A pool in this sense means to place flat-rate bet into the pot, and bet that something is going to happen at a certain time. One of the more mundane examples of a pool to place a clock in the middle of a frozen lake, then let anyone pay a small fee to make bets on when it falls through the melting ice. The sponsoring party makes a little money, and the winning party makes a little money. Everybody wins (except for the losers, of course... and they didn't pay much anyway, and it is all in good fun, after all.)

A dead pool is a rather darker and more demented contest. It usually involves betting on when a -- usually famous -- person is going to die.

This idea was almost custom-made for the Internet generation, and the internet dead pools have been seeing a brisk business. Check out stiffs.com for a hint.

A sample entry would go like this: "I think Linus Torvalds is going to die this year." If he does, you win the pool! You normally make bets on a list of people, and your final placement is the total of your wins.

Dead pools aren't necessarily for people. F*ckedCompany bills itself as the internet startup deadpool. Named in homage to FastCompany (A magazine to tracks the 'internet economy'), it tracks and scores the failings of the internet economy.

The folks at ntk.net have gotten so tired of reporting another winner in their informal dead pool, that they have shortened the whole process down to a shout of "Falco!"