Monopoly Mogul from WPI Wins National Championship

Contact: Arlie Corday, WPI Media & Community Relations

LAS VEGAS - Matt Gissel of St. Albans, Vt., has garnered a national monopoly on Monopoly championships.

On Oct. 19, the Worcester Polytechnic Institute junior took top honors at the National Monopoly Game Championship in Las Vegas. He won a trophy, the new millennium game and an all-expenses-paid trip to the World Monopoly Championship in Toronto next year. The winner of the world competition will receive $15,140 - the amount of money in a Monopoly game.

The son of Ellen and Robert R. Gissel and biochemistry major at WPI, he was among 50 contestants from 49 states who competed in the championship. Among the younger competitors, whose average age was 30, Gissel has long been fascinated with the game.

"I started playing around fourth grade but didn't start playing in tournaments until I heard about them in sixth grade," he said.

For those who may not have played recently, Monopoly players move around a board, buying and selling properties with the goal of bankrupting opponents. Once a player owns a property, rent is collected from other players. The winner is the one with money at the end of the game.

Gissel has participated in Monopoly tournaments for the past seven years. When he graduated from Bellows Free Academy in St. Albans in 1997, he held the best Monopoly tournament score in Vermont. That qualified him as state representative in the national championship, held every four years.

"They take the best score in the state for the past four years and that was it," Gissel said. "Hasbro (the company that makes Monopoly) called me last July saying I would represent Vermont."

Gissel revealed a few of his winning strategies.

"The first time around the board I buy everything I possibly can," he said. "There are certain properties I like better than others, especially the railroads. Then it heavily depends on what other people have. I become a little more aggressive if other people have a monopoly on the board . But if I have a monopoly, I'm content to just keep it."

Why did Gissel gravitate to Monopoly, rather than Scrabble, Boggle, Life or, say, Don't Spill the Beans?

"It's just a game I learned very early on and have liked ever since," he said. "It has a combination of skill and luck that I like."

Skill - and luck - were on his side at the national championship. At the finals, he was competing against three state champs from Alaska, Maryland and Rhode Island.

"All four of us had a monopoly, but people kept landing on mine a lot more than other people's," Gissel said. "Plus I had all the railroads, which helped a lot."

Winning wasn't a sure thing at every stage of the game; Gissel was bankrupted in the first round. "I thought I was pretty well done after that," he said.

Yet his second round score was so high, he qualified as a finalist.

"In the final round, I bankrupted all three of the other players," he said.

In the world of Monopoly, that's how you win the game - and, for Matt Gissel, a national championship.