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Last Updated: October 11, 2017
Commentary on the Las Vegas Shooting
As I write this, eight days have passed since the Las Vegas shooting of October 1, 2017. I would like to start by mentioning a few people I knew who were there that infamous evening.
- Lisa Furman: Lisa attended the concert. Of all the models I hired for my website Wizard of Vegas, she was my favorite. Her pictures can be seen in reviews of such hotels as the Aria, Circus Circus, Green Valley Ranch, M, Las Vegas Hilton, Stratosphere, Riviera, Sahara, Silverton, and South Point. She was such a fun person to be around, and I was always happy to work with her. Lisa wrote on Facebook that she was caught up in the mass exodus fleeing the shooting, during which she lost her phone. Trying to climb over a fence, she dislocated her shoulder. She would later write to thank the many people who helped her that evening.
- Heather Gooze: I met Heather at the 2014 Cutting Edge Table Game show when I made a video for her game Texas Switch. Besides inventing table games, Heather works as a bartender, and she was tending bar at the venue on the evening of the shooting. She survived the shooting but a stranger to her, who escaped with her that night, did not. She held his hand as he took his last breath, and she stayed with his body for hours until it could be properly removed. Her story can be found via the CBS story, Bartender describes dying Las Vegas victim's final moments.
- Paige Melanson: Paige is the lower school choreographer at the school where my younger daughter attends fifth grade. I didn't know Paige very well. As I recall, she and I had a pleasant conversation about the upper school's production of The Drowsy Chaperone at one point. Paige was shot in the arm and was later released from the hospital. Her mother suffered more severe injuries and is still hospitalized, as far as I know.
At this time, I think it is important to put a human face on what happened. It is so easy to ignore the bloody aftermath and instead point fingers at whomever is available to take the blame or come up with conspiracy theories to answer the "why" questions. Until there is strong evidence to the contrary, I think it is appropriate to assume the shooter acted alone and for no reason other than he wanted to kill as many people as possible.
As we have come to learn in the last week, the shooter, Stephen Paddock, was a serious and skilled video poker player. Many people have asked me if I knew him. Not only did I not know him but neither did any of the professional video poker players in my circle of friends. One of them has seen him at some events and on a casino cruise but never interacted with him.
My profile of the guy is that he played alone. Never part of a team. Never sharing information. As independent of an agent as they come. Based on my understanding, he was very introverted. Quiet most of the time, but when he got angry about something he could be quite rude.
Paddock seemed to have many of the attributes that make for a successful video poker player -- intelligent, patient and disciplined with nerves of steel. However, that doesn't mean every video poker player is a potential mass murderer. Many professional video poker players are normal, nice people. However, based on the types I seem to attract into my life, professional gamblers suffer more than their share of depression, autism, shyness, and social awkwardness. I'll raise my hand to all of those. Maybe I'm just a magnet for these types and they don't represent the group as a whole. I don't know.
However, when it came out that Paddock was a skilled video poker player, I wasn't entirely surprised. His characteristics may be an extreme case, but he did seem to have the IQ, discipline and skills to make for a successful player.
Paddock also certainly had his demons. In the interests of hopefully helping others who may suffer with some of the same issues as him, I'd like to state publicly that I suspect I am mildly autistic, and know that I have suffered from depression my whole life. Here are some things I have found to help:
- Make friends with your own kind. Autism tends to be highly correlated with social awkwardness. In other words, said people can be kind of annoying at times. Try to be patient and realize you're not perfect either.
- Get lots of exercise. This is beneficial in numerous ways -- you'll at least be physically healthier, it is a good distraction, it releases endorphins, and hopefully it will be a good way to interact with other health-minded people.
- Consider medication. I've never said this publicly before, but I started taking antidepressants a year ago. All things considered, it has helped a lot.
I would like to repeat that I'm not trying to stereotype all video poker players as mad geniuses. They are an intelligent bunch and most are social and well-adjusted. It does not take being a genius to be a successful video poker player. Patience, discipline, and a sufficient bankroll are enough to make it, and many normal people possess those attributes.
I would also like to emphasize that I am in no way excusing what happened. Stephen Paddock pulled the trigger and is the only one responsible as far as I know.
So, that's my two cents on the topic. If you're interested in more of what I have to say regarding the shooting and video poker, here are some links to articles I'm quoted in and a radio interview.
Thanks for listening.
- KFI 640 AM Los Angeles — John and Ken show (Oct 6, 2017).