms total and earned a payment of $2,000 from Boeken. That's quite the effort given that he had to drop 28.5 kilograms just to break even. Not too mention, Rinkema earned a nice little payday.
Given that background story, Rinkema would like to keep up his healthy, weight-losing ways and though this would be another reason for him to keep on the right track in getting in the best shape he's been in since his teenage years. Both he and Mercier discussed the terms of the bet and settled on a wager of $5,000. Yes, this was a little high for Rinkema's liking, but it was decided that it would ultimately give him the most drive to win. The amount also had to be enough that Mercier would actually want to try and win. After all, the guy has earned over $7.6 million in live tournament earnings and probably several million more in cash games.
After some debating and banter back and forth, it was decided that I would arbitrate the bet with Rinkema selecting four sports to Mercier's three. For each sport picked, I would decide the competition within that sport that the two would engage in. For example, if one of them selected basketball, I could decide that the competition would be a game of one-on-one with the first player to seven winning.
For the rest of the night, the two went back and forth a little bit about the bet. They even sought out the opinions of others in the party before taking to Twitter to get even more views. Right away, Mercier seemed pretty confident about the bet and tweeted the following.
@JasonMercier: "Booked a 5k prop bet last night against @happyfreaked we play best of 7 sports and he chooses 4 I choose 3 ... Think I'm -260 to win #mash"
Rinkema, though, didn't seem as confident in Mercier, even though he had the edge in sports to be picked, four to three. Here's what he first tweeted about the bet.
@happyfreaked: "So I made this silly prop bet with @JasonMercier tonight. Gotta think of 4 sports I can beat him at in 24 hours. Time to get some sleep now."
Mercier then went on to add even more words of confidence in the following tweet.
@JasonMercier: "@DWBenefield @happyfreaked pretty sure he's drawing dead in the 3 I'll pick, so I just gotta beat him in one of his 4"
In the details of the bet, Rinkema was supposed to pick his four sports first, but he seemed to have a bit of a hard time doing so.
@happyfreaked: "Having a hard time figuring out which 4 sports I will pick. Leaning towards tennis, cycling time trial, speed skating on ice and kickboxing."
After some back and forth banter on Twitter that included Mercier asking for my ruling on Rinkema's time frame for choosing his sports and plenty of players, fans and media members voicing their thoughts, Rinkema decided on his four sports as tug of war, cycling, snowboarding and speed skating on ice. But Mercier wasn't buying those and argued against a couple of them.
@JasonMercier: "@happyfreaked tug of war a sport? Also, assumed since we are supposed to do this in Vegas in the SUMMER snowboarding? @Donnie_Peters Plz"
I have to agree, tug of war was a bit of a stretch by Rinkema and I disallowed it. I also agreed with Mercier on the idea of snowboarding. This bet is supposed to take place during the summer and the World Series of Poker, preferably at the beginning. It's also supposed to be able to be completed within 24 hours. Having to trek up to a mountain and compete in snowboarding more than likely wouldn't be doable. I also disallowed speed skating on ice for the same reason as snowboarding. Speed skating in the summer in Las Vegas? Good luck with that. I also don't think it's overly fair to include a sport that each person much go out and buy some unique equipment for. Finding a basketball or some tennis racquets is one thing, but speed skates? Don't think that's going to happen.
Given all of that, the only sport that actually stood was cycling, leaving Rinkema to have to pick three more. Cue the Jeopardy theme song because this took some time for him to finally decide. Eventually, he chose shot put as another one of his four. Although Mercier tried to argue against shot put, as you can read in his following tweets, it's part of the Olympics, a sport involved in track and field competitions, so I allowed it.
@JasonMercier: "Shotput is just an event in track and field. If u can't make a living at it specifically... It's not a sport!! @happyfreaked @Donnie_Peters"
@JasonMercier: "That's like me picking half court basketball shots. Basketball is the sport. Donnie would choose what we do in the sport"
Sorry, Mercier, there are specific athletes who specialize in shot put and shot put only. It is a sport, although one more unique one, but it's still a qualifying sport.
Another day or so passed before Rinkema added his final two sports. It took him a lot of deliberating, Wikipedia research and consultation from friends, but he finally picked rowing and inline skating. He still wasn't that impressed about a couple of his first selections getting turned down, though.
@happyfreaked: "After long deliberation I pick Cycling, Shot pot, Rowing and inline speed skating. @JasonMercier @Donnie_Peters"
@happyfreaked: "Still not happy about getting turned down on the initial sports, but these are as legit as they get imo."
Then, it was Mercier's turn and he had to select the final three events of the competition. Shortly after Rinkema finalized his four picks, Mercier responded with his three to close out the drafting.
@JasonMercier: ".@Donnie_Peters @happyfreaked I choose basketball, racquetball, baseball guess I just gotta figure out which of Remko's sports I can win at"
With all seven sports now picked, it's up to me, as the arbitrator to decide what these two will compete at for the sports. After a little bit of thought, it's been decided.
For cycling, the two will compete in a 10-kilometer time trial. The person who competes the 10 kilometers the fastest wins this competition. For shot put, it was very simple -- distance. For rowing, I chose to have the two row for 15 minutes of elapsed time and whoever completes the most distance wins. For inline speed skating, the two will have a one-on-one race with the distance yet to be determined.
For the three sports that Mercier selected -- basketball, baseball and racquetball -- the following was chosen. For basketball, the two will play a one-on-one format with the first player to score 15 points winning. You must win by two in this event and all baskets will be worth one point. For racquetball, the two will play another one-on-one format and it will be best-of-three games. The first person to score 15 points wins each game. For baseball, the two will play home run derby with 10 outs allotted per side. A neutral pitcher will be used.
Those are the seven sports and the competitions that will be completed for each. With the event set to take place at the beginning of the WSOP, it's going to be something great to come out and watch if you're in the area. We'll be sure to keep everyone posted about the happenings of the bet and competition, so as always, stay tuned.