On Monday night at 9 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. CT, 2018 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event runner-up Tony Miles will appear on the new episode of American Ninja Warrior on NBC. If all goes well and he can complete the physically-challenging “Qualifying Course,” he stands to win $100,000 in his long-standing prop bet with Shaun Deeb.
Back in 2019, Miles was traveling the world playing poker, and while in Scotland to grind WCOOP, he shared an Airbnb with Deeb. As Miles explained it, one day at lunch, Deeb asked him about his next goal. Miles nonchalantly mentioned his love of American Ninja Warrior, and as things so often do between poker players, a bet was born.
“For our bet, the odds started at 25-to-1 and will decrease yearly over the three-year period to 20-to-1 and 15-to-1 respectively,” Miles previously told PokerNews. “Getting the call is an extremely exciting part of the process. You have to understand that a lot of people, around 100,000 I’ve heard, apply to be on Ninja Warrior so it is considered an extreme honor to be chosen to actually compete on the show.”
In 2019, Miles failed at his first attempt – more on how and why below – so that means this go around he stands to win $100,000 on his $5,000 wager.
Obstacle #1 – Getting Back on the Show
When first applying for the show, Miles thought the combination of the prop bet backstory and the fact he was coming off a runner-up finish to John Cynn in the Main Event might boost his chances.
“The show is very selective, but after finishing runner-up in the Main Event, I thought I might have a good shot of getting on, getting a chance to run,” said Miles. While he did get on, getting a second chance was far from a forgone conclusion.
He actually had to go through the application process again and just hope they’d bring him back. In March 2020, he got the call and was scheduled to compete in the Season 12 stop in Washington D.C. on April 11-12. He was ready, but fate had other plans when COVID-19 shut down the world.
Obstacle #2 – Pandemic Delays Production
Like the rest of the world, Miles was left out in the dark as to what was going to happen with little recourse but to wait and see.
“The show was postponed,” he explained. “I think everybody was in the same situation where we really didn’t know what was going to happen. It was unfortunate for me as 2020 was probably the year where I had invested the most time into my training. I was in great shape. Technically I was very sound on a lot of the obstacles and the movements and physics I need for the show. I was really excited to compete, so when COVID struck and they postponed it, I was disappointed and didn’t know whether the show was going to happen or not.”
While he waited, Miles kept up with his training, though that too would soon be derailed.
Obstacle #3 – Gruesome Injury
On April 20, 2020, Miles was involved in a bad motorize vehicle accident in which he dislocated his clavicle and tore every ligament in his AC joint. He had to have complete reconstructive shoulder surgery followed by a three-month rehabilitation period.
Miles, who at the time couldn’t even reach up for a cup in the cupboard, was told by doctors that he was not going to be able to compete on the show as planned and that he shouldn’t be doing any sort of strenuous exercise for probably about the next year or so.
“That’s about the timeframe they gave me in April, which is normally when the show records,” he said. “I didn’t even know if I was going to be able to make it back. I didn’t know what was going to happen.”
While the injury was devastating, Miles put his nose to the grindstone and dedicated himself to his recovery.
“The best part of the injury was my mindset. I’ve been through so many things in my career and in my personal life that I’ve had to persevere through. So, immediately right after the injury, instead of dwelling on the misfortune of being involved in that, I looked to the positive. This is going to be another chance to prove myself, this is going to be a chance to get stronger, this is going to be an opportunity to show the world that you can recover from anything. That mind over matter is the most critical element of being successful.”
He continued: “I’m built a little different than most people. I revel in the opportunity to prove myself. When someone says you can’t do something, or when those doctors were telling me it was going to be a year before I can start training again, I was thinking in my head, ‘Alright, so you mean six months. So, in eight months I’ll be back in the course.’”
Obstacle #4 – Learning from His Mistakes
By the end of 2020, American Ninja Warrior was slated to resume production, and applications were due in December. At the time, Miles was just eight months post-op and struggling to do a single pull-up, decided to apply. Lo and behold, he was accepted.
With renewed vigor, Miles trained harder than ever while addressing what went wrong the first go around.
“The show rotates between various obstacles including ones rooted in rock climbing – think hanging, swinging, and throwing your body from one place to another – and others focused on balance,” Miles explained.
“The first time I competed there was an obstacle called ‘Spinning Blocks.’ It’s six square blocks that are on bearings with a pole through the center of them. They’re cocked at different angles, they’re different sizes, and you have to run across the top of six of them while they spin. So, you have to stay right over the center of the axis, or else they’ll spin out. You have to hit the box in the center. If you’re an inch off left or right, you’re going down … On the second or third box, I was a little outside the center of the axis.”
Miles managed to stumble forward across a couple more blocks, even making it all the way to the last one, but eventually spun off and took a dunk into the pool of water below.
“It was a great learning experience. I took that lesson and incorporated a bunch of balance training into my regiment. I have improved exponentially in that aspect. It was just an amazing experience.”
Obstacle #5 – Getting the Job Done?
While Miles knows the result of his second run, the rest of the world will need to wait until Monday night. While he’s bound by an NDA from divulging too many details, Miles did say that win or lose, he’s keen to compete again.
“I am definitely open to competing again,” he said. “It’s been such an amazing experience getting into this community. It’s so much different than the poker community, it really is like nothing I’ve ever been a part of before. You see these ninjas, they’re all supportive of each other. Even though they’re competing against each other, they’re helping each other, they’re helping each other, they’re coaching each other on the sidelines.”
If Miles fails, he still has a third and final try in his prop bet against Deeb. If he wins, he’ll collect a big payday, but that wouldn’t be the end of his ANW story.
“I plan on continuing my training whether this bet is live or not,” he revealed.
Additionally, if he is successful, Miles would advance to the next stage of the show. Of the approximately 100-120 ninjas who run the Qualifying Course, the top 30 can qualify for the semi-finals. To do so, they either have to complete the six-obstacle course or get the farthest in the shortest amount of time. In the semi-finals, things get even harder as it becomes a 10-stage obstacle course.
Whether or not Miles gets there remains to be seen — at least for one more day!
For more on Miles, check out his video interview with PokerNews here: