Just like any other worthwhile game or contest, there have to be rules… plain & simple.  Without them, everything turns into an endless pissing match… and – in the eloquent words of Sweet Brown – “ain’t nobody got time for that!”  Over the years, this particular dead pool’s rules have evolved… and they continue to do so.  Are they airtight?  Of course not.  We strive to close loopholes and minimize gray areas, but they’re always going to be out there.  That being said, here’s what we’re currently working with:

Celebrities. Who is a “celebrity?”

By definition: famous people… duh.  Actors, sports figures, musicians, artists, world leaders, cultural phenomena, etc.  In the past, there have been different ways to validate a so-called celebrity’s fame posthumously, with a popular one being an Associated Press death announcement.   While this certainly still applies, AP is just one of many legitimate national/international on-line news sources.  Consequently, this opens up the playing field to a broader spectrum of celebrities worldwide.  A general rule of thumb: if they have a page on Wikipedia dedicated to them – their OWN stub page as of the date of submission – they’re probably famous… or famous enough that somebody is going to report their death…. and therefore by default, a celebrity.  However, there will always be exceptions.  All selections will be reviewed by the commissioner to verify celebrity status… and judgement is final.

New in ’22: Narrowing the field of Sports & Politics

The selection field of sports & politics has been a long-abused sea of haystacks with too many goddamned needles. So we’re gonna reign things in a bit.
British cricketeers, Slavic soccer players, Kiwi rugby clowns… the world of sports is just too fukken big. We’re gonna stick to North American Pro Sports: NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, MLS, and if you absolutely must, CFL. Additionally, selections must have achieved some level of career status in their sport. A title, a record, an award, All-star status, or an immediate association with some aspect of the game. For example: Pro-bowler, All-star, Rookie of the year, MVP, Hall of Famer, youngest/oldest, first black/last white, whatever. So it can’t be a relief pitcher who bounced between the minors & majors for 2 years only to “retire” and become a used car salesman in his mid-20’s. Or some 2nd string O-lineman who played for 5 teams in as many years before pursuing his passions for substance and spousal abuse full time. They have to have done SOMETHING other than have their mug printed on a trading card. Now… the torch-bearing mob at my door has a question: “What about other sports? Golf players? Tennis players? NASCAR drivers? Pro Wrestlers?” Yeah, yeah… I know… this is opening an enormous can of worms. Yes you can pick them…. but again let me reiterate: title, record, award, status, or immediate association with the game. I’m not trying to eliminate sports… just trying to make the world of corpses I need to keep an eye out for just a little bit smaller AND hone in a bit on CELEBRITY status… which – trust me – is astronomically subjective.
On the US side, we’re keeping it strictly federal. Presidents, first ladies, VP’s, senators, representatives, Supreme Court justices, cabinet members & press secretaries… past and present… all fair game. US state/territory governors – although technically not federal – will also be allowed. City mayors, elected county officials, state congress members, town sanitation commissioners… nope. Outside of the US, heads of state and royals – past and present – are legit picks. But we’re not getting as granular as members of foreign Parliament, political parties or activist groups. Call this the “Ezra Nawi Rule” if you like.

Who is not a celebrity?:

  • Reality show celebrities – Specifically, people that had no real fame prior to being the subject of an omnipresent camera crew.  Very few have managed to ascend from the reality-show cesspool to eventually become “legit” celebrities.  These rare birds could possibly be deemed as valid selections… but be careful.
  • Influencers – This is new for 2021… and basically an extension of the reality star rule. We only care about people in the real world… not the deranged fantasy land of social media. If somebody’s only claim to fame is their Instagram account?… gimmie a fukken break.
  • Sick-lebrities – These are people whose fame has stemmed directly from an illness.  The classic example of this would be Ryan White… the kid with AIDS back in the 80s.  Or, more recently, college basketball player Lauren Hill.  You can pick sick celebrities, but they have to be celebrities first.
  • Local celebrities – The cute weathergirl on your hometown’s morning news show might be missed by her family, friends, coworkers, and a handful of lonely dudes living in their parents’ basements… but to the rest of the world, she’s just another cheerleader pretending to be a fortune teller… and not a “celebrity.”
  • Fame-free kin – These would be spouses, children, or other family members of celebrities, who are not necessarily “celebrities” in their own right.   Selections need to have earned their own fame in some way, aside from simply having a familial meal ticket.
  • Animals – They gotta be humans, folks.
  • Terrorists – Although many of us enjoy seeing on-line videos of these a-holes getting ripped to ribbons by aerial artillery, granting them any kind of “celebrity” status is just uncalled for.  Since the definition of this word became necessary in 2016’s pool, we’ll make it clear here. Terrorists are:
    • Persons who have been convicted (in the United States) of any crime that is recognized as a terrorist act.
    • Members of any organization currently recognized by the US State Department as a terrorist organization.
    • Leaders of any country that the US State Department currently recognizes as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Is anybody off limits?

  • The Condemned – The appellate courts manage to keep death row inmates around for far longer than they deserve to be… so picking one wouldn’t be advised anyway.  Still, regardless of whether they have been assigned an official execution date or not, anyone sentenced to death prior to Jan 1st by the US court system or the governing body of any independent state recognized by the US State Department, is not a valid selection.  On the other hand, incarcerated celebrities that are not on death row, are fair game.
  • The Missing – This is a direct result of the great Craig Strickland Scandal of 2016… when it almost became necessary to fraudulently acquire a copy of the death certificate from the Oklahoma State Coroner’s office. Determining the exact time of death for persons that have been missing for some time can be problematic… and not just for the coroner. This creates gray areas… especially when there’s 71 points on the line. Date of death, not discovery, is what we’re after here. So, persons declared missing prior to Jan 1st are not deemed valid selections. However, persons that go missing within a calendar year are still in play. And, as one would guess, this creates another gray area… especially when the end of the year rolls around. Sometimes they never turn up… or it’s just accepted that – much like Jack Handey’s proverbial keys when dropped into a river of lava – “man, they’re gone.” An obscure example: Scott Smith, the bass player for Loverboy. Although a judge may declare death “in absentia” – otherwise known as “legal presumption of death” – this can take some time to get through the courts. When freak accidents occur that have a clear timeline from which a reasonable DOD can be extrapolated, there need not be a corpse. Common sense will prevail in these cases and you’ll get your points. If Richard Branson’s private plane was last seen nose-diving into the crater of an active volcano, it’s safe to say that Dick is toast. Wheel out an empty casket and cue the bagpipes.
    And in the spirit of covering all the bases, there’s one last thing to consider: suicide season. If a valid pick is declared missing after November 30th and there is no identifiable event that would indicate a clear DOD (see Branson-volcano reference)… and those points have the possibility of determining a winner, a 30 day grace period – starting on the date their absence is first reported in the media – will be acknowledged.  “How in the fukk does that work?” you might ask. Here’s an example (purely hypothetical): Macaulay Culkin hasn’t been seen or heard from since the annual Comet Ping Pong Thanksgiving Party. His kind-hearted Clonazepam dealer – clearly the only person that would give a sh!t – gets concerned & tips off the authorities 2 weeks later. After a thorough sniff check of his apartment for any underwear that might have belonged to Mila Kunis, the police decide to officially declare him missing on December 12th. The story then comes out in the mainstream media. Now, Participant X has Good Ol’ Mac on his list, and those extra 50-something points would put him in 1st place…. but the year is rapidly drawing to a close. New Years Eve comes & goes… without anyone knowing that Kevin McCallister locked himself in a storage unit last month & blew his brains out all over an unread script for Home Alone 3. If the police find his headless shell at the U-Store-It and can determine that “yeah… he’s been in there a while” BEFORE January 11th, Participant X will be awarded the points and the championship. Mac’s still unaccounted for 30 days later? Game over.
  • Active Members of the US Military – Although few are “celebrities,” this one needs no explanation.  This applies only to selections listed as active prior to Jan.1st. If Justin Bieber suddenly happens to join the Marines after the new year, gets fast-tracked through boot camp, and is immediately shipped off to a forward area… well… that’s a different story.
  • The Undocumented – Celebrities whose date of birth cannot be provided by a credible source.  Although their age will likely come out when they kick the bucket, death certificates are not always public record.  Besides, this is information that is gathered up front to keep scorekeeping easier.  It’s more work than you think. If an exact birth date cannot be determined, but a widely accepted birth year is available, a selection may be allowed on the condition that their birthday be listed as January 1st… making them as old as possible within the provided birth year.
  • Children – Shamefully so, it’s been tried. Gotta draw a line somewhere. 18 & up only, folks.

List submission:

All lists are due before 12:00AM EST on January 8th of each year and are submitted through an entry form on the Dead Reckoner website. This form will be accessible from the home page only for a brief window of time between December 26th and January 8th. Lists submitted by any other means (email, hard copy, singing telegram, etc.) will not be accepted.  Players may submit multiple lists.  Each list submission is required to contain 12 selections and at least 3 back-up selections. Up to 6 total backups may be submitted, but only the first 3 fields are marked as ‘required.’ Back-up picks will be substituted – in the order in which they are listed – if any of the primary 12 selections are found to be ineligible or expires before 12:00AM EST January 8th. If a list containing invalid or deceased selections uses all of their submitted backups and still doesn’t have 12 qualified picks to play, their list may still compete, but no additional substitution will be allowed. Play with what’cha got. A membership & processing fee for each list submitted is due to the Commissioner or Treasurer by February 1st.  Lists for which no payment has been received by this date will be deleted and eliminated from the competition.


When a celebrity kicks the bucket, their age at the time of death is subtracted from 100. The difference is the number of points that are awarded to each list that contains that selection. So, for example: Joe Blow is 80 when he croaks. If you have him on your list, that’s 20 points for you… and 20 points for anyone else who had Joe on their list as well. In the case of celebrities who are 100 years or older, no points are awarded or subtracted. However, lists that contain centenarians who kick the oxygen habit during a play period will still receive credit for a qualifying hit.

Bonus points:

First Strike: Any/all lists that contain the first hit for the calendar year will each receive a 5 point bonus.
Final Exit: Similar to First Strike, except with the last hit of the calendar year. Those 5 bonus points would be awarded once the calendar year has concluded.
Cadaver Dog: If a participant is the only participant to have sniffed out a particular hit, a 10 point bonus will be awarded. In the case that he/she/it has that hit on multiple lists, these 10 bonus points are only awarded once per corpse. They can, however, be distributed across lists at the participant’s discretion in a one-time allocation.
Blue Moon: If a list contains 2 selections that expire within the same calendar month, it will be awarded 10 bonus points.
Hat Trick: (new in 2020) If a list contains 3 selections that expire within the same calendar month, it will be awarded 15 bonus points. Additional hits beyond that, as unlikely as they may sound, will not earn any extra bonus points… because an extra 25 points is enough, you lucky prick. So no… we’re not doing golden or platinum sombreros. Not yet.
Party Pooper: If a celebrity craps out on their birthday, lists containing that selection each receive an additional 25 points.
Worst Show Ever: If a selection takes their final bow in front of a live audience, it’s worth 25 bonus points. Now, they may not die right there on the spot… they might get rushed to the hospital, resuscitated, & drift off to the light some days later…. but their death must be directly related to an event that took place in front of an audience. On-stage collapse, traumatic sports injury, public suicide by poisoning at a UN war crimes tribunal… that kind of fun stuff.


In order to be eligible to win, a list must have a minimum of 3 hits. Whichever list has the most points resulting from deaths occurring between 12:00AM EST January 8th and 11:59PM IDLW December 31st of the year in play – with at least 3 qualifying hits – will be the crowned champion.  To allow for slow reporting or late-season departures, a winner may not be announced until January 7th. In the case of a tie score, the participant with the most hits wins. If still deadlocked, it will go to whoever had the earlier hit in the calendar year. In the case of identical hits, this will continue through the list until one list has an earlier hit than the other. If all hits between both lists are a match, whoever submitted their list first to the commissioner, will be the victor.


Winner takes all.  The only instance where the “prizes” would be divided between players: if a list scores hits on all 12 out of 12 submissions. If this highly unlikely scenario occurs, that participant is guaranteed 50% of the “prizes,” regardless of total points. Although, if somebody goes 12 for 12, they’re probably going to be the winner anyway.

If no lists have reached the minimum of 3 qualifying hits, all “prizes” will roll over into the following year’s competition.

A final note, for the sake of legality:

Remember, you’re not allowed to go out and kill anyone… or commission others to do so. The law of the land must prevail above all rules listed herein. So be good, for goodness sake.