A man of many talents, Richard Munchkin has made a name for himself as an author, film director, producer, and professional gambler. Although he's directed nearly a dozen feature films, his role in the world of gambling is what he's most often recognized for (especially his appearance on the World Series of Blackjack).
Of course, given his history, it's probably only appropriate.
Munchkin, born Richard Jacobs, started playing chess and gin rummy at the age of three. His first exposure to the idea of playing for profit came when he was 12, when a family friend mentioned playing backgammon for money. Munchkin liked the idea of playing a game and making money at the same time. He liked it so much that he became obsessed, checking out every gaming book that his local library had on their shelves.
And it paid off, as Richard was able to put himself through Columbia College in Chicago by playing backgammon for money, once winning as much as $4,000 in one sitting. Impressive, but not too surprising for a man who has qualified for Mensa.
After graduating from college in the late 70's, he moved to Las Vegas and landed a job dealing blackjack at the old Castaways Hotel. He sharpened his gambling skills on the Vegas strip, but was eventually drawn to the allure of Hollywood and the motion picture business.
His first film, entitled Dance or Die, also starred his brother, Jake Jacobs (himself a freelance writer and professional gambler). He followed that up with the enormously popular martial arts flick Ring of Fire, starring kickboxing champion Don "The Dragon" Wilson.
The pair also went on to make a sequel, Ring of Fire II, as well as the kung-fu thriller Out for Blood. Other works include: Deadly Bet, Texas Payback (with Sam Jones and Bo Hopkins), Guardian Angel (with Cynthia Rothrock), Evil Obsession (with Corey Feldman and Brion James), and episodes of the television series L.A. Heat and Hollywood Safari.
And after a ten year absence from the motion picture business, Munchkin returned in 2004 to serve as a second unit director for a film entitled Funky Monkey (starring Matthew Modine and Roma Downey).
Munchkin competed at the 2005 World Series of Blackjack, but was unable to advance to the finals. It wasn't a complete loss, however, as it gained him greater exposure and started him on the road towards another project.
On a flight to Hong Kong, Munchkin was reading a book featuring interviews with top Wall Street commodities and future traders. He thought to himself that gamblers were far more interesting than traders, and the idea struck him to write a book featuring interviews with the world's top gamblers.
As luck would have it, he was headed to Hong Kong to visit Alan Woods, a world-class bridge and blackjack player, sports bettor, and market speculator. Woods was kind enough to provide the first interview and Munchkin's book was off and running.
Entitled Gambling Wizards: Conversations with the World's Greatest Gamblers, the book features interviews with the following: Billy Walters, David "Chip" Reese, Tommy Hyland, Mike Svobodny, Stan Tomchin, Cathy Hulbert, Alan Woods, and Doyle Brunson.
Munchkin currently resides in Saugus, California, where he volunteers to teach chess to elementary school children as part of an after school enrichment program. He remains a film director and producer, and is currently developing a television show about the lives of professional gamblers. In addition, he writes a monthly column for Blackjack magazine and is working on his second book, Blackjack Wizards.
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