PCA 2015: Putting the clock on Timex for 350 push-ups in an hour

Photographer Neil Stoddart roamed the tournament floor in his usual way. As he walked alongside Mike McDonald's table he inadvertently kicked what looked like a discarded sandwich box, tossed onto the floor. Conscientious, he picked it up and moved it out of the way, to the horror of everyone watching.

For this was no piece of trash. This box was part of the latest challenge authored by Bill Perkins, in which Mike McDonald had to perform a feat of extraordinary strength -- 350 push-ups in the space of one level, with $10,000 if he made it in time. Naturally there needed to be rules and this box was one of them. For each push-up to count McDonald's chest had to touch the box. Far from being litter, this was a vital piece of sporting equipment.

And so McDonald, who earlier today had performed 300 air-squats within an hour, got to work. Perkins watched closely, so too Scott Seiver, serving as an informal judge.

"Yes, yes, yes, no! Yes, yes, yes, yes."

This was Seiver counting off each push-up. By the midway point McDonald was managing ten push-ups at a time with relative ease, but now he was fading a little. Up to 180, he was on track but only just. But by now his face was taking longer to return to a normal colour, and after each hand was played he was back on the floor.

mike_mcdonald_pca15_shr1_b.jpgOne... two... three...

"That's seven right there," he said, leaping back into his chair, but the strain was beginning to tell. "This is getting tough."

Down again. By now McDonald's veins were bulging. He was also making involuntary noises and his voice didn't sound as deep as it used to be. Regardless, five more were added to the tally. Up to 207.

"Can you tuck your shirt in Mike?" said Perkins, laughing, keen to ensure it was his chest that touched the box and nothing else. Perkins kept up an almost endless stream of chatter, forcing McDonald to waste valuable breath to defend himself.

Taking sides, a member of the TV crew then approached McDonald with advice on technique. McDonald took it on board, much to the horror of Perkins.

"Hey, one player to a push-up!" said someone across the tournament area.

With time running out McDonald changed his stance, his feet further apart, trying to employ any fresh muscles to lift his frame. It had only a limited effect. His veins now looked set to pop, and his triceps were beginning to look unusual. What's more, the effort needed to return to the upright position was taking longer, and made his whole body shake.

At this point Scott Seiver sought to encourage him, becoming the world's most unlikely athletic coach.

"Give me two more, come on!" he shouted, before he turned to Jeff Rossiter on the rail. "Jeff, I'll give you $300 to sock him in the stomach right now."

McDonald didn't laugh, but Perkins was enjoying himself, watching every effort McDonald made with obvious glee. He decided to up the stakes.

mike_mcdonald_pca15_shr1.jpg207... 208... 209...

"If you get to 300 I'll throw another 10K to the charity of your choice," he said. McDonald didn't say anything, but then by now he'd almost lost the ability to speak.

He did reach 300 but by that point it was obvious 350 would be impossible. McDonald was tired, a deep shade of pink, but admirably refused to give up. Someone somewhere, perhaps looking for the first glimmer of a bright side, said that at least he wouldn't need to work out for a while. McDonald managed a reply.

"I did shoulders this morning," he said, as his tally now rested on 318. He then watched the clock tick down and with ten seconds left dropped down for one last effort. Five more. Then he allowed himself to collapse on the carpet.

The general consensus was awe, particularly as it forced those watching to guess how many hours, days or months it would take them to complete the same challenge.

"He looks like tomorrow is going to be torture," said PokerNews reporter Donnie Peters. He was right.

Not a win as such but a remarkable feat nonetheless. McDonald hauled himself into his chair to focus on the cards. For now anyway.

Post script: McDonald finished the day tired, but with 749,000 chips.

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Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.