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Top poker players saddened but not deterred by Vegas shooting

  • A deadly mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip will not deter the world's top poker players from returning to America's gambling capital.
  • "It was just really sad that I wasn't there — I used to live there — to give blood, or help out any way I can," one professional said.
  • Experts agree that the risk of dying or being injured in a mass shooting remains vanishingly small.

Professional poker player Robert Mizrachi lived in Las Vegas on and off for 11 years, but he was in Florida Sunday night when a gunman opened fire on a music festival near the Mandalay Bay hotel, killing 59 people and wounding more than 500 others.

"It was just really sad that I wasn't there — I used to live there — to give blood, or help out any way I can," he said. "Everyone knows someone who was at the concert."

Mizrachi's brother still lives in Las Vegas, and he had friends who were at the concert. Like many in the poker community, Mizrachi has a whole life in Las Vegas, returning to the city frequently to meet with friends and family and to compete. For poker players who live in Las Vegas and around the world, the mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip struck a deep chord.

In one video that was quickly circulated on a poker community subreddit, Dan Bilzerian, a poker player well-known for his Instagram personality, taped himself fleeing from the carnage at the music festival.

"Saw a girl get shot in the face right next to me," Bilzerian said in the video, adding an expletive.

Members of the poker community expressed shock and horror alongside the rest of the world Sunday night and Monday morning as details of the tragedy unfolded.

Liv Boeree, poker player
Sportsfile | Corbis | Getty Images
Liv Boeree, poker player

"Praying for Vegas, praying for humanity," Jason Mercier, once ranked as the top poker player in the world, posted to his Twitter account.

"Thinking of you, Las Vegas. Look after each other," Liv Boeree, the top-ranked female poker player in the U.K., posted to hers.

But in the aftermath of what's been called the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, the world's top poker players are still planning on returning to the nation's gambling capital.

"When we change our lifestyles because of things like this, we are letting the terrorists win," Las Vegas-based poker champion Ryan Riess wrote in an email.

Mizrachi, for his part, said he is still planning to go to Las Vegas in December for the Five Diamond World Poker Classic at the Bellagio hotel. Mass shootings, he said, can happen anywhere.

And Boeree said the massacre will not keep her from returning to the city that she loves, saying that the chances of dying in a mass shooting are "still incredibly small."

Experts agree that the risk of dying or being injured in a mass shooting remains vanishingly small.

"People shouldn't avoid Las Vegas because this shooting happened there," Northeastern University criminology professor and mass shooting expert James Alan Fox said in an interview. "You're more likely to die on the way to a casino in a car accident."

Boeree said that instead of avoiding Las Vegas, she hopes that people will focus on the factors that cause mass shootings.

"Its also important to not give the lunatics what they want - they want to disrupt our lives, so let's not let them," she wrote. "By relentlessly spreading the most shocking videos, and plastering images and biographies of attackers everywhere, we are giving the terrorists what they want - fear, attention and infamy."

Mizrachi said he hoped the incident in Las Vegas spurred changes in security practices.

"I just feel like we should have all big venues indoors in the future, but obviously you can't prevent anything from happening," he said. "I don't live life in fear."

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