You Can’t Run Twice As Fast As I Can Hop
Prop Bets (Proposition Bets)
Damon Runyon whose stories were the basis for “Guys and Dolls” was supposed to have said this to his son: “Son I can’t leave much to you in the way of wealth but I can leave impart with you this piece of wisdom. One day you may run into a man with a flower in his lapel. He may say to you, I’ll bet this flower can squirt grapefruit juice in your eye. I don’t know how he’s going to do it, but son I can assure you that if you bet that man, you will end up with grapefruit juice in your eye!”
This young man I met at the hotel bar in Louisville during the Kentucky Derby could have used that advice. As I was having a drink waiting for a couple of friends, a young man also waiting struck up a conversation with me, probably because I’m Asian and the state had 1% of that ethnicity at that time. He asked where was I from? I told him I was from L.A. and was going to play in the Phil Hellmuth Poker Tournament that evening. “Oh do you play poker there?” he asked. I answered, “Yes, I play poker in L.A. and in Vegas.” He said, “Oh, I’ve been to Vegas, but that city is dangerous!” I asked why? “Well, you can lose money on the sidewalk.” “How?” I inquired. He said, “Well, there was this guy on the sidewalk and he was taking bets on guessing which cup had the ball.” “That’s the 3 card monte,” I exclaimed. “It’s the oldest hustle in the book.” “Yeah, but they were other people in the crowd that would win!” he defended himself.
In the movie “Lucky You”, Eric Bana plays Huck Cheever who must accomplish feats to enter the World Series of Poker. Those prop bets were based on the bets Huck Seed would propose and bets would be made by the skeptics. He bet that he could do a headstand for 58 minutes. He won it by doing it for an hour. Huck also bet that he could play 3 rounds of golf in one day, walking with only a 5 iron and break 100 each time in the middle of the Las Vegas scorching hot summer. Of course he won that.
Huck was a superb athlete at 6’6”. He’s an excellent long distance runner, played basketball for Cal Tech, and can shoot golf in the 70’s. I had made a $25k bet with him that he couldn’t beat me in a judo match with only 3 months to train on the premise that he couldn’t develop the skills needed to beat me. This was based on the fact that Ken Gibo bragged that he had made black belt the fastest after only 1 year. Fukushima Sensei always thought that had been a mistake as he lacked the maturity from such a rapid advancement. It usually took at least 2 years of intensive training. Shortly after we made that bet, Huck had walked up to the poker table and said, “I’ll bet there’s no woman in the world that can beat me in both a mile race and golf from the blue tees.” I thought about it and was inclined to agree with him. The woman would have to be a world-class runner and be able to shoot golf in the low 70’s from the back tees. There might be someone in the world but finding her would be a massive task in the 90’s before google. Unfortunately, a friend of mine called me over and said, “bet him. I know someone. I’ll take half.” I chased after Huck and bet him $25k. I said unfortunately because although Jim Salerno did know a girl who was an excellent golfer, she was not capable of beating Huck in a mile race. Fortunately, Huck didn’t think he would beat me in judo since he hadn’t even started training so we decided to wash both bets.
Another statement Huck made was “No one can run twice as fast as I can hop.” I mentioned that one while on a golf trip up to Lake Tahoe and someone took me up on the bet. Although Huck is a much better athlete than me, it was only for $200 so I thought I would try it. We saw a field and pulled the van over. Unexpectedly, Tab had joined the race and started hopping and I turned my head to look at him. The distraction caused me to lose my balance and I lost the race. I honestly explained what had happened, but now my opponent wanted to do it again but for $2000 this time. When I won, he thought I had hustled him by throwing the 1st race despite being straightforward about losing my balance.
Over 10 years later, I lost to Sonny on the roof of a parking garage in DTLA. I was then offered a 10 yard spot. I had to only hop 40 yards while they ran 100 yards. We marked it off in the alley and I won this time against 2 kids in their early 30’s but it was close with one of them who was a top sprinter.
Now it’s about another 10 years later and I somehow make this bet again. Although I’m 67 now and my opponent is only 36, he is at least 20 lbs. overweight and lives a very unhealthy lifestyle. When I was 39, I had made a $25k bet on a mile race with Mark Weitzman when he weighed 220 lbs. I gave him 3 months to get ready and he had amazingly slimmed down to 170 lbs. I’m not particularly good at running long distances and I knew Mark was, but I thought I could beat someone that was so fat. I was shocked he had lost 50 lbs. in only 3 months. I was, however, able to get down to a 7 minute mile. Accidentally, as I was leaving training one day, Mark arrived on the track with his trainer. I stopped to spy on him and he ran a mile in about 7 ½ minutes. I was encouraged because I could handle that but I didn’t realize that it was just a warm-up. He ran again in 6 ½ minutes. I now realized I was in trouble. During the race, we were on a 6 minute mile pace running neck to neck for 3 laps. My best time in my prime in high school was 5:58 21 years ago. While training for this race, I had hit the wall for the 1st time in my life. I now realized what Huck meant when he would say he hit the wall. It’s a frightening experience. I realized it was time to negotiate and I offered to take $2000 from Mark. He said no. I now offered to take $1,000 and again Mark said no but he counter offered to call it off. Mark was the better natural runner, had easily run 30 seconds faster at 6:30 than me, and I still had the risk of hitting the wall. If I was willing to settle for $1k, I decided the loss of $25k wasn’t worth the risk because there was nothing in my favor. This time, I didn’t want to make the same mistake, so I set this hopping race for 3 weeks which would limit the weight he could lose or have time to train and he agreed.
Walking to the bank the next day, I tried hopping but was only able to go about 20 yards and totally winded. What had I done now? I had $13,800 bet and I couldn’t even hop. First, I would have to improve my conditioning and when I returned, I went on the treadmill. I do a 4 mph fast walk and then run 6 mph alternating until I finish a mile. I did this almost daily but increased both speeds. I also did weight exercises for my hamstrings and quads. My hopping improved but it was still over 20 seconds. I went to the track and my routine was to jog a half lap and then hop 50 yards. I would do this 3 times and I was able to get my time down to 17 seconds. I reached out to Mel who I had barely beaten by hopping only 40 yards. He said he ran the 100 in 12 seconds. If I had hopped 50 yards, he said it would have been 14 seconds. I didn’t know if this was going to be good enough even if I could hop that fast, so I started doing exercises to strengthen my calves The Saturday before the race, I went to train but on my 2nd hop, my right leg gave out after only 10 yards. Rather than risk injury, I stopped immediately. Now I was in a serious pickle. Not only did I not know if I could hop fast enough, but I also didn’t even know if I would be able to hop at all. Well, I’ve lost before. I went home and I applied Icy Hot a couple times on Sunday and rested the entire day. I could only hope it would recover by Monday. I felt fine on Monday but I knew I would probably have to shave 2-3 seconds off my best time and hoped my adrenaline would kick in. I also knew I would have to focus only on the track. When Jason came up to video me, I told him he had to stay off the track. I did all I could do and now could only hope that it was going to be enough.