Paul Magriel

Poker Community Talks About Paul Magriel

Paul Magriel passed away last week at the age of 71. There are likely a lot of people reading this who don’t know who Paul Magriel was and if you are one of them, I highly suggested taking a tour of the internet to find some videos of him. He was an eccentric player, with his disheveled appearance, odd nickname (X-22)*, and penchant for declaring “quack quack” when he raised, creating one of the all-time great characters in poker history. Though he faded from the consciousness of most of the poker community since the poker boom, he remained in the hearts of many. Let’s take a look at what the poker world is saying about Paul Magriel (typos, punctuation, etc. remain uncorrected).

Paul Magriel
Photo credit: CardPlayer

Over on Two Plus Two, long-time poker player and author, Ray Zee, shared his thoughts:

i met paul when he first came out to vegas and played in the mid higher stakes poker games. then he was more so called normal and played very well. he was one of the nicest people you could ever meet and always respected others and their thoughts. he listened to people when he knew the answer already and never started any arguments.

later he became more amusing and everyone always liked paul for who he was. he wrote the premier backgammon book at the time and knew more about poker than most of the pro’s. paul didnt care about money, but making things exciting was more of his interest.

people like paul made poker history and improved the fun in the game to make poker what it is today. lets hope more people make things fun for others as well.

Also Two Plus Two, a poster named Moneyline had this to say:

Paul overcame a lot to survive in the gambling world. I played low-stakes with him when my bankroll was low, and I have no doubt he could have beat the higher games I’ve played in. But what impressed me about him was not his poker skill. I was impressed by his ability to always stay positive, friendly and generous with his knowledge. I was impressed by his ability to survive in the gambling world while facing internal challenges I can’t even fully comprehend. Even when people gave him grief for his ticks and and appearance, which was frequent, he always handled the situations with good humor. In his own way, Paul had class.

Erik Seidel tweeted, “Woke up to the sad news that backgammon legend Paul Magriel (X-22) has passed away. He changed the game w his book, was a generous & enthusiastic teacher, he changed my life & the lives of many others”

Nolan Dalla wrote a fantastic piece for his blog on Magriel, providing a rundown of the man’s fascinating life. Most poker players knew Magriel was a very good player, but they didn’t know his true genius. Dalla spoke to that:

You wouldn’t have known about Paul’s mastery of other games by looking at him in his later years, which were mostly spent grinding low-stakes poker games in Las Vegas, with the occasional tournament cash here and there. He rarely talked about his life before poker. The last time I saw Paul was a month ago. He was playing in a $70 buy-in nightly tournament at the Orleans.

Cynics might have gazed upon Paul, seen his wrinkled pants barely hanging around his waist, observed his distracting facial tics, and be very hard-pressed to imagine this same man was once a gaming giant who regularly dressed in tuxedos, dined at the world’s finest restaurants, and always flew first-class.

Indeed, Paul seemed to become what many old poker players become in the late autumn of their years, broken down men who long ago forfeited their riches and glory to old age and the creeping hands of all human clocks, their lost triumphs now long past in the rearview mirror of life, invisible to the casual eye.

Let’s finish with how Paul Magriel spoke of himself and his love of games. In a 1978 interview with Gambling Times magazine, he said:

I think I’m addicted to backgammon. I’m addicted to games in general. Games are controlled violence. You can take out your frustrations and hostilities over a backgammon set, where the rules are clearly defined — in contrast to life, where the rules are not so well defined. In games, you know what’s right and wrong, legal versus illegal; whereas in life, you don’t.

*Magriel actually gave himself the nickname “X-22.” He explained it to The New Yorker in 1977, saying, “I used to play backgammon against myself and once I had a private tournament with sixty-four imaginary entrants, whom I designated X-l, X-2, and so forth, through X-64. In the final, X-22 was pitted against X-34, and X-22 won.”


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