The United States reached one of its grimmest milestones on Wednesday with the news that the country’s death toll from the coronavirus pandemic had hit 100,000.
Even grimmer might be the resulting payout to a certain professional poker player.
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Chris Hunichen, who told the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin that he has won more than $20 million from poker in his lifetime, had issued a challenge to Twitter a month and a half ago.
He wanted to take the over on 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the US by September 1.
The replies were what you would expect: outrage, confusion and disgust.
that is the most disgusting bet I have ever seen in my life. 🤦🏼♂️— Scott Harris (@scott4h) April 5, 2020
Dude what the hell is wrong with you , surely u can see this is not something to gamble on— ben (@Benphilipps) April 5, 2020
Chris I have always liked you but take this down ASAP it is not ok in so many ways. Know the lockdown will be mentally trying on people and not enough people are addressing this side effect hope thats what this is.— Daniel Shak (@daniel_shak) April 5, 2020
Wild to see this bet and think eh no big deal lol and people are taking action. What a world we live in— Jack7Suited (@sejunkiexxx) April 5, 2020
How can u root for deaths man— jaredjaffee (@jaredjaffee21) April 5, 2020
Hunichen told the Times he found takers on the bet to reach $10,000.
At the time, White House projections for US deaths from the virus were well below six digits, but Hunichen felt he was seeing something others weren’t.
He has since announced his victory on both the $10,000 challenge and another $2,500 bet he made via Twitter in which the loser pays out while the winner donates the proceeds to the homeless.
He reportedly saw less interest in the latter.
“100k deaths hit with 3 months to spare!” he wrote on Twitter on Thursday.
“Sad to see but on the positive the deadly cases seem to be going down each day.”
100k deaths hit with 3 months to spare! Sad to see but on the positive the deadly cases seem to be going down each day! For the money won on the feeding the homeless bets I will be matching the total 100% and donating dollar for dollar! pic.twitter.com/PInIRRnjeG— Chris Hunichen - OTCtrade.com (@BigHuni) May 26, 2020
Hunichen says bet was attempt to raise awareness
While a poker player making thousands off such a number of deaths sounds particularly dystopian, he claimed to the Times he went into it with a goal of raising awareness of the virus’ threat rather than the balance in his bank account.
He said he had noticed several acquaintances not taking the virus seriously by social distancing, and was afraid of his own death from the virus due to his asthma, a condition that makes COVID-19 - a lung infection - especially dangerous.
By making the bet, he wanted the threat of the virus to become more real for others.
“Every day, I would see some kind of article where some 30-year-old or 35-year-old dies from this stuff,” Hunichen said.
“Honestly, I’m terrified. If I get it, I feel like that’s going to be me.”
Hunichen even pointed to a sports bettor sounding his interest on a bet with an over/under of 50,000 deaths by the end of the year, a much friendlier bet that had been posted a few days before his own bet.
I'd be willing to take under 50,000 COVID-19 deaths in the USA this year if anyone wants action because they trust the experts— EM2 (@EmpireMaker2) March 30, 2020
He said that profit was never the point.
“That wasn’t what I was trying to do here. I was trying to raise awareness,” he said.
“This is really a bad problem and, if people aren’t going to stay home and take it seriously, it’s only going to get worse.”