- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 16, 2009

Richard Marinaccio forced three strangers into bankruptcy Wednesday.

But the three weren’t victims of a greedy capitalist scheme - they just lost at Monopoly.

“I’m a little shocked,” said Mr. Marinaccio, of Sloan, N.Y., after winning the National Monopoly Championship at Union Station in the District. “I thought it was cool just to come here. I didn’t have a strategy going in. It was all about seeing what the game gave me. I play by feel, and right now I feel shocking relief.”

All the years of playing with Monopoly fun money paid off for Mr. Marinaccio as he was awarded the grand prize of $20,580 - the amount of money in the bank in the game - and a bid to the World Monopoly Championships held in Las Vegas in October.

Mr. Marinaccio will represent the U.S. in the world competition.

“Richard has a wonderful blend of diplomacy and intelligence,” said Phil Orbanes, who judged the contest. “He will be a great representative in Las Vegas.”

The contest was Mr. Marinaccio’s first national Monopoly tournament, and he plans to use the winnings to pay his taxes, student loans and the bills for his upcoming wedding.

“I’ve always wanted one of these,” Mr. Marinaccio said as he was awarded the giant check.

In order to qualify for the national tournament, contestants go through a rigorous elimination process that consists of completing a Monopoly quiz and writing essays related to the game.

The essays ask contestants about various hypothetical game situations. Seventy-five contestants are allowed to move on based on the quality of their essays. Those contestants then play an online version of the game, which narrows the field to 28 players, who are invited to attend the national championship.

Tim Vandenberg, a sixth-grade math teacher from Victorville, Calif., was the last player to go bankrupt to Mr. Marinaccio in the final game.

“I’m honored to be runner-up,” Mr. Vandenberg said.

Mr. Marinaccio was calm and humble about his winning, saying he hoped he would have the same success at the world tournament.

“I’m exhausted,” he said. “Everyone here was a really great sport and everyone knows a lot more about the game than I do. Hopefully, America will win in October.”

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