Las Vegas, NV
I'd hate to say this, but the biggest chatter at the 2009 WSOP on Day 29? The death of Michael Jackson.
And the biggest story that most poker media were busy researching? Did Jeff Goldblum really die?
I was in Las Vegas in 7-7-05. If you don't know the significance of that date, well let me share an excerpt from my upcoming book Lost Vegas that described that day...
7 July 2005Yes, it's true. The majority of current events often cease to exist in a black hole of a city like Las Vegas. Degenerate gamblers could care less about the tragic stories on the alphabet news networks, which included the London Bombings in 2005 and the shenanigans in the Iran Election in 2009.
I woke up hungover and dehydrated after I drank until the wee hours with AlCantHang, Otis, and Grubby celebrating my final table appearance in the Celebrity/Media event. AlCantHang had crashed on my couch and was already awake when I woke up.
"They bombed the London subways," he said and pointed to the TV.
CNN flashed various images of the carnage in London as the citizens of Great Britain suffered their own version of 9/11. For Brits, the tube bombings would always be known as 7/7. We were glued to the TV all morning as 9/11 flashbacks haunted me. I lived in New York City during 9/11 and the London bombings brought back unwanted memories of confusion and anxiety.
When you heard tragic news in a vacation destination such as Las Vegas, it did not affect you in the same way as if you heard it in your hometown. Once you stepped foot inside a casino, you tuned out the rest of the world, therefore any tragic events failed to anchor roots into your sentimental side. Visitors had not watched CNN, checked the internet, or read a newspaper in days or even weeks while feeding their gambling addictions.
Most of the people that I spoke to that morning had no idea that there was a terrorist attack in London. They could tell you which baseball teams won the night before but had no clue about the bombings. They really didn’t care. It wasn’t personal, that’s just how things were in Las Vegas.
Kids dying in Africa? Who cares? Hit me.
Another IAD killed two marines in Iraq? Who cares? I’m all in.
Earthquake toppled towns in China? Who cares? Let it ride!
However, the moment that word got out about Michael Jackson's death on Thursday afternoon, the news spread faster that a case of the clap in a Manila whorehouse. Within minutes, it was the only anything anyone was taking about. And that's not just at the WSOP. Some Twitter geek figured out that at one point 30% of all tweets on Thursday involved Michael Jackson.
But it seemed like everyone was talking about Michael Jackson... at the tables, in the press box, in the hallways, and even pros via Twitter. Heck, Annie Duke wrote a blog post about it and Melissa Hayden was in near tears when I saw her.
Some of the table banter among players was more of the heartfelt "RIP" type as Michael Jackson fans paid remembrance to their hero, while others lashed out at the absurdity of honoring the death of a pedophile freak show. Plenty of old and newer jokes were passed back and forth.... "little boys pants half off".... "choked on 12 year old nuts."
I offered up a prop bet to Homer. Brits are always cheeky with their puns and I bet him that he couldn't get away with posting five different headlines using Michael Jackson songs. And I promptly lost. I now owe him In-N-Out Burger.
As we were still processing the news of Michael Jackson's passing, I got the first message about the death of Jeff Goldblum. There was not any info on the news/entertainment/Hollywood gossip rags. Deaths comes in sets of three. Farrah Fawcett passed away earlier and MJ was second. Was Jeff Goldblum third?
I called Joe Speaker, who happens to specialize in obituaries at the L.A. Times. He told me that they have thousands and thousands of pre-written obits for almost every notable celebrity. The older celebs or ill ones are ready to be published within seconds of their expiration. He even said they have obits written for the young Hollywood types who live super fast such as Lindsey Lohan, just in case they happen to OD on a speedball at a resort in Palm Springs.
My source could not confirm Jeff Goldblum. My friends in the poker media were running into dead ends with Google searches. After an hour or so, it became apparent that the Jeff Goldblum death news was simply a hoax. Once I started reading about Harrison Ford dying, I knew it was a load of horse shit. Why? Because like his character in the Blade Runner, Harrison Ford is a replicant.
Alas, in the side show carnival that is the World Series of Poker, the strangest of the strange could not help but talk about the Greatest Freak Who Ever Lived.
Editor's Note: This originally appeared on Tao of Poker.