Two of the most prominent poker players in the world are going to trade in the cards for some boxing gloves in a high-stakes wager slated for early next year.
Poker pro Antonio Esfandiari told TMZ Sports over the weekend that he will be boxing renowned comedian Kevin Hart in a proposition (prop) bet where Esfandiari is receiving a whopping 35:1 odds. The fight will take place “around March,” he said to TMZ.
The 39-year-old Esfandiari said the odds are so long because Hart is “an athlete” and “fast as hell.” Hart is also 39 years of age. However, Kevin Hart is just 5 feet, 4 inches tall, according to his Wikipedia page. Esfandiari is around 6-feet tall.
“I’m taller than him, and probably have 35-40 pounds on him,” Esfandiari told Card Player Magazine on Monday. “But there’s also a reason I got 35:1 odds. He’s a natural athlete, he’s in incredible shape, and he’s been boxing for a long time. He’s a beast. Yeah, I work out, do some yoga and lift some weights, and try to maintain good physical well-being. But my cardiovascular [endurance] is awful compared to his. So, I have a height advantage, but he’s a clear favorite.”
Esfandiari received the juicy odds despite the fact that their match will only be three, three-minute rounds. A professional boxing match is 12 rounds. As he alluded to, a shorter fight is better for Esfandiari’s chances because endurance will play less of a role.
“I could never make 12 rounds,” he told Card Player. “I wish they were 20 second [rounds].”
The match will most likely be in Los Angeles, according to Esfandiari, who admitted he’s never boxed before. Esfandiari really underscored the fact that he’s a huge underdog in the match.
“[Kevin] is a machine,” the three-time WSOP bracelet winner said. “Why does Mayweather get great odds? Because he’s a clear favorite. Kevin is a clear favorite against me. Had I booked the bet when it was offered originally, I probably could have got 50:1. But I didn’t take it and just slept on it for a couple of days. I then decided, ‘you know what? Let’s go for it.’”
Esfandiari is of course bringing on a boxing coach in preparation.
He said that he isn’t aware of any huge side bets already booked on their upcoming fight, but Esfandiari is anticipating plenty of action among the poker and gambling community at large.
“I’m sure there are going to be a ton of bets on the side. I wonder what the true line will be. Kevin obviously offered me 35:1, but that’s probably slightly emotionally based. So I wonder what amongst two savvy gamblers the line will be. It won’t be 35:1. I think it will be closer to 15:1.”
If 15:1 is closer to reality, that would fall more in line with professional fights in which one of the fighters is thought to have the so-called “puncher’s chance” of winning. That’s pretty much how Esfandiari is looking at his path for victory.
“I have a chance, a small chance that I get a lucky punch in, or catch him in an off moment in the fight,” he said. “I don’t think I’ll ever beat him in a decision. I think he would be able to outbox me, but if I catch him with a real nasty uppercut or right hook I might be able to lay him down.”
“But no matter how much I train, Kevin will always be stronger and faster,” Esfandiari continued. “The more I train the more of a chance I have to win. I know a ton of people will be watching this, so I don’t want to go in there and get my ass handed to me and get knocked out in five seconds. I don’t want to be that guy.”
Esfandiari admitted that the money on the line “doesn’t hurt” when it comes to motivation to train. However, he declined to say whether he stands to win a six-figure or seven-figure sum.
“The stakes are decent enough, but that’s not the motivating factor,” Esfandiari said. “The motivating factor is kicking Kevin Hart’s ass in a forum where a lot of people are going to see it. At the end of the day, I don’t have a lot to lose. Everyone expects Kevin to beat me. But if I win, I’m the guy who knocked his ass out.”
The bout wouldn’t be the first time prominent poker players agreed to a fight. In 2016, Olivier Busquet and JC Alvarado met inside an MMA cage to settle a six-figure bet. In addition, Bertrand Grospellier vs. Lex Veldhuis and Sorel Mizzi vs. Brian Rast having taken place in recent years.