Anyone with a dream would do well to observe the life of Richard Munchkin. An amazing game strategist since he was a toddler, he managed to fulfill a lifelong dream to act in, write and direct Hollywood movies. He funded that dream by becoming a professional blackjack player. He also authored the famous book ‘Gambling Wizards: Conversations with the World’s Greatest Gamblers’, eventually earning his revered induction to the Blackjack Hall of Fame in 2009.
Game Strategist Just Out of Diapers
Richard Munchkin was born in Des Plaines, Illinois in 1995—the same year and location where Ray Kroc established the first McDonald’s restaurant. Little did anyone know at the time just how successful both Kroc and Munchkin would become in living out their considerable dreams.
At the mere age of 3, Richard was already showing signs of genius. Barely out of diapers, he was already playing the games of chess and gin rummy with remarkable skill. By the time he reached 12, he was an excellent backgammon player as well. A friend of the family brought up the idea of making money by playing backgammon, and that’s what really set things in motion for young Munchkin.
Over the next decade, when he wasn’t attending school, he was making quite a bit of money playing poker and backgammon. He did so well, in fact, that Richard paid for his own college education with nothing more than winnings from gambling.
As much as he enjoyed gambling, and the munificent success it was bringing him, it was not his passion. Munchkin’s true dream was to make it to Hollywood. Acting on the big screen was all he really wanted to do with his life. But without any connections in the business, he knew he would have to work hard for it.
After graduating from Chicago’s Columbia College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Theater Arts, he finally began working his way towards California. He started by moving out to Las Vegas, Nevada, where he secured a job as a blackjack dealer at The Castaways Casino on Freemont Street in Downtown Vegas.
Munchkin appreciated his new career for quite some time, not just because it was paying the bills, but because it gave him the idea and opportunity to learn card counting.
While dealing cards to other players who may or may not have been working the count, Richard himself was counting down the shoe with every new shuffle of the cards. After a few years, he had become so adept at integrating the count and other blackjack strategies that he was making more money as a player than a dealer, and in just a quarter of the time.
“What could I do?” wrote Munchkin year’s later on his personal website (richardmunchkin.com). “I had to quit the job.”
Munchkin Goes to Hollywood
By dedicating his efforts to a full-time gambling career, Munchkin was finally able to generate enough money to follow his dream. In the mid 1980’s, he moved to Los Angeles, CA where he acted in his first movie, “Hollywood in Trouble” (1986), a low-budget comedy that ironically followed the life of a pizza chain owner who dreamt of making Hollywood movies.
He also landed a role in an action/horror film titled “Mayhem” (1986). Two years later, he secured roles in two more low-budget horrors; “Epitaph”, about a psychotic axe murdering mother, and “The Killing Game”, about a paranoid hitman who’s being blackmailed.
By this time, Munchkin had discovered that acting in Hollywood was nothing like the theatrical experiences he’d enjoyed throughout his educational years. Although he appeared in a few other acting roles throughout the 1990’s, he turned his attention more getting behind the camera.
Richard produced, wrote and/or directed over 20 movies and television series from 1987-1999, including “Fists of Iron” (1995), “Evil Obsession” (1996) and the television series “L.A. Heat” (1999).
Gambling Wizards by Richard Munchkin
Tiring of the Hollywood scene, Munchkin began focusing once more on the world of gambling. He still played blackjack regularly and had established connections with a throng of professional blackjack players over the years. With knowledge of the game from all sides of the table, and sufficient experience as a screenplay player, he decided to write a book.
In late 2002, he published one of the most famous blackjack books of all time, “Gambling Wizards: Conversations with the World’s Greatest Gamblers”.
In writing his book, Munchkin interviewed several big players of the time, including future fellow Blackjack Hall of Famer Tommy Hyland, poker legends Chip Reese and Doyle Brunson, sports betting guru Billy Walters, backgammon masters Mike Svobodny and Stan Tomchin, among others.
When authoring a review of Munchkin’s book, Arnold Snyder, another Blackjack Hall of Famer and author of ‘The Blackjack Formula’ (1980), said:
“This book will open your eyes to the way the top pros think, the way they look at opportunities, and the way they look at the world. I cannot recommend any book more highly for an aspiring professional player. The stories these Wizards tell are funny, crazy, incredible, and true.” –Arnold Snyder
Since then, Munchkin has joined Snyder in scripting editorials and conducting interviews for Blackjack Forum Online, the internet version of his long-running monthly editorial, Blackjack Forum, established in 1980. Richard conducted interviews with more Hall of Fame legends, like the aforementioned Tommy Hyland and “The Godfather of Blackjack”, Al Francesco.
Munchkin’s contributions to the journalistic side of gambling have also appeared in Blackjack Magazine and All-In Magazine.
Richard Munchkin took part in the first season of GSN’s World Series of Blackjack in 2004. After making it into Round 5, he finished runner-up to Ken Smith, who went on to suffer the first elimination of the final round.
Munchkin was bestowed with the esteemed honor of his own induction to the Blackjack Hall of Fame in 2009; only the 14th member of that elite group since its inaugural year of 2002.
At present, Richard can be heard every Thursday evening at 7:00pm on Las Vegas radio station KLAV 1230 AM, where he hosts his own gambling related radio talk show entitled Gambling with an Edge.