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Financial Incentives

by Gavin Griffin |  Published: Jun 02, 2021


Usually, the end of the year is when I put on some weight due to Thanksgiving and Christmas. In 2020, I took the beginning of the year to put weight on and the end of the year to take it off. Thanks to a weight loss bet with some members of the poker community, I’m hoping to continue some work on this subject.

Now that this six-month long weight loss bet (and then a four-day long weight gain weekend) is over, I thought I’d share some of the details. Each of the participants in the bet were tasked with losing 10% of their body weight from the start of the bet over six months. We were to weigh in each month and meet interim goals.

Each interim goal we didn’t meet along the way was a $500 penalty and each pound we were over our goal weight at the end of the six months was another $500 penalty. If you made your final goal weight, but missed some of the goals along the way, those penalties were halved. Besides a few times around Thanksgiving and Christmas, I never really felt like I was in jeopardy to not make all of my goals, so it was pretty smooth sailing for me.

There was a discussion towards the end of the bet in our group chat about the motivations for the bet, and how it was best to lose weight. Many people felt that the only way to stay on good habits for eating and exercising is to have some sort of financial reward or penalty tied to weight loss or gain. I don’t tend to agree with that, although I can see the point of those that do believe it.

Obviously, there have been many weight loss prop bets in the past in the poker community. The most famous of which was the one between Ted Forrest and Mike Matusow in 2010. Mike laid 10:1 and later 20:1 that 5’11’’, 188-pound Ted couldn’t get under 140 pounds. Although Ted managed to pull it off, based on the last information I could find on the subject, Mike has still not paid off his bet.

One of the members of our group weight loss bet was famously part of a previous weight loss freeroll. Adam Schwartz made an off-handed comment on his podcast about the Staples brothers’ weight loss bet to the person that offered them the bet, Bill Perkins. As a result, Bill offered a $25,000 freeroll for Adam to lose 80 pounds and keep the weight off for two months. Adam made weight in a grueling and, honestly, unhealthy way, but he got paid the money.

I was up over 200 pounds for the first time in my life around May of 2020. A mixture of poor eating, depression, and a lack of desire to exercise led to it, and I decided at that point that it was time for me to try and fix it. I had lost about 20 pounds or so by the time I heard about the weight loss bet that was being organized. My motivation had dipped by that point, but I was holding steady at around 185 pounds. The bet gave me some newfound purpose, as did meeting the interim goals. Instead of my original goal of losing around 50 pounds in a year to get to my goal weight, I was intent on losing the three pounds or so that I needed to lose every month.

Now, obviously, having a financial penalty for not losing the three pounds is an extra motivator, but I’ve learned over the years that setting realistic and clearly defined goals with achievable milestones is key to my ability to reach those goals. Even in prop bets, it’s possible to be results-oriented. I think many of the people who lost money in the bet think they did so because the penalty for losing wasn’t big enough, and most of the people who won money think they would have been able to do it without the financial motivation.

I think I would have been able to meet the goal without the financial motivation, but there were definitely times where I looked at a donut or piece of leftover Easter candy, and decided that it wasn’t worth it to eat it for the chance that it would cost me money. The intention of our bet was to lose weight in a healthy and sustainable way, and I think most in our group would agree that this was achievable.

Additionally, as far as I know, everyone in the group who made money has been paid. It was a successful bet with no hard feelings from those who didn’t make weight to those who did, and many of us are running it back for another five months. If you happen to see me at a poker room, please don’t offer me any donuts! ♠

Gavin GriffinGavin Griffin was the first poker player to win the Triple Crown, capturing a World Series of Poker, European Poker Tour, and World Poker Tour title, and has amassed more than $5 million in lifetime tournament winnings. You can follow him on Twitter @NHGG