Former MTG Pro Brian Hacker Makes WSOP Final Table

Brian Hacker
Brian Hacker

Game designer Brian Hacker usually builds games but today he was busy dismantling the field of the $3k PLO Hi-Lo event at the 2013 WSOP.

The former Magic: The Gathering pro outlasted 432 players to take fourth place in the tournament for $91,085. It was the biggest score of his live tournament career.

Although Hacker has been playing poker for years he’s only played a few WSOP events and was surprised just how similar the atmosphere is to MTG tournaments.

“It’s funny because it’s the closest thing to Magic: The Gathering I’ve ever seen,” he said.

“It’s male-dominated and a lot of people are the same age. It’s weird though because there are millions of dollars at stake in these tournaments. It’s a little more glamorous; it doesn’t have that geekiness that people associate with MTG.”

Hacker One of the First MTG Pros to Switch to Poker

Brian Hacker
Brian Hacker

Hacker was one of the best Magic: The Gathering players in the world in the late 1990s but started to take more of an interest in poker when the huge MTG craze started to dwindle.

“I had some friends in L.A., I think we were the first MTG players to get into poker,” he said. “People weren’t even playing online then. It was around when Rounders first came out.”

Hacker didn’t find the transition from MTG to poker particularly difficult and was surprised more MTG players didn’t do it.

“In the later rounds of MTG tournaments the level of play was incredibly high,” he said.

“Let me put it this way. In order to make $25,000 at MTG you had to be one of the 30 best players in the world. Meanwhile in poker if you’re one of the top 3,000 in the world you can make six figures.”

Former MTG players David Williams, Gabriel Nassif and Eric Froehlich also made the transition into poker but Hacker was actually surprised more didn’t get into game.

“I think the only reason more of them didn’t get into poker was because of how important emotional control is.”

David Williams
Former MTG pro David Williams

Ideas for Building a Better Poker Game

When the online boom hit in the mid-2000s Hacker was making a considerable amount of money from poker but also decided to take a job designing trading card games for Upper Deck where he helped create Kiba in the Japanese market and Huntik in Europe.

“I was working full-time and playing poker all night,” he said. “I was making more money from poker.”

Being a game designer gives Hacker a unique perspective on poker and he often sees ways he would improve the game.

“There’s a lot of cool stuff you could do online,” he said.

“For so long people only played poker with physical chips and cards. So when it moved online it just switched to virtual versions of chips and cards. There’s no reason it has to be that way. I think Zoom Poker and Rush Poker kind of proved that.”

Hacker mentioned he’s got several big ideas for improving poker, including an action-packed Stud variant, and would like to consult for online poker sites.

In the meantime Hacker has started his own game company with a friend and they plan to release a unique trading card game/board game before the end of the year.

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