Shaun Deeb puts his money where his mouth is.
Last March, hedge fund manager and poker enthusiast Bill Perkins offered Deeb a wager: ten-to-one odds on $100,000 that he couldn’t get his body fat percentage down to 17% before the start of the 2024 World Series of Poker on May 28th.
This isn’t Perkins’ first weight-loss-bet-rodeo. In 2018, brothers Matt and Jaime Staples won $150,000 off him by erasing the 170-pound deficit between the two of them. More recently, in 2023, Doug Polk fell just short in his attempt to shed 50% of his body fat and paid Perkins $200,000 for his shortcomings–a steep cost to get in shape, but the results show.
Deeb, not one to shy away from a challenge, accepted the bet and immediately went to work. Interestingly enough, Perkins may have misstepped slightly with the timing of his offer. As Deeb tells it, “Basically, Bill got very unlucky. Two weeks earlier, before the bet was offered to me, I talked to my regular primary doctor about going on Ozempic because there was some stuff going on where I felt like I needed to be more physically fit to help with my family. So, I was already in the mental state to do it without a bet.”
For Perkins, however, the bet isn’t entirely about the money–it’s also about encouraging and inspiring others to pursue their own health goals.
Speaking on Perkins’ motivations, Deeb said, “I think he’s very happy with the work I’ve put in. He knows that this has made the changes that he was hoping for and, even more so, it inspired thousands of people in this community and outside this community. That was his goal. You can tell Bill: if he could give me a million dollars and, you know, a million pounds would be lost by the community–he will pay that all day, every day.”
Now, with a little less than four months to go, Deeb has shared an update on his progress.
The DEXA scan he shared shows that Deeb weighed in at 296.6 pounds with a body fat percentage of 40.2% in April of last year, but has since slimmed down to 222.9 pounds with a body fat percentage of 23.9%. Impressive, to say the least, but there’s still work to be done.
When asked how he felt confidence-wise, Deeb responded, “I’ve erred on the side of confidence in everything I’ve ever put myself towards in life. So, obviously I feel super confident, but I do know that there’s a lot of variance in how the body reacts in various stages of this bet.”
After posting the recent DEXA scan results, there were murmurs throughout the community that Deeb had it locked up–even Perkins felt the pressure–but he’s not so certain, “No one really knows what ‘on track’ is for this because it’s such a unique bet. And there’s so many variables that the individual body can go through. There is no set track record. I could be ahead of pace, I could be behind pace. No one really knows because there’s not enough data points and samples to know for sure.”
Finding the right motivation
Deeb’s cautious optimism will likely serve him well going forward. After all, he still has nearly 7% body fat to shed before the end of May. The money Deeb stands to win if victorious certainly plays a role in his motivations, but winning isn’t as lucrative as it seems at first glance.
“Obviously the money is sweet, but the money really just ends up offsetting the costs I’ve spent on this bet. I live in New York, I pay super-high taxes. If I win this bet, I’m paying $400,000-$500,000 with the taxes. It’s not a 10:1 proposition, it’s really even money,” Deeb told us.
Another deciding factor in Deeb’s motivations are the opinions of those in the community–more specifically, those that doubted him when the idea of the bet first arose.
Deeb relishes the idea of proving people wrong, saying “The publicity of this bet is extra motivation. I’ve always been a vanity person on accolades and different things in poker. So, as soon as the bet was super publicized, that motivates me even more. I laugh, you know, people said I was drawing dead, I could never do this, I would never be motivated enough. Then the people that know me well in poker–I remember I talked to Timex (Mike McDonald) early on and he’s like, ‘I’m a hyper-competitive person and you are one of the few people I think are even more mentally crazy when it comes to that.’ Because that’s what a lot of this bet is, the mental willpower.”
Then there’s the question of what happens after the bet: will the healthy lifestyle stick? It’s one thing to shed the weight, but a completely different story when it comes to keeping it off.
Deeb sums it up as, “What I decide to do after is really dependent on how I feel mentally and physically at the end of the bet. Obviously, I’ll never push myself as hard as I’m doing right now ever again. There’s just no incentive. And it’s just miserable. I haven’t been able to enjoy myself being healthier just because of how hard I’m working and how little energy I have. So, it’ll be very different, just maintaining and however I feel is what I’ll do. My goal is to continue to be happy in life and successful in poker and whatever else I do, so I don’t want this to ever affect that, like it has.”
“All the outs to succeed.”
To his credit, Deeb recognizes the importance of the team undertaking this journey alongside him. Winning the bet clearly requires immense willpower and mental fortitude from Deeb, but in the background, a team of key players aids him every step of the way–plus, the crucial support from his wife Ashley: “She has had to do more for this bet than I could ever have imagined.”
In all fairness, there’s no other way to approach something like this, to go at it solo would spell almost-certain disaster.
Deeb told us, “It’s truly a group commitment. Everyone on my team, between my trainer, nutritionist, massage therapist–we all talk all the time, they all talk to each other. It’s really a community effort. And you know, I was talking earlier about the motivation: I have to say, for my team, if I fail this, they’re all gonna feel like shit–like they failed in some way. But really, they’ve given me all the outs to succeed. So, I just have to put in the work at the gym and be strict on the diet, and I will win. That’s what I’ve been doing for 10 months now. And that’s what we’ll do for the last four months.”
Images Courtesy of World Poker Tour