Magic: The Gathering Veterans = The Best Poker Players?

If you tend to keep on top of things concerning the world of Magic: The Gathering, it’s apparent that it’s a very competitive game to get into, should you wish to take it to that level. Some do, and they’re known around the world for being some of the best strategic thinkers of their time. However, there’s an interesting connection to be made between Magic and poker players, specifically that extensive play of the former tends to improve the performance when playing as the latter.

For those who are active in any of the Magic scenes – such as the strong European Magic scene that has roots in larger nations, like France – it’s important news to hear, as those who’d like to transfer themselves from Magic tournaments in France to World Poker Tour events in Paris, knowing your skills are heavily transferable is likely to be a significant confidence boost.

It seems odd, at first, and while Wise’s article makes some very good points, it’s pretty surprising. Sure, they’re both card games, but are they really similar enough that we could extrapolate the direct benefits on poker skills taken from extensive Magic experience?

Arguably, yes, and that’s because of the aforementioned strategic element to the game. Realistically, it’s similar to poker in that it’s about lining up your shots, being patient, calm, not giving the game away and then striking while you’re at your strongest and they’re at their weakest. Drawing out players with pseudo-weak moves that make you appear vulnerable, only to close the jaws of your trap on them is not uncommon in Magic, and it logically follows that this is identical to the behaviour you see at poker tables.

If you analyze some of the more popular Magic players, you can see a clear connection between the two games. Raphaël Lévy is a fantastic example – a well known French/Jewish Magic player (and thus an inspiration to the aforementioned section of the French Magic community interested in poker), he has been active for years on the Pro Magic circuit and is an example to anyone wanting to play cards at a high level. One of the reasons for this is his clear commitment to the game, and whether you’re into Magic or into, this player hailing from Toulouse is a force to be reckoned with.

Speaking about the connection, David Williams, runner-up in the 2004 Word Series of Poker, had the following to say. “I think the biggest correlation is that it teaches the brain how to work. It’s problem-solving, logical deduction. Most people aren’t sharpening their brains constantly. We’ve been honing our skills for years; high-level thinking is pretty much all we do. That’s great training for playing poker under pressure.”

Deep card games are always very high-pressure gaming environments. This isn’t your typical round of Munchkin – Magic is played on a global-competition scale, and although the financial stakes at the top are nowhere near those of poker, it allows players to adapt to the tension of being in such a position. So the next time you’re thinking about whether or not to join your friends for a little Magic, think of it this way – if you ever feel like moving into poker, your previous M:TG experiences might just turn the tide in your favour.