Nuclear War Death Pool

Guess When a Nuclear Weapon Is Detonated and Win Fabulous Prizes!

By Buck Wolf

June 26, 2002 --   Is nuclear war inevitable in these shaky times? Want to bet?

Death pools — a ghoulish twist on college basketball tournament pools — are nothing new to the Internet. Participants typically throw a few dollars into a pot and guess when various newsmakers will die for cash prizes and bragging rights.

Now, Luke Heidelberger is taking this morbid game to an all new level with the Indo-Pakistani Death Pool.

Just guess the exact time the first bomb detonates and you win. It's that easy. You don't even have to guess who strikes first. Just make sure to also guess how many millions of innocent people die — that's how a tiebreaker is decided.

Are you sick yet? Heidelberger hopes so.

To be sure, Heidelberger's stab at dark humor is intended to get people talking about how close we're coming to nuclear war in South Asia.

"My little death pool isn't encouraging the Indians and Pakistanis to nuke each other. I'm just trying to emphasize how absurd this whole thing is in my own small way," he says.

"If the leaders of those two countries are going to be so stupid and so arrogant as to gamble with the lives of millions of their citizens in a deadly game of nuclear brinksmanship, why shouldn't we gamble too and at least have some fun with it? At least my game might get people talking."

Heidelberger, a 28-year-old computer programmer from Indianapolis, says he's not affiliated with any political group. This is just his own personal statement and in keeping with his own personal favorite statement on war, Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove.

"I'd like to think that Stanley Kubrick would join the pool if he were still around," said Heidelberger. Still, his girlfriend isn't so sure. "She's a little afraid of a backlash."

War: The Sport of Kings

Ghoul pools existed way before the Internet. European nobles were known to bet on everything — including the outcome of wars, sometimes referred to as the "sport of kings."

Compared to the bigger games on the Internet, the Indo-Pakistani Death Pool is small potatoes. The prize is only $120, and Heidelberger put up most of the money himself.