How long do you reckon you could last in solitary confinement and total darkness? How about for a prize of $100,000? One daring poker player bet his friend that he could spend at least 30 days in such extreme conditions and underwent a high stakes 30-day experiment to prove it.
It all started last fall, as a friendly discussion between friends. Australian poker player Rory Young asked his buddy and fellow poker enthusiast Rich Alati how long he thought he could last in a small, dark room without any human interaction. Alati’s answer of 30 days seemed unrealistic to Young, and from there the stage for an unusual “prop bet” was set. Prop bets are designed to test the mental toughness of card players away from the poker table, and usually have very high stakes. This one was no different, with both players depositing $100,000 of their own money in an escrow account and agreeing to pay the other side if they lost the bet. Alati stood to win $100,000 if he managed to spend a full month isolated in a small, dark room, and Young would pocket the same amount if his friend quit before the deadline. The game was on!
With such a high prize on the line, conditions for the experiment had to be very clear. A 11-page legal contract was drawn up and a three-judge panel was appointed to ensure that Alati adhered to all the agreed-upon guidelines. A small bathroom at an undisclosed location in Las Vegas was set up to house Rich Alati for 30 days starting on November 21, 2018. A bed and refrigerator (with the lights removed) were placed inside, along with all the toiletries requested by the “guest”, and he was allowed access to any food he wanted. However, Alati was denied access to any communication and light emitting devices for the duration of the experiment and he even had to provide urine samples regularly to prove that he wasn’t taking any medication to make his stay in the dark room any easier.
“The conditions are complete darkness, so no electronics, no light-emitting devices, no drugs of any kind,” Rory Young told The Action Network. “He is allowed any type of food that he wants. He has a bed in there, he has a shower and a bathtub. He has pretty lavish toiletries like Epsom salts, sugar scrubs, that kind of stuff.”
To ensure that his friend couldn’t tell how much time had passed since his voluntary isolation, Young arranged for the food to be delivered at random intervals of three to six days and he even delivered the meals himself to check Alati’s state of mind.
In order to monitor Alati at all time and make sure he wasn’t cheating, but also allow his friend’s worried family members to keep an eye on him, Young set up a 24-hour private livestream of the experiment.