There are two kinds of people in this world: those who gamble and those who don’t. True gamblers are, by their very nature, the epitomy of optimism — often to their own detriment. They know that the odds are against them and yet they still roll the dice, over and over again, always hoping for the next big score, always trusting that an epic heater is just around the bend.
Jeff Simpson was a true gambler. Whether it was love, life or craps, Jeff always knew the math and still plunged into the game, fearlessly playing with gusto and swagger, and all the while trusting that, somehow, everything would work out for the best.
Jeff used to say that I was his greatest score. He saw my profile on Match.com; and while he was older, taller and perhaps a little more politically extreme than the preferences in my profile suggested I desired, he took a gamble and contacted me anyway.
We met in person for the first time on November 23rd, 2004 at a local Starbucks. He was sitting at an outdoor table in a dark, navy blue sweater. As I approached him, he looked up at me. His face was a handsome mixture of hope, intelligence and anticipation — with a dash of mischief thrown in — and it was only on second thought that my inner cynic had to remind me that there’s no such thing as love at first sight (that non-gambling inner cynic was wrong, of course).
Jeff and I ended up having so much to talk about that we closed down Starbucks and moved over to Barley’s Casino next door. What was supposed to be a casual first meeting over coffee became a seven-hour conversation and, eventually, an incredible seven-year relationship.
On November 23rd, 2011, exactly seven years from the first time we met, I took Jeff to the emergency room for extreme back and stomach pain. He was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm and rushed into a seven-hour-long emergency heart surgery. I sat by Jeff’s bed in the ICU for seven days before his team of doctors and nurses told me that there was nothing else they could do for him.
In those dark hours, I became a true gambler for the first time. I guess I was in denial (aren’t most gamblers?), but when Jeff’s cardiac surgeon first told me that there was a 60 percent chance that Jeff was going to die, I actually felt a sense of relief that probably only the most hopelessly hopeful gambler could summon. A 40 percent chance of survival? Jeff regularly beat much worse odds at the craps table. We can still win this game.
I hung on to that hope for seven days before letting Jeff go. He died on December 3rd, 2011.
There were times when Jeff would lose a lot of money playing craps, but as we’d leave the casino, he cheerily would announce, “Well at least I got to play some dice!” While that sentiment used to sort of annoy me, it doesn’t anymore. I get it now.
After all the pain, the heart monitors, catheters, dialysis machine, breathing tube — after all that crap, we still sevened out. But yet, in a heartbeat and without a second thought, I would buy in again. I would go through all of this over and over again, because in the end, it’s not only about the loss. I had the thrill and joy of a life with Jeff. He was my greatest score.
A very special thank you to everyone who has been so kind and supportive during such a difficult time. It’s been a true comfort to have been able to spend time with the people who truly loved Jeff and whom he loved, too.
- The Gang by Hunter Hillegas, Rate Vegas
- Man Down. by Chuckmonster, VegasTripping
- Why we’ll miss him most by Dave Schwartz, Two Way Hard Three
- Las Vegas Sun Obituary by Rick Velotta
- Las Vegas Review-Journal Obituary by Jessica Fryman
- Vegas Gang #71: Jeff’s Greatest Hits (plus other great stuff)
- Vegas Gang #69: Meet the Gangsters, featuring Jeff Simpson