80-plus terms, tips and tales from "Ace" to "Wishful Thinking."



Ace - one-point score on a selection 90 years of age or older. Age is no guarantee of a Sure Thing. Charlie Smith, who died at 137, was an Ace for 47 years.

Actuary - an employee of a life insurance company who uses statistics to estimate the effect of economics, geography, race, religion, gender, lifestyle, employment, drug use, et al, on life span, in order to calculate insurance risks. A real-world, professional parallel of the Gamester.

Almanacker - a Gamester who relies upon an almanac in selecting names for his or her list. Complimentary or derogatory depending upon one's view of this style of play.

At the Wire - a hit scored on December 31st, the last day of the Game. Click here for a list.

Bag Day - The day the Gran Prix winner scores the winning point(s) and puts victory "in the bag." For the World's Record, click here. For a complete list of "Bag Days" since 1971, along with winning margins of victory, click here.

Balance - a theory of list management that stresses an even and varied distribution of picks, e.g. at least one rock star on drugs, one dictator who came to power in a coup, one world leader under stress, one race car driver, etc.

Banzuke Spotlight - The "Banzuke" is the posted list of sumo wrestlers participating in an upcoming tournament. "Banzuke Spotlight" is the column in Sumo World magazine which focuses on their potential and performance. The name was adopted as a heading for our Game standings, in tribute to the sport of sumo and the culinary exploits of several of our gamesters.

Buffalo Cup - honor awarded annually to those who have compiled a perfect record, free from hits. A year-long Dry Spell or Lull. Named in honor of the legendary J. Buffalo. For the World's Record, click here. For a complete list of Buffalo Cup winners, click here. See also Club Nula.

Bush Pick - selection widely known to be dying, usually of cancer or AIDS, or any other hit of the "ducks in a barrel" variety. In 1973, Dr. Death first noted the pros & cons of the Bush Pick, saying, "It was a cheap shot in that he'd been in the Mayo Clinic for months, but six points is six points. Of course, uninspired picks will never get you into the elite."

Call - a prediction proven correct. Usually heard as, "Good call" or "What a call."

Charter Gamester - one of eleven (11) gamesters who played in 1970, the Game's first, unofficial year. They were: Dr. Death, Binky Brown, J. Buffalo, Ghostwriter, W.J. Krug, J.C. Hoffmeier, L. Featherman, J. Basal, P. Doyle, Dupont Fluvius and G. Lescault.

Clete's Cup - an honor awarded to the list with the lowest QPA. Named for Mr. Clete, the wonder dog, the prescient pooch, the crafty canine of the Game Gazette's founding editor. Mr. Clete leaned heavily on The World Almanac and tallied a series of QPA's as low as his dog bed. He enjoyed a privileged position in Gamedom until plant and animal lists were disallowed in 1978. For the Single Season World's Record, click here. For the Career World's Record, click here. For a complete list of Clete's Cup winners, click here.

Close Shave - a hit that almost was.

Club Nula - dwelling place of those who have yet to score. Although packed on January 1st, its membership dwindles with each obit. Those who remain in Club Nula for the entire year are awarded The Buffalo Cup. Nula is pronounced "Noo-la," from the Serbo-Croatian for "zero."

Coming and Going - said of a selection who is being nudged towards death from two or more directions. For example, one Central American dictator ruled as a despot, slept with his generals' wives, and was treated for a circulatory disorder. Gamesters said, "I've got him coming and going." (Indeed, although he survived a revolution in 1979, he was dispatched by bazooka while in exile in Paraguay.) In December, however, Coming and Going takes on an entirely different meaning, applying to an ailing selection who is listed on both one's current and future lists, e.g., "I'm covered if he dies in December or January; I've got him coming and going."

Conservative Pick - a pick already dead at the time of listing. The phrase was coined by J. Basal when he learned that two of his new 1977 picks were already dead. "Perhaps I was a little too conservative with those," he said. W. J. Krug was a master of the Conservative Pick, setting a single season record of nine in 1976, a mark exceeded by D. Trageser who listed ten (10) dead people in 1978, including his Wild Card who had died the last week on 1977. The record for Most Conservative pick was set by E. Sox, who in 1977 listed Sherwood Anderson, who had died in 1941. Wow!

Daily Double - a rare and stylish thrill for gamesters, which requires that two famous people die on the same day and that the gamester has listed both. For a complete list of the Game's Daily Doubles, click here.

Death List - the gamester's official list of the famous individuals he or she predicts will die in the coming year. Not to be confused with "wish list" or "hit list."

Diners' Club - famous foursome who made a dinner bet each year, wherein the high scorer ate his fill at the expense of the low scorers. In the event of a tie for high, the two lower scoring gamesters had to pick up the tab for both winners.

Dr. Death's Diploma for Class List - award given to the most stylish list. It honors Solos, Duets, Rallies and an avoidance of Bush play. Named in honor of the style king, Dr. Death. For the Career World's Record, click here. For a complete list of winners, click here.

Drop - to remove or discard a pick from the previous year's list to make room for a new selection. Also said of selections that lose a point on decade birthdays, e.g. passing from age 39 to 40, from seven points to six. "He dropped a point this year."

Dry Spell - a period with no scoring, during which, becalmed like the Ancient Mariner, gamesters suffer in proportion to their passion for the Game. For the World's Record, click here.

Duet - a selection scored upon by only two gamesters.

Elder - a gamester who, by virtue of years of play, love of the Game, knowledge of precedent and demonstrated understanding, is consulted regarding difficult Game decisions.

Etiquette - Good manners dictate that the Game should not be discussed with those who find it offensive or who are recently bereaved.

Founding Fathers - Dr. Death and Binky Brown, who invented and first ran the Death Game in 1970.

The Four Levels of Play - Irreverence, sharing, competition and illumination. The Game's philosophical underpinnings.

Front Page Solo - a solo on an individual so famous that the notice begins on page one of the newspaper. A real sign of style.

The Game - common abbreviation for the Death Game, also known as "The Run for the Lilies".

Game Central - headquarters of the Game, generally the spot where mail is received, scores are tallied and the Gazette is published.

The Game Gazette - the official journal of the Game, founded January 1976 by Ghostwriter to inform and entertain gamesters. (Prior to this, standings appeared on Binky Brown's refrigerator door.) Editors have included Ghostwriter (1976-'81, 1989-2002), Pontius ('81-'83, 2003- ), King of Pain ('83-'86), Dupont Fluvius ('87-'88), Amy Moorebid ('88-'89) and Dr. Doornail ('89).

Game Name - a creative pseudonym adopted for Game play, often by those who feel their employer, family, etc., might find the Game a tad distasteful.

Gamester - one who plays, or has played, the Death Game.

Ghostie - named after Game Legend Ghostwriter, we award the Ghostie to the one hit voted "Hit of the Year".  Awarded consistently since 1996, a complete list of Ghostie winners can be found here.

Grace Period - the time between January 1st and Opening Day, the day of the year's first hit, during which late lists are accepted without penalty, and last minute changes and/or substitutions for Conservative Picks may be accepted at the discretion of the editor.

Grand Slam - four hits in one day, accomplished on May 14th, 1998, by the Depopulators.

Gran Prix - honor awarded to the gamester(s) with the most points at year's end. For the Single Season World's Record, click here. For the Career World's Record, click here. For a complete list of Gran Prix winners, click here.

Hall of Fame - The Hall of Fame opened its doors in 1977 and honors those who have performed at inspiring levels of play. The first class included Founding Fathers Dr. Death and Binky Brown, as well as D. Perriman Jr. and D. Perriman Sr. Since then, gamesters have been inducted when the time is right. To visit the Hall, click here.

Hanging On - When a selection takes ill in one year but threatens to survive into the next. In some quarters, this is believed to be an intentional act, to frustrate those who were there early and gather a larger following in the coming year.

Hat Trick - three hits in one day.

Heart History - a term popularized by Pontius for a pick with a bad ticker.

Hit - the death of a famous individual who is listed by a gamester. Commonly used in the context, "It's a hit!"

Homework - also known as Research. The practice of perusing the press for reports on the ailing and accident-prone to enhance one's predictive powers. Different gamesters swear by different media and deductive methods. In 1973, Dr. Death wrote, "Heavy research is a drag and not in keeping with the philosophy of the Game at all. We all know the cheap shots, but it's the Dick Farias and Mrs. E. Howard Hunts that distinguish class players from the current events freaks."

HPY - Hits Per Year, a career statistic prepared by King of Pain for the annual Career Statistics issue of the Game Gazette.

Inspiration - the most honored, although not always the most effective, method of selecting picks. Inspirational players rely heavily on the subconscious and the muse, avoiding Research and Sure Things. They generally prepare their list in one sitting, often on December 31st, selecting the most colorful people and letting the chips fall where they may. While they will not often be seen winning the Gran Prix, they are always a threat to Solo and capture Dr. Death's Diploma for Class List.

Juggling - temporarily replacing a Perennial choice with a Sure Thing, usually from the same area of the alphabet, in the hope that the perennial fave will hold on one more year and the Sure Thing will cash out immediately, thus yielding two hits in one space in two years. An advanced form of list management, it's fraught with peril.

Kiss of Death - When a gamester drops a previous year's selection while preparing the coming year's list, and the dropped selection then dies, the gamester's act of dropping the selection is referred to as "The Kiss of Death."

Lead - the position of the gamester with the highest number of points. The lead may be shared, a phenomenon frequently seen early in the season after one or two hits, but it becomes more difficult to hold as the year continues. The gamester in the lead when the horn blows at midnight on December 31st is the winner of the Gran Prix. Victory may be shared, i.e. the Game may end in a tie.

"Letting It Ride" - the practice of entering a previous year's list with no changes or additions for the coming year. A tactic employed with remarkable success by the Fabulous Hoffmeiers, whose 1974 list scored handily every year through 1978. Also noteworthy, D. Trageser's "Let It Ride" decision in December of 1983; his 1983 Class List won Class List again in 1984.

Lifestyle Analysis - the middle ground between Homework and Inspiration, i.e. the study of famous individuals, still healthy, with particular interest in bad habits and self-destructive behavior. Lifestyle analysts look for fast drivers, risk-takers, drug-users and violent individuals due for karmic payback. People with more resources than restraint are very popular. Picks by this method are more satisfying because they are less predictable, fewer gamesters have them and they are more surprising, hence more stylish.

"Live by the Sword, Die by the Sword" - A restatement of Matthew 26:52, this axiom is oft quoted by practitioners of Lifestyle Analysis when selecting dictators who have come to power by killing their predecessor.

Long Shot - as in racing, a selection with long odds against success. In the Game, this generally is someone young and healthy.

Lull - a period of no scoring, either personal or gamewide. In personal instances, also referred to as a "slump" or "dry spell."

Margin of Victory - the number of points separating the Gran Prix winner(s) from their nearest competitor. For a complete chart of victory margins since 1971, click here.

Munchkin - a pick so obscure that when he or she dies, they come in "under the radar," i.e. no major news organization notices.

National Disaster - from '71 to '91, a disaster which occurred inside a political boundary and resulted in 5,000 or more deaths. From '92 to '98, the disaster had to be a sudden, natural (not man-made) disaster. The gamester had to call the type of disaster and the country to receive the ten (10) points. The disaster could not be underway in the previous year, or be routine, e.g. highway deaths. The National Disaster was dropped from the Game at the end of 1998. For a list of those who tallied the 10-point award, click here.

Opening Day - the first day of scoring, a phrase coined by the King of Pain. For the World's Record, click here.

Pace - the speed of an individual or the game as a whole. Some gamesters show sudden flurries; others are prone to slow but steady progress. The Game itself can move rapidly, as during the Game's Wild Weekend of February 23-24, 1990, when seven hits were scored in two days, or with glacial slowness, as during the ensuing summer when only eight hits were scored in all of June, July and August.

Pandora's Box - 1) Binky Brown's hit of March 12, 1973, on Lutheran leader Rev. Kent Knudsen for which he successfully claimed points on the grounds that Knudsen was "famous in his field." This broadening of the definition of fame opened the door to years of cheap shots and abuses of the judges' good nature, and prompted endless haggling over what constitutes fame, a topic which still causes controversy to this day. 2) A gamester who played briefly, but long enough to solo on Princess Grace.

Perennial - Also "Hardy Perennial." A choice listed year after year, who survives against all odds and becomes both an obsession and an object of wonder, e.g. Keith Richards, Jerry Lee Lewis, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.

The Perriman Pennant - The award for Most Hits, so named for the fabulous Perrimans, Sr. & Jr., who set Game records in this category. For the Single Season World's Record, click here. For the Career World's Record, click here. For a complete list of Perriman Pennant winners, click here.

Pet Show Principle - our guiding precept, which states that the Game is best served when the greatest number of gamesters have their moment in the limelight.

Pick - a listed individual.

Points - Points are awarded on a scale based on age. To calculate, subtract the number in the tens column of the pick's age from ten, e.g. 64 years old, six from 10 is four, therefore four points. Picks 90 years old or more are worth one point, except for the Wild Card, who is worth five, regardless of age.

Power - the more points per hit, the more powerful a list. If two gamesters each score five times, the gamester with five-pointers will always beat the gamester with three-pointers. But five-pointers are harder to spot than three-pointers, so balancing frequency with power remains one of the Game's greatest challenges.

PPY - Points Per Year, a career statistic prepared by King of Pain for the annual Career Statistics issue of the Game Gazette.

Premiums - Over the years, the editors have dispensed premiums when any leftover money was in the till at year's end. These have included the Game Lucky Pen, the Game Coffee Mug, the Game Porcelain Magnet and "The Artful Dirger" series of CDs.

Principle of Internal Contradiction - One of the lesser known but more powerful principles of Lifestyle Analysis. Based on the notion that inner conflicts are stressful and bad for one's health, the principle has been observed in angry comics, lustful prudes, gay gay-bashers and racist whites who love R&B.

Purist - one who plays with no Sick List, Warm-Up List or other media crutch, selecting solely on inspiration, usually on December 30th or 31st.

QPA - Quality Point Average. Introduced by Dr. Death in 1971, the QPA is one of the Game's milestone refinements. Awarded only to those who score five hits or more. Calculated by dividing points by hits, e.g. if a gamester scores 20 points on five hits, their QPA is 4.0. The higher the QPA, the lower the average age per pick, hence the less the gamester has relied upon age in selecting picks. A high QPA points to power and style unless the high-pointers were all Bush Picks, i.e. known to be ailing. A low QPA indicates a reliance on the elderly, although this method gained popularity and a style of its own in the paws of Mr. Clete, the Game's first canine practitioner, who leaned heavily upon The World Almanac and crafted lists that scored modestly but often, earning him the appellation, "The Furry Rocket." In 1994, the High QPA Award was renamed the Reaper Ribbon in honor of legendary gamester G. Reaper, who died that year. For the World's Record High QPA, click here. Each year, the first gamester to qualify for a QPA receives the Silver Bobcat award.

Rally - three or more hits in a limited number of days. The Game's greatest have shown an uncanny ability to cluster hits and fly past competitors into the lead. Great rallies include: Dr. Death's 3 hits/18 points of July 3-12, 1971, and his 3 hits/15 points of November 25-December 14, 1974, to come from behind and win the Gran Prix his fourth and final time; D. Perriman, Sr.'s 4 hits/14 points of May 30-June 11, 1976 and his 5 hits/12 points of December 1977 to tie for the Gran Prix; Razor's 3 hits/13 points of February 23-24, 1990; Flatliners' Silver Bobcat-bagging rally of 6 hits/21 points from January 22-February 9, 1995.

The Game's most explosive rally, however, occurred in May of 1998, when the Depopulators scored 25 points from May 7th to 14th, capped by four hits in one day.

Reaper Ribbon - The award given for High QPA, named in honor of the Game's late, great G. Reaper, who died in April of 1994 and left his list behind to win the '94 Game by one point. For the Single Season World's Record, click here. For the Career World's Record, click here. For a complete list of Reaper Ribbon winners, click here.

Roadblock - a pick who frustrates a large number of gamesters by remaining alive all year, particularly in the Wild Card spot.

Robbed - the standard claim of both gamesters in a Duet, who each feel the other deprived them of a Solo. Also, a common complaint leveled against picks who dip in and out of critical condition, survive assassination attempts, etc., as in, "Three of his bodyguards died, but he walked away; he robbed me."

Rookie - a new, first-year gamester. Usually the Game's most optimistic.

Rookie of the Year - an annual honor given to the best neophyte. For a complete list, click here.

Self Defense - the act of listing Bush Picks so as not to be out-distanced by less stylish gamesters before one's own refined and imaginative list can kick in.

Sick List - a running list of those reported to be ailing, compiled from news media, used to supercharge, perhaps even fill, a gamester's list the following year. Sick-Listers jealously guard their sources. Also known as Homework and Research. Frowned on by Purists.

Silver Bobcat - award honoring gamesters who are first to qualify for a QPA in the "drive for five" hits. The creation of the Silver Bobcat was prompted by the dazzling speed of the Smokin' Bobcat, Cassandra Bob, with a respectful nod to the Silver Warrior, D. Perriman, Sr., who for 15 years owned the record for fastest QPA -- five hits by February 1st, 1981. For the Single Season World's Record, i.e. the fastest Bobcat, click here. For the Career World's Record, i.e. the most Bobcats, click here. For a complete list of Silver Bobcat winners, click here.

Solo - a hit by only one gamester. Can be a sign of style and class, although it may also point to the obscurity of the selection. The classiest solos are those which are widely known and totally unexpected. For the single-season record for most solos, click here.

Solo Potential - number of selections on a list that would be solo hits if they died. The list is prepared each year by the King of Pain.

Stocking Stuffer - A hit on Christmas Day, December 25th. Click here for a list.

Style Points - imaginary points awarded to inspired or amusing picks. A phrase first used by Dr. Death.

Sure Thing - a selection thought to be knocking loudly at Death's Door, whether by reason of illness or impending violence. A favored pick among those who do a lot of Research. See also Coming and Going.

Sweenied - To be robbed of a Wild Card Solo by the pick of one other gamester, as in "He got Sweenied." Named for gamester Sweeney Todd. For a list of these sad unfortunates, click here.

Team List - a list in which two or more gamesters pool their predictions and run under one banner. Team meetings are the stuff legends are made of.

Tease - as in, "What a tease." A pick who goes into critical condition and then, surprisingly, recovers, leaving gamesters with no points.

Top Pop Pick - a selection of a large number of gamesters. For the World's Records in popularity, click here.

Top Ten - The most coveted turf in the Standings, the top ten spots as shown in the Banzuke Spotlight. Because ties can occur in tenth place, the Top Ten can often hold more than 10 gamesters. For a list of the Top Ten finishers each year in Game history, click here.

Triple Crown - to finish the year with the lead in points, hits and QPA (winning the Gran Prix, Perriman Pennant and Reaper Ribbon), accomplished only three times, in 1971, 1973 and 1974, all by Dr. Death. For more details, click here.

Under the Radar - a pick who is so obscure that they die unnoticed by major news organizations.

Warm-Up List - a list of possible choices compiled from the media, Game gossip and flashes of inspiration, kept all year and used to focus thinking in preparation of the coming year's list. Also known as "Picks to Click."

Washout - a gamester who retires without ever scoring. For a list, click here.

Wild Card - selection #68 which provides five (5) points, regardless of age. Showcases predictive skill and gains extra points for selections over the age of 60, who would otherwise be worth four points or less. The Wild Card was invented by Binky Brown in 1971. For the record for the most Consecutive Wild Cards, click here.

Wild Card Solo - the Game's supreme predictive accomplishment, a Solo hit on one's Wild Card selection. Imagine trying to find a Sure Thing that no one else has ever heard of and you can see the difficulty inherent in pursuing this dream. For a list of gamesters who have made this pick, click here.

Wild Weekend, The - On February 23, 1990, gamesters scored on former president of El Salvador Jose Napoleon Duarte and WW2-hero Gen. James Gavin. The following day saw the passings of publisher Malcolm Forbes, singer Johnnie Ray, baseball's Tony Conigliaro, former Italian president Sandro Pertini and "refusenik" David Goldfarb -- five hits to choose from, seven in two days. Pontius, with Duarte and a solo on Gavin, scored a Daily Double on the 23rd. On the 24th, Razor picked up the Daily Double with Conigliaro and Goldfarb, plus Duarte the previous day, for three hits in two days.

Wire to Wire - In the lead from Opening Day through the end of the year. Dr. Death is the only gamester ever to accomplish this feat. He went Wire to Wire in 1972 and in 1973. In '72, he scored his first hit on January 1st, and thus held the lead for 365 days, a record that can never be broken.

Wishful Thinking - Dr. Death wrote, "If you want a winning list, you must not allow personal enmities to enter into your choices. You can waste a lot of spots that way."

1998 by Ghostwriter.


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