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A dead pool, also known as a death pool, death watch, dead cert, ghoul pool or Guess Who's Dead (GWD) is a game of prediction which involves guessing when someone will die. Sometimes it is a bet where money is involved. The combination of dead or death, and betting pool, refers to such a gambling arrangement.[clarification needed]
An example of the concept is where a list of celebrities is decided upon, and the names are placed into individual sealed envelopes. Each player picks a sealed envelope and writes their name on the outside of it. Each week, each player pays a small amount of money. When one of the celebrities on the list dies, the envelopes are handed out and opened, the player who has the envelope with the name of the dead celebrity wins all of the accumulated cash.
A typical modern dead pool might have players pick out celebrities who they think will die within the year. Most games start on January 1, and run for 12 months although there are some variations on game length and timing. One variation starts the game on October 31 due to the association between death and Halloween. There are also several scoring variants. For example, a player might be rewarded few, if any, points for predicting the death of someone who is over 80 years old or is known to be suffering from a terminal disease. Another common method to calculate score is subtracting the celebrity's age from 100.
Other pools require participants to form a list ranked on how sure they are that a person on the list will die, with points given based on how high a person on their list is ranked, and others award points based on how many other contestants selected the deceased celebrity. Another variant on the game has a single point awarded for each correct prediction, regardless of the celebrity's age or medical condition. The advantage of this scoring method is that there is more scoring, and it rewards research (learning which celebrities are experiencing failing health) rather than luck.
In 2000, website Fucked Company claimed to be a "dot-com dead pool" which invited users to predict the next Internet startups to fail during that era's dot com bust. The site itself folded in 2007 after a long history as a target for strategic lawsuits against public participation by companies.
Application in contemporary society
Definitions of celebrity vary from contest to contest. Smaller pools may rely on consensus of the players as to who is famous. Others require an obituary to appear in a recognized newswire such as the Associated Press (AP) or Reuters. The Lee Atwater Invitational employs a Fame Committee consisting of non-contestants who assess ahead of time the name-recognition of each celebrity. The Rotten.com Dead Pool, the largest in the world, uses NNDB as its source of qualified celebrities, and as arbiter of their life status. Ghoulpool.us uses a variety of sources to verify celebrity status, includes a checklist on the site to measure prospective names. Points for the Ghoulpool.us game are based on age at death, cause of death, the ranking of the celebrity on a player's list, and the uniqueness of the pick. Stiffs.com games (the largest paid/prize deadpool) is based purely on the number of dead celebrities chosen, with points (10 points for the #1 pick, 9 for #2, etc.) being used only for tiebreaking.
The concept and success strategies are also detailed in a (previously) annual guide called The Dead Pool, written by KQRS-FM radio personality Mike Gelfand and author Mike Wilkinson. KQRS-FM in Minneapolis/St. Paul. Minnesota also does an annual on air dead pool contest, similar to Stern's, where show hosts and listeners will attempt to pick which celebrity will die in that calendar year.
In his AP news article "Some say death pools are in poor taste", (which brought national attention to The Old Blue Eyes Celebrity Death Watch) author Matt Sedensky writes, "Players scour newspapers and Web sites for news on celebrities' health; they rely on tips from insiders; and they consider a public figure's lifestyle, absence of recent appearances and rumors of illness"..
In popular culture
- A dead pool was depicted in the 1988 Clint Eastwood film The Dead Pool.
- A death pool was the main topic of an episode of CSI: Miami called "Death Pool 100".
- The Marvel comics anti-hero Deadpool was named so because of a dead pool bet in his origin story.
- Matheson, Whitney (July 6, 2004). "Celebrity obsession extends beyond the grave". USA Today.
- Wilson, Phillip B (May 26, 2011). "Even the first Indy 500 race was a spectacle". Indianapolis Star.
- Festa, Paul (2002-08-26). "Dot-com dead pool brakes for Ford". CNet News. Retrieved 8 August 2012.
- Rowan, David (Sunday, 17 September 2000). "The dead list". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 August 2012.
- Kennedy, Kathleen (February 1, 2008), Who's in your celebrity dead pool?, Maclean
- Sedensky, Matt (December 29, 2006). "Some say death pools are in poor taste". Herald Tribune.