As professional poker players Rich Alati and Rory Young faced off at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, they started talking about putting a very different kind of bet on the table.
How much money would need to be at stake for Alati to spend 30 days in a pitch black room, completely isolated from the outside world?
An hour later, they had found their answer: $100,000.
That was how Alati found himself in a boarded-up master bathroom inside an AirBnb house in Henderson, Nevada on November 21.
Rich Alati (pictured) spent 20 days completely isolated in a pitch black Las Vegas bathroom after he agreed to a $100,000 bet
Alati agreed to the bet while playing fellow professional poker player Rich Young (pictured)
The bathroom had been soundproofed and blacked out. There would be no access to phones, television, or radio and meals would be delivered at random intervals so Alati couldn’t keep track of time.
The only comforts he would be allowed were a mattress, yoga mat, resistance band, massage ball, and some lavender essential oils and a sugar scrub for the bath.
If he failed to make it 30 days, it would be Alati handing over $100,000 to Young.
It was a bet that worried psychologists, but precautions were taken. Alati would be monitored by five cameras, some going 24/7.
Alati’s father would be keeping an eye on him, and he could pull his son out of the room at any time if he became worried about his mental state.
It only took three days before Alati started hallucinating.
Alati (pictured right) found early success with the bet thanks to six years of exploring yoga and meditation
‘It started with shapes and colors. Then I saw a train,’ Alati told The Action Network. ‘I just had to convince myself it wasn’t real.’
‘But that was probably my hardest moment, because there was some fear to it.’
Alati worried about how far his brain could go, but then decided he just needed to take ‘the fear out of it’.
‘I started to embrace it,’ he said. ‘One time, the room was filled with all these white bubbles. I said to myself, I know this it not real but I’m going to go along with it, and I had a fun bubble party.’
‘There were other times, I saw windows on the bathroom, I saw ceiling fans that weren’t there, and at one point the ceiling just opened up and I saw the stars and the sky. It was absolutely beautiful.’
Young had been confident when he first made the bet with Alati, who he had only known for a few hours.
But what he didn’t know was that Alati had spent the last six years exploring yoga, meditation, and prayer.
‘Things that I was doing in my life were leading up to this moment,’ Alati said.
‘I had gone to Bali to a silent retreat where you don’t speak. And when you don’t speak, it turns you inward.’
Alati and Young agreed to the bet while playing poker together at the Bellagio Hotel (pictured) in Las Vegas
‘I knew how to act in that room when it went inward. I knew how to train my thoughts to turn positive when I needed, which put me in a position to succeed.’
Alati kept himself calm by creating a routine. He’d wake up and take a bath and shower, eat, then do yoga and meditate, then eat again.
‘I worked out too,’ he added. ‘I was pretty creative. I did a lot of planks and sit-ups and push-ups. I actually did incline push-ups over the bathtub.’
By the tenth day of the bet, Young realized he may have underestimated Alati. Five days later, he tried to offer Alati a new deal: Leave now and only pay $50,000.
Alati laughed him off and quickly declined. Five days later, Young returned with a far better offer: End the bet, and Alati would gain $62,400.
The prize was enough. Alati was ready to fold.
‘I thought about just being done with it so I could see my friends and family and do something productive,’ he said.
‘Us poker players take very calculated risks, and we don’t really consider the all or nothing that much.’
‘I thought about the fact that 10 days was not going to be a walk in the park.’
And it didn’t take him very long to bounce back. Thirty-six hours after coming out of isolation, Alati was back playing in a poker tournament.