Poker players throughout the world look forward to PokerStars' yearly trip to Barcelona, eagerly awaiting the chance to wine, dine, club, relax and hit the beach in one of Europe's finest cities. There's grind, to be sure, but few places on the poker circuit offer better ways to let loose and get away from the stresses of life.
Not for PokerStars Team Online's Jaime Staples, though. Here at PokerStars Championship Barcelona, his days are going to be filled with even more sweat than usual as he grinds through workout after workout in his quest to win his share of a $150,000 prop bet with high roller extraordinaire Bill Perkins.
The terms of the bet were laid down in March, when Staples and his brother Matt agreed on a prop to attempt to reach the same weight in one year. Jaime tipped the scales at 305 back then, and his smaller, much skinnier brother was at 130 pounds. They put up $3,000, getting 50-1.
Almost five months later, although Staples came into Barcelona feeling great about his chances after dropping north of 50 pounds, he isn't resting on his laurels. He brought his personal trainer along for the ride and is actually ramping things up.
"Right now, we're doing a Barcelona boot camp," Staples said. "Every day in the gym plus cardio, which is pretty intense."
The day-to-day work for Staples begins almost as soon as he's out of bed. On a normal day, he wakes up and immediately gets going with some form of exercise. Most weeks, Staples spends two days lifting in the gym and does cardiovascular work on all other days.
Diet-wise, Staples is eating two, sometimes three meals a day, with smoothies accounting for the rest of his consumption, including one for breakfast after his workout. He's shooting for a total of 1,450 calories, with 120 grams of protein, 80 grams of fat and 40 grams of carbs.
Since most adult males burn over 2,100 calories each day just going through their daily motions, that's putting Staples at quite a calorie deficit and fueling his weight loss as he plummets down the scale.
He started slow when it came to the exercise regimen.
"It was a lot of just walking," he said of the early grind. "I'm a 300-pound guy, so just walking for two hours would get a sweat up. As I get healthier now, we're starting to hit the bike and pick up the pace."
Staples plans to begin jogging when he gets down to about 210 pounds. That will leave him about 30 short of his ultimate goal, as he and his brother hope to meet between 180 and 185.
"We're just trying to stay consistent," Staples said. "It's a very long-term bet. Keeping it up month after month after month is the challenge."
He believes he's only slipped up and punted off the diet with "poor choices" about four times since March.
That's despite a travel schedule that's taken Staples all over the world, hitting a number of PokerStars events and spending no time in his native Canada since January.
Many poker players have struggled with unhealthy lifestyles. Life following various circuits naturally involves a ton of travel, which means time away from healthy home cooking and more fast food and other processed meals. Making it through a full day of tournament poker usually means 10 hours or more of exhaustive grinding at the felt, killing the motivation to put in work in the gym.
Staples, who described his diet as "chicken and vegetables," doesn't see life on the road as an excuse to fall into unhealthy habits.
"I find there are choices available that fit within what we're doing pretty much everywhere," he said.
If poker players or fans have the desire to get into a healthier lifestyle, Staples' advice for them is to start slow. Begin by simply going through the motions on a normal week of eating meals, counting how many calories you're consuming as you go, he said.
"You don't have to put any judgment on it," he said. "But when I would eat a whole pizza — like I used to — knowing that represented two days worth of calories. You just start to feel it and understand what a good day and a not-so-good day is."
Being armed with that knowledge has been a huge change in Staples' life as he goes through what he called the biggest struggle he's ever had.
"Pre-bet, it wasn't really something that I spent a lot of time thinking about," he said. "I was just kind of living life as I wanted to without any sort of plans, which is not ideal.
"What's really changed for me is I'm more aware. Understanding how many calories I'm eating in things, how many fats, how many carbs, how much protein. Trying to hit those benchmarks every day has allowed me to really understand how to move up and down the scale."
Knowledge is power, and Staples has gained plenty of it in his five-month journey toward his 180-pound goal. With a hard 10 days of grinding ahead of him in Barcelona, he'll be one step closer to reaching that goal and pocketing $75,000, and he's laid out a road map for anyone else to follow if they want to get healthier or just win weight loss prop bets.