Paul Magriel, a chess master who became known as the world’s best backgammon player before turning to playing professional poker, died March 5, 2018, in Las Vegas. He was 71.
After graduating from Philips Exeter Academy, Magriel earned a math degree from New York University in 1967, where he was a fellow at the Courant Institute. He enrolled in the Princeton Graduate School’s math department in September 1967, but remained for only one semester. From 1969 to 1973, he taught mathematics at the Newark College of Engineering.
Magriel transitioned from chess to backgammon, hanging out in Greenwich Village. He once stated, “Psychologically, backgammon is very different from chess. It’s an exercise in frustration — you can make the right moves and lose, or you can make the wrong moves and win. And chess didn’t have the gambling that I like.”
In the 1970s he won the world backgammon championship and co-authored two acclaimed books on backgammon with Renee Roberts, his first wife. He also wrote a weekly backgammon column for The New York Times from 1977 to 1980. According to The Times, he also made a small fortune from backgammon and later low-stakes poker.
Magriel was married several times and divorced. He is survived by a son and a brother.
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