Magic: The Gathering a Training Ground for Poker Pros

David Williams
“I learned more playing Magic than I did at school."

WSOP bracelet winner David Williams wasn't the first person to successfully transition from Magic: The Gathering to poker and, according to Williams, he won't be the last.

But, as Williams was quick to point out, Magic can prepare you for a lot more than poker.

“I think Magic is great because it's a non-gambling game that kids can play and it will prepare you for poker or a ton of other career paths you can go down,” Williams told PokerListings.com.

“I learned more playing Magic than I did at school, until I got to the more advanced stuff in college, and the cool thing is that you don't even realize you're learning because it's so much fun.

“A lot of people have moved from Magic to poker but I have a lot of friends from Magic that have gone into finance or technical fields but basically they're mentally prepared to succeed in anything in life.”

Unlike most card games where players share cards out of the same deck, each Magic player constructs their own deck and uses it to battle one or more opponents.

Williams, who has earned more than $8.3 million playing live poker tournaments, got his start in competitive gaming playing Magic more than a decade ago, and says it was the analytical skills and long hours at the table that prepared him for poker.

“I think the biggest things it can teach you are problem solving, how to focus and stay on task for long hours, and I think that's the key that helps people succeed at poker,” said Williams.

Brock Parker
Brock Parker was the reason many Magic players first moved to poker.
 

“Magic trains you to stay on your toes for long periods of time and know that every decision matters,” he said. “In regular life you usually get breaks and you're not playing for 12 hours a day for three or four days.”

“Poker tournaments aren't like that and neither are Magic tournaments.”

Success in Magic Translates to Success in Poker

David Williams is just one of a long list of former Magic pros to put their skills to work at the poker table.

Two-time WSOP bracelet winner Brock Parker is credited as being one of the first successful MtG players to make the jump, and he was followed by a list that includes Gabriel Nassif, Scott Seiver, Isaac Haxton, Adam Levy, Justin Bonomo and Eric Froelich, to name just a few.

And the reason that so many Magic players are taking a shot at poker is simple. Money.

Last October Williams played a team Magic tournament that had a field of over 1,700 players. Williams and his two teammates won the event and pocketed just $2,000 each.

To put that in perspective Williams pocketed $3.5 million at the 2004 WSOP Main Event and he didn't even finish first.

“No one I know plays Magic for the money,” said Williams. “But it's amazing any time you win at something you're passionate about and honestly that win felt as good as any poker tournament I've ever won.”

Phil Ivey
We're guessing the Phil Ivey of Magic hasn't made $17.5 million.
 

The Phil Ivey of Magic: The Gathering

Just like poker there are players in the Magic world that crush the game on a completely different level than the rest of the population.

But unlike poker where Phil Ivey is widely regarded as the greatest player in the game, the title of greatest Magic player could belong to one of two players depending on who you ask.

“There are definitely Magic players that just crush and win way more than the average good player, kind of like Phil Ivey in poker,” said Williams.

“The best player in the world is debatable but it's either a German guy named Kai Budde or an American named Jon Finkel.

“In my eyes Finkel is the very best but there's an argument for both,” he said.

While Kai Budde's name isn't known much outside of the MtG world, Finkel was famously lampooned in an article on Gizmodo last year.

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About Matthew Showell

Matt Showell was born and raised in the fair city of Vancouver, Canada. He now spends the bulk of his time traveling the globe, reporting on the world’s biggest poker tournaments. Matt has lived and breathed poker since the end of high school when he learned the most common variants at home games with his friends. In university he made his living playing low-stakes cash games and multi-table tournaments online while following the professional circuit on television and the Internet and in magazines.

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