Almost five days later, Phil Laak has finally called an end to one of the biggest summer stories here in Las Vegas. Laak’ played 115 hours straight of poker before finally succumbing to the human necessity of sleep, shattering Paul Zimbler’s record by almost 40 hours of play.
Originally, the record was held by Paul Zimbler, who managed to play 78 straight hours of cards at last year’s WSOPE before calling it quits. By the end of Zimbler’s run, he appeared to have lost some motor skills and was barely able to sit upright. With his state of mind in complete question, friends on hand tried to keep Zimbler going by propping his body up and conversing with him in order to keep him awake. Depriving oneself of sleep for such long stretches of time can take a serious toll on the body and mind, and many thought Zimbler’s record would remain unbroken for years.
When Phil Laak set out to break Zimbler’s record, he set his original goal at 80 hours. BLUFF was on hand to capture Laak’s incredible run at the 80 hour mark and he filled our Joy Miller in on his new plan: Once he reached 80, he made the suggestion to continue the run for another 20 hours, and again at 100 hours he suggested to continue on until his body could no longer take it. Laak was adamant about putting a complete effort, and ensuring that his record would hold for quite some time. For 115 hours, Laak played a $10/$20 cash game at the Bellagio in front of hundreds of fans. The crowds never dissipated at any time, and the lines to play at the same table as Laak was extensive. Girlfriend Jennifer Tilly was there for most of Laak’s run, continually motivating him and keeping him focused on his goals.
After the run, Laak underwent a full examination by a doctor to ensure that his health wasn’t in jeopardy. Although Laak had lost almost six pounds over the course of five days, his health was in stable condition. Laak thought that he might have developed a fever around Day 4 into Day 5, but when his temperature was recorded it remained at a normal 98.6.
Laak was given five minute breaks after every hour, but he rarely took them. Instead, he would compile them and use them all at once. During these breaks, he would exercise, perform yoga, and shower. He also had a nutritionist cooking him incredibly healthy meals, consisting heaps and heaps of vegetables with a nice fill of protein on the side.
When first asked about his accomplishment, Laak responded with “I should have my head examined.” He later gave a more candid response, one that encompassed the entire ordeal. Said Laak: “I was shooting for 80 hours all along and eventually it came. The obvious next step was to honor the moment by making the most of it. A gambling degenerate by trade this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to see what my inner vampire was really made of,” stated Laak. “Well we sure found out! It was loads of fun and of course impossible without my crew. This has been one of the most wonderful journeys I’ve ever taken, touchingly human and beautiful on so many levels. Thanks to everyone who shared in this amazing ride.”
For those wondering, Laak’s 115 hour stretch of poker was also entirely profitable, relatively speaking. Laak managed to come out ahead at $6,766, the equivalent of a $60/hr job.
Laak used the record-breaking attempt to raise money for Camp Sunshine, the only organization in the United States that currently aids both the person suffering from life-threatening illness and the immediate family. Half of Laak’s winnings were donated to the non-profit, and sent even more money through additional fundraisers set up in the poker room, which included sales of several signature hooded sweatshirts, tee shirts he wore during the entire affair, and various physical challenges.
When BLUFF asked why Laak chose Camp Sunshine, Laak exclaimed that his niece had undergone a rather traumatic experience with cancer. Laak continued, “It’s a place where they have on-site 24 hour medical facilities to help kids with life crises and the debilitating illnesses they deal with while giving them a summer camp experience. It’s a great place, so I was like, you know what? It’s much easier and nicer to be involved with a charity that you can identify with.”
Laak remained in high spirits throughout the event, and dropped a number of gems over the final few hours. When asked about how he was able to achieve the seemingly unachievable, Laak gave credit to talcum power. Said Laak, “About every four or five hours, when I take a bathroom break, I do a quick submarine shower, change my T-shirt and powder my butt and the underside of my legs. “Any place where my body mass is pressing against the chair, I put powder on. Otherwise, it adds up.”
At least he kept his wits about him.