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Why Are so Many Poker Pros Coming From a Fantasy Card Game Background?

Poker and Fantasy Card Games

4 minutes

Posted by: Ivan

The modern poker player is evolving, and the type of person you see at the felt these days is worlds apart from old legends like Johnny Moss and Doyle Brunson.

Nearly every professional in the game now has perfected their trade in an online setting, and this has led to a new way of playing.

Today’s Texas Hold’em players are exceptional mathematicians but also highly adept when it comes to strategy. Some have made these skills second nature by mastering related fantasy card games first.

Poker Pros That Played Magic: The Gathering

Two of the most successful poker players in the world right now have come from a background of playing Magic: The Gathering.

Bryn Kenney and Justin Bonomo sit at first and second place, respectively, on poker’s all-time money list.

They are considered two of the best poker players on the planet and may have even surpassed legends of the game like Phil Ivey and Daniel Negreanu in certain aspects.

The thing that these two modern poker players have in common is that they both played Magic: The Gathering competitively before becoming professional poker players.

They transitioned to poker in the mid-2000s at the height of the poker boom. Bonomo reached his first final table in 2005 at the French Open, and Kenney earned his first live cash in 2007 at the East Coast Poker Championships.


Magic: The Gathering clearly gave these players the foundations they needed to go on to enjoy lucrative poker careers.

While playing the Wizards of the Coast game, they have developed their memory, mathematic, and strategic skills.

These skills certainly came in handy as they transitioned to poker, giving them an excellent head-start in the game.

A Good Path to Follow for Other Aspiring Players

Anyone interested in improving their game and having a chance to test their skills against the greats one day could follow this trajectory and master a fantasy card game first.

It could be particularly useful for players from countries where it is notoriously hard for people to break out into the fiercely competitive poker scene.

There is no denying that USA nationals have dominated the major tournaments until now, but this could change in the years ahead.

India, for example, is gradually producing more and more highly skilled players. There is a growing poker scene in the country, thanks to the wider availability of the internet.

Indeed, there are so many people playing online poker these days that they require review services that put them in touch with the best Indian poker sites.

These recommendations are based on the welcome bonuses, along with the variations of poker on offer.

New players may also find the opportunity to read up on details like payment methods and mobile compatibility for on-the-go gaming.

Many Indian players will learn their trade at these sites, but they may need to go the extra mile if they want to make it to the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.

This is where fantasy card games could play a part. Magic: The Gathering already has a loyal following in India, and other options like Hearthstone and Gwent have also attracted a lot of players.

Players of these games who are also interested in poker could find that their skills are highly transferable.

Fantasy card games share many common points with online poker. These games aren’t based purely on luck. They require players to plan ahead of time and come up with effective strategies to beat the competition.

While strategies themselves are different, the core principle remains the same. Developing strategies ahead of time and anticipating your opponent’s move are some of the core strategies required to become good at Magic: The Gathering and other similar games.

It’s the winning mentality and the general approach that make the transition so easy and seamless.

Fantasy card games players don't have to know anything about poker to begin with, but they know how to go about developing winning strategies in card games in general.

Other Strategy Games Could Help With Poker

It isn’t just fantasy card games that have been proven to nurture successful poker players. Indeed, a number of the best in the world come up through playing other games competitively.

The most famous example of someone who took this route is Bertrand Grospellier, otherwise known as ElkY.

The American was a professional eSports player who had great success in StarCraft: Brood War and Warcraft III before moving into the poker world.

Since switching his attention to poker, the 39-year-old has achieved five money finishes at the World Poker Tour, and 18 money finishes at the European Poker Tour.


The evidence that poker players need to expand their skillsets by playing other games is growing.

Kenney and Bonomo are prime examples of players who have strong strategical foundations that have been crucial to their success in poker. They developed these facets early on and built on them with a lot of poker training in real-world scenarios.

Becoming a successful poker player is a challenge, but having good foundations to build upon makes it much easier. Those with experience in other strategy-oriented games seem to perform much better overall, which only goes to show that poker is much more than just another gambling game.

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