Jaime Staples was on top of the world, or so it seemed. In the year leading up to March 2018, the poker streamer lost 115 pounds and won a $75,000 bet. He was championed in the mainstream press and became an inspiration to thousands.
But not a day goes by when the 32-year-old doesn’t regret the whole thing.
In the years that followed the Ultimate Sweat – the weight-match wager Staples completed alongside his younger brother, Matt – what should have been a victory lap morphed into a nightmare of anxiety, weight gain, and frequent trips to both the emergency room and therapy.
In October 2023, after years of suffering in silence, Staples released a video explaining why.
“It was something I didn’t know how to talk about with other people, but it was a persistent part of my everyday reality,” he tells us from his Montreal home.
“I was living a lie. I needed to set the record straight.”
It all started on a luxury yacht.
Jaime and Matt were a few years into their streaming careers when Bill Perkins invited them to the Virgin Islands to stream from The Streamboat – his power vessel – in early 2017. They couldn’t believe their luck. What were two prairie boys from Calgary doing here?
The weight difference between the brothers was drastic and often discussed in the stream chats. Jaime weighed just over 300 pounds while Matt was a slim 134. ‘Wouldn’t it be crazy if they were the same weight?’ one viewer commented. And with that, the Ultimate Sweat was concocted. Perkins laid them fifty to one ($3,000 to win $150,000) that they couldn’t weigh the same amount one year later.
Taking the bet was a no-brainer. Not only were those great odds, but as content creators, it gave the brothers a year’s worth of fuel to run on. Even if they lost, Jaime would be in better shape by the end.
Thus began a year on a restrictive diet of roughly 1,250 calories and several hours of low-intensity cardio per day.
It worked. On March 25, 2018, Jaime weighed in at 188.3 pounds while Matt – who had eaten as much as he could while packing on muscle – brought his weight up to match it.
Interviews in Men’s Health and Good Morning America followed, plus an outpouring of respect from the poker community. “It was such a crazy experience,” says Staples. “I was glad I had done something inspiring for other people.”
The months after were happy. Then a second bet came along. This time, the brothers needed to get below ten percent body fat, betting $50,000 to win Perkins’ $150,000. “We were on cloud nine and thought, if we win, it’s one of the most legendary health stories ever,” he says.
So they booked it and got to work, only this time – after a year of living in a calorie deficit – Staples began to feel the impact on his body. He got a DEXA scan and was working out six days a week, but his muscle percentage was going down. “It didn’t make any sense,” says Staples. “I realized at that point that I was going to lose.”
Constant pain and anxiety set in. They couldn’t hedge out of the bet – there was too much side action.
They just had to live through it. And lose.
Jaime Staples is used to people telling him what he should be eating. He was put on his first diet at age ten and has since tried them all. But the Ultimate Sweat was, understandably, the most grueling. He still feels its effects today.
Having flip-flopped between severe restriction and complete freedom, Staples’ food issues returned worse than ever when the second bet ended. He began avoiding certain foods while binge-eating others and regained much of his lost weight. “I felt a bunch of guilt and shame,” he remembers.
In January 2019, having hidden from the spotlight, he flew to the Bahamas to play in the PokerStars Players Championship.
“It was a stressful trip,” remembers Rebecca Hardisty, Staples’ fiancée since 2018. “Jaime didn’t want to let down the company he represented at the time. There was a lot of pressure on his shoulders.”
It was the first time people would see his physique since the bets ended. “I was on display,” he says.
The night before the event, the couple enjoyed an Indian meal but Staples ended the evening in ER. He felt like he’d had a combination of an allergic reaction and a panic attack. The next day, while playing in the tournament, he suffered heart attack symptoms and returned to the hospital, forced to blind out.
It’s an experience he’s replayed in his head hundreds of times since. “I’ve worked on that memory in therapy,” he says. “We’re still trying to figure it out.”
When he got home, Staples began to severely restrict the foods he ate for fear of it happening again. For a year and a half, he limited himself to chicken, beef, rice, potatoes, margarine, ketchup, and taco chips. With no vegetables and a lack of fiber, the diet took a toll and he began to lose his hair.
He wasn’t sure where to turn. “If you’ve never felt fear while eating food, it might sound bizarre,” he says. “People want to be helpful, and there was a lot of love, but there was also a gap in understanding.”
Staples was never a picky eater before Ultimate Sweat and his Bahamas experience. “In the beginning of our relationship, Jaime was the adventurous one with food,” says Hardisty. “I tried so much new food due to his influence, from sushi and Lebanese to tasting menus.”
So what was happening? To find answers, Staples visited a center in Montreal specializing in eating disorders and was diagnosed with Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). People with the condition typically avoid certain foods completely, restrict the overall amount they eat, or both.
Over the past year, he’s been working with doctors and therapists to discover allergies and introduce new foods into his diet. He tries small amounts to see how he reacts, each mouthful requiring courage. “It’s a challenge,” he says. “There have been relapses. It ebbs and flows.”
The difficulty lies not only in food limitations but also in spontaneous reactions. In November 2023, for example, Staples ate a meal he’d had many times with no issues, only to immediately feel nauseous, panicked, and like his throat was swelling.
The disorder has prevented him from traveling to poker events, and he hasn’t eaten in a restaurant for four and a half years. But Staples says the toughest part was staying home while Hardisty flew to England to attend her father’s funeral.
“Trying to eat in another country… I would have been a burden,” he says. “It was painful that I couldn’t be there for my partner. She’s always been there for me.”
Are the hardships endured both during and after the Ultimate Sweat to blame for his disorder? Staples isn’t sure, but he regrets the bet every day. “I don’t blame myself,” he says. “I didn’t know what I know now.
“That’s why I’m happy to talk about everything. I’m an example of how things can go wrong.”
Since releasing the video, Staples has received an outpouring of support. Most messages offer advice on how to lose weight, but Staples is focused on discovering why he overeats in the first place.
To do it, he’s forced to ignore one of poker’s fundamental lessons: Only focus on what you can control. Suppressing the negative and pushing it aside might work in poker, but Staples feels it doesn’t always work in real life. “I need to confront the negative and feel it… live with it,” he says.
The vast majority of those who attend the eating disorder clinic in Montreal are women. Staples believes this is because men typically wait longer before seeking help, so by sharing his story, he hopes to shatter the stigma. He thanks Hardisty for giving him the strength to do so and cherishes the fact that his audience cares about him.
But there’s no inkling of when his life might return to some degree of normality. “Hopefully tomorrow,” he says.
All he knows is that he’d love to travel and play more live poker. He’d love to stream on a more consistent schedule. He’d love to walk into a Subway and place an order. “I never want to eat chicken and rice again,” he says, chuckling.
And he’s getting there. “It’s been inspiring to watch Jaime seek help and never give up,” says Hardisty. The couple recently made burgers together for the first time in years. “It was a special moment,” she adds.
Staples continues to stream and even visited the Playground Casino recently. He’s up to more than 40 food items in his diet. He’s excited to simply do more.
“It just takes time,” he says. “Everyone’s got things. This is mine.
“I’m 32 and I have an eating disorder.”