At the top of his game: La Jolla youth wins adult Monopoly tournament, collects $500

By Ashley Mackin

Jack Munson, La Jolla resident and 10-year-old Monopoly master, won the YWCA of North Orange County’s eighth annual Monopoly Tournament on Oct. 19. Oh, and the competition is for adults. The eldest player was 74 years old, but young Jack won the $500 first prize — in real money.

Although he’s competed in many tournaments, Jack said this was his first time playing for a cash prize. “It was really cool and awesome (to win against adults). I liked it a lot because I’ve never seen a kid win a tournament,” he said.

Jack won both of the qualifying rounds of the tournament, which were timed at 90 minutes each. When it came to the final round, he competed against last year’s winner and four other top-scorers, bankrupting them all.

In addition to his cash prize, Jack took home the Monopoly board on which he played, signed by all his competitors.

One of Jack’s competitors was Ken Curry, the author of “Monopoly Strategy,” which is currently on Jack’s nightstand. He read the book, competed against the author, and won.

Jack, who has played the game with his family since he was 6 years old, said he always has the same strategy: Get the orange properties.

“A lot of people think it’s just the luck of the die, but a lot if is actually about the trading,” he said. “My strategy for every game is to get the oranges (St. James Place, Tennessee Avenue and New York Avenue). Most people think the dark blues (Park Place and Broadway) are the best monopolies to get, but the oranges are.”

His reasoning is simple. Jack says that the Jail space is the most landed-upon spot on the board, and six, eight, nine are the three most popular rolls of the dice. The orange spaces are six, eight and nine spaces away from Jail.

Additionally, developing on these spaces is inexpensive, but the rent is high — especially if there are houses or hotels on the spaces.

“I think the best spot on the board is New York Avenue because it’s the most expensive orange; you get the most money off it.”

Jack implemented this tried-and-true strategy of collecting the orange properties during the tournament, and attributes it to the win.

“In the tournament, I was in a pretty good position in the last round. I had Boardwalk and they really wanted me to trade, so they offered the oranges and they gave it to me and I won,” he said, adding “You never want to auction a property; you want to gather properties and trade.”

After the orange properties, the light blue properties — Oriental Avenue, Vermont Avenue and Connecticut Avenue — are his favorite because they are inexpensive. They are also six, eight and nine spaces away from the “Go” space.

Another card up Jack’s sleeve is the fact that he has the property cards memorized, and knows if a player lands on New York Avenue with three houses, he or she will be charged $600 in rent — four houses, $800 rent; a hotel, $1,000. “I could go around the whole board,” he said.

He also knows (without looking at the property information card) that on yellow spaces, houses are $750 each, so it would cost $2,250 to establish a hotel.

He credits his father, Mike Munson, with teaching him about Monopoly. Mike Munson, a lifelong player, also competed in the Orange County Tournament, but had an odd streak of bad luck.

“My dad is probably better than me, but in tournaments he gets really unlucky, which is really weird,” Jack said.

His mother, Sandra Munson, said the family has several versions of the game. “We have the regular board, the (Nintendo) Wii version, the iPad version, an abbreviated version, a custom one for our family, and the deluxe fancy one. My husband has been a Monopoly fan his whole life and logged a ton of hours playing Monopoly with Jack.”

However, the classic board game is still Jack’s favorite. “I don’t like the fancier version, like Monopoly Millionaire with the credit cards,” he said. With the original board, he added, “I know it. The only times I play anything but the original is on the Wii.”

Despite the “1,000 hours” he’s played and all-but-guaranteed victories, Jack said the game is, and always will be, fun.

Fun Facts About Monopoly

■ The history of Monopoly can be traced to 1903 when an American, Elizabeth J. Magie Phillips, created a game through which she hoped to explain the single tax theory of Henry George. It was intended as an educational tool to illustrate the negative aspects of concentrating land in private monopolies.

■ By 1933, a board game called Monopoly had been created, which formed the basis of the game sold by Parker Brothers, beginning in 1935.

■ In 1941, the British Secret Intelligence Service created a special edition for World War II prisoners of war held by the Nazis. Hidden inside these games were maps, compasses, real money, and other objects useful for escaping.

■ The longest Monopoly game lasted for 70 straight days.

■ More than 275 million games have been sold worldwide and it’s available in 111 countries, in 43 languages.

■ The most expensive version of the game was produced by San Francisco jeweler Sidney Mobell. Valued at $2 million, it features a 23-carat gold board and diamond-studded dice.

■ The character locked behind the bars is called Jake the Jailbird. Officer Edgar Mallory sent him to jail.