PTR Stories Vol. 1

For those of you who have never heard of him, Peter Szigeti – pretty much always referred to as PTR – was a legend in the Magic community. Viewed by judges and organizers as a scourge, Peter was alternately hilarious, disruptive, and completely over-the-top with his behavior toward opponents and his attitude toward authority in general. It wasn’t anything personal, he was like that a lot the time outside of Magic too.

Due to his antics, his absolutely scathing articles (some of which I’ll try to republish soon), and endless beats delivered to people at tournaments, Peter was viewed by some as a villain. Others viewed him as a hero, a clown, and a source of endless entertainment, provided they weren’t the target for his barbs or pranks. Peter apparently passed on this week after a prolonged period of illness. I say ‘apparently’ not to disrespect the dead, but because there is no one on the planet I would believe has a greater chance of possibly faking his own death than PTR. I’m not the only one – most of his friends I have talked to won’t believe the truth without a body check. This is just everyone who knew him from back in the day paying him his propers for what he was capable of with that incredibly inventive, devious mind.

Because Magic has been losing history for some time, and because this is definitely one man that deserves not to be forgotten, I put out a request to people to tell stories about Peter, to be gathered and run here as a way of celebrating one of the more controversial figures in Magic history. That invitation will remain for a while, so if you have something to say, send me an email or Facebook message.

Villain, hero, clown in search of attention, or slightly evil genius – how you viewed him depended on your perspective.

Any oral history of of Peter’s Magic career has to start with what Jeff Cunningham wrote about him after Peter was officially banned from the game in 2005. This was the introduction for that article we ran on the front page of SCG, which lends some context to how big a deal PTR managed to make himself over the years.

Tommy Ashton
At Nationals in 2002, I was waiting at the airport for a taxi with a friend when PTR walked by. He figured we’d all take the same cab together to the event site, since we were obviously gamers. PTR started chatting with the cab driver, asked him to speed up, told him he’d pay any speeding tickets, then began berating him endlessly for not having EZPass and having to stop for a toll. When he got out, he paid the entire fare and left without looking back at us. My friend and I had not spoken the entire ride.

PTR briefly attended MD area PTQs in 2003. At an Onslaught block PTQ, he got into a huge row with his opponent where judges were called multiple times to keep the match under control. PTR ended up winning, and in some misdirected show of “being the bigger man,” his opponent held out his hand for a post-match handshake. PTR looked at him, snorted, hocked a loogie into his hand and held it out. The guy took his hand and shook it. PTR was disgusted.

At the same event, I purchased a strawberry shortcake ice cream bar. I had just unwrapped it when PTR came by. I said hi; he just took a huge bite out of the ice cream bar (with an actual haumph sound) and walked by without responding to me.

Finally, in the top 8 of that PTQ, he was told by judges that any further antics would earn him a disqualification. PTR’s quarterfinals opponent was using Siege-Gang tokens that were pictures of himself in-costume at Otakon. PTR was practically silent during the match, and his good-natured opponent tried to talk to him about anime. At a crucial point in the match, PTR tapped six lands, put the top card of his deck face down and told his opponent he was casting Akroma’s Vengeance. The card was Akroma’s Vengeance. He lost the match.

PTR showed up to another MD event with a huge bag from Taco Bell. He had gone to the drive-through window and ordered 100 soft tacos, presumably just to see what would happen. At the event, he was giving people soft tacos in exchange for them doing things for him. Around this time he referred to me exclusively as StateChamp, because I had just won the MD state championships with Wake (I am positive he never knew my actual name). I asked for a taco, and he said he would not give me one unless I told him that HE was the state champ. I did. Then he said to say it to a complete stranger who was hovering around in the hopes of scoring a taco. I did. He gave me two. From that day forth, the owner/tournament organizer of that store referred to him as the nicest Magic player she had ever met.

Those are just my experiences with him; wish I could have been there to witness Searing Flesh, Blatant Thievery on Wooded Foothills, anything with Farid and much more. There are few Magic players who have generated as many good stories as PTR. And dear god was it miserable when he targeted you.

Stephen King
I first met PTR at GP New Jersey when I was only thirteen years old. It was my first Grand Prix ever, and I was pretty star struck by all of the pro players I had seen in coverage, but never seen in person. PTR had showed up with a copy of “Guess Who”, but he had replaced all of the faces with pictures of players who were gravy trainers at the time. This was clearly an attempt to mock as many of them as possible, and one of the questions he asked was something along the lines of “are you really, really, fucking fat? Like really fat.” and when his opponent said no, he turned down the picture of Alan Comer.

PTR had memorized one of the boards, so he always made sure to play with that one so he wouldn’t know who his opponent had. I was watching this go on the day before the GP, and after he beat Kibler very convincingly, I decided to make my presence known. “He must have both boards memorized” I said, hoping to earn some kind of a laugh. PTR stared at me right in the face and said, “HA HA Professor, may I have another?” Realizing that my “joke” had failed, I sheepishly retreated.

PTR wasn’t done with me, however, and he wanted to know more about me, so he started asking the other people around whether I was a “barn”, which at the time was brand new lingo and I had no idea what it meant. I had played against Huey, Brock, and Linde in the finals of a Team GP trial the week prior, so he asked all of them their opinion. Brock didn’t seem to care enough to respond, while Linde responded, “I don’t know, probably.” When he asked Billy (Huey) however, he was nice enough to say, “nah he’s fine.” PTR was satisfied, and for the rest of the weekend he was very nice to me. He would ask me how I was doing in the GP between rounds, and express disappointment when he found out about my eventual failure, while also making sure he would get my vote for the Magic Invitational. I was also present for almost all of the stories Tommy mentioned, but I’ll definitely never forget the first time I met PTR.

Morgan Douglass
At US Nationals in Florida one year, I stayed in a hotel room with PTR and zeejustin (Justin Bonomo). I had known ptr from IRC and it seemed like it made sense to share a hotel room. Justin was all of 13 years old and barely knew ptr. When Justin fell asleep on the first night, ptr covered him in hair gel and then mummified him in Magic cards. Justin despised ptr for it, but eventually learned to love him like we all did.

Later in the weekend, a group of about 10 of us went to an IHOP for dinner. ptr was charming our 50+ year old waitress in his usual way when it came time to order our meals. I thought maybe, just maybe, ptr was going to order one of everything like he had done a few times in the past, but this time was different. He ordered smiley-face pancakes, but demanded that the cook make them frowny-face pancakes. The waitress didn’t seem to think the cook would like that, but ptr convinced her that it had to be this way. Instead of a side of toast and bacon, he ordered a side of corn and ketchup. He had no intention of eating any of his food, he just did it to be hilarious. After she brought the food, she left to smoke a cigarette and ptr followed her to the smoking section of the IHOP and they had a heart-felt chat for five minutes or so. I don’t know what they talked about but they had a lot of laughs. Afterwards ptr came back and extinguished his cigarette into the frowny-face pancakes and the meal was over.

I know a lot of second-hand stories that others would be better at telling. How about any time he ever ordered one of everything at a restaurant? He did it multiple times. There was the time in Japan where he went to McDonalds, filled up his cup with fruit punch, stared the employees in the eyes and then tipped it over. As they looked on in horror he fillied it back up again, stuck his index finger out again and pushed it over again until they decided to kick him out. There was the cave room story. The blatent thievery story. I forget the names but there was the time he did a 3 on 1 draft with BenS and Huey(?) vs a dealer at GP Miami where ptr drafted and played an Atogatog in an attempt to lose and throw the draft.

The Searing Flesh Incident

Luckily I witnessed the Searing Flesh incident first hand at PT Yokohama in 2003. It was the last round of the PT, and ptr was playing for T32 vs. a Japanese player. They had a young table judge sitting down next to them observing the match, since it was one of the last matches going on. ptr, dressed in his usual massively oversized sweatpants and always-matching zippered sweatshirt, draws his card and then immediately springs up onto his feet. His chair slides backwards 6 feet and ptr raises a leg, takes the card, reaches behind him and wipes his ass with it a few times to make sure that the Japanese player understands what he’s doing. He then slams the card down on the table in front of him and yells at him to eat it. The player drops his head into his hands in shame. ptr signs the match slip, flings it at the judge and player and then walks away. Somehow the table judge didn’t think that this was unsportsmanlike behavior and proceeded like everything was normal. Standings go up and ptr makes Top 32. Afterwards, the head judge got wind of what happened and gave ptr a retroactive matchloss, moving his Japanese opponent into top 32. Because of that qualification, his opponent, Tomohiro Yokosuka qualified for the next pro tour and made T8.
Alex Borteh
Peter was perhaps my best friend for a number of years. I recall the Pro Tour Guess Who incident fondly. We created the game together during a week he spent with me in Columbus before we took a road trip to GP New Jersey. We drove around the Columbus area for a few hours trying to find a copy of the game… eventually finding it at a Toys R Us. I recall him having an exchange with the cute girl who was working the cashier. She was wondering why on earth two people are age were purchasing “Guess Who,” at which point Peter expressed his pity that she was unable to see the value of one of the greatest games ever created.

After finally tracking down a copy of the game, we dined at Charlie’s Steakery, which Peter had always claimed was the main reason that he chose to visit Columbus so often.

We stayed up all night having heated discussions about which PT players and friends to include in the game. Peter wanted to make sure that there was a good mix players that would allow him the ability to compliment or insult specific people to amusement of his friends.

We scoured The Sideboard coverage archives trying to find the perfect picture of those that he wanted to include. After many hours of printing, cutting, and pasting we finally completed the game. It turned out be a much bigger project than we had anticipated, but we were extremely pleased with the end product and couldn’t wait to bring it to the GP to see what people would have to say about it.

Even when Peter was picking on you, it was in some ways a compliment. He always realized that Magic was about the people that you meet, more than the games that you play. Whether he gave you a silly nickname, or made fun of your outfit… it was still a privilege to be acknowledged by him, and to be included in his world.

I still have the PT Guess Who game to this very day, and still play it on occasion with old friends from that era, despite the fact that plenty of people don’t remember everyone on the board. It’s sort of weird having to be like, “wow… you don’t know who Sol Malka is?” “You never heard of Alex Shvartsman?” and then having to explain who these people were, and why we would have included them in a Guess Who game.

Here are some pictures I just took of the game for those who have never seen it. I have always treasured it, and it means even more to me now.

For all of his pro tour antics, I think something that people might not know is that he actually was a pretty good Magic player, and he was always trying to win. The group of people that we hung out with at the time all thought pretty highly of their Magic-playing prowess because the game was very important to us. Peter didn’t want to seem like a “scrub” in front of his friends. He actually got nervous during key moments in matches because he didn’t want to mess up… especially considering he almost always had a bunch of railbirds watching him who would have been quick to point it out.

If he was crushing you, he’d love to trash talk and try to sweeten his victory. I used to always try to watch his matches once my round was over… and sometimes I’d see him in a situation like the one above, and he’d make a pretty heads-up play and walk away with the win with no fanfare whatsoever. I’d be confused… “Peter…you just outplayed that guy! What’s wrong with you? What, no lap around the room?” It was weird- it always seemed like whenever he made a truly world class play, he would become very humble about it and not rub it in or boast.

I remember this story from PT New Orleans… we had all just gotten in to the hotel and wanted to meet up with our other friends. Supposedly there was a gathering going on on one of the upper-most floors where there was sort of a lobby. Specifically I remember Mike Turian being up there and being rather tipsy… which was a side of him I hadn’t seen before. A lot of the PT players were up there, most in various states of intoxication. PTR was walking around with a big cigar in his mouth, and of course I had one too because I wanted to be just like him. There were some long tables set up for money drafting,  so we did that for a while, until eventually the hotel staff kicked us out for the night.

At that point there were still a few matches yet to be played in some of the drafts. Luckily there were some coffee tables set up near the elevators so we moved over there to let people finish up before going to bed. At some point Peter gets the idea to move one of the coffee tables and two chairs into the elevator. He demands to borrow someone’s draft deck and begins to play Magic in the elevator (I think with Huey). Eventually some unsuspecting hotel patron on another floor pushes the button for the elevator, and Peter gives this big stupid grin and elevator doors close and the players vanish out of sight.

For a good 30 minutes or so, everyone in the hotel that wanted to use that elevator was greeted by an intense match in progress. Peter, wanting to take the joke to its fullest potential, just pretends that nothing at all is out of ordinary about this. People walk in…”I cast my Cabal Patriarch… lord of the swamplands! Go! … What floor do you want?”

Jesse Vandover
I can tell you the Blatant Thievery story, since I was the one playing PTR, and the deck was of my own creation.

I created a URg Form of the Dragon deck for GP: Detroit back in 2003. The deck was then tweaked by Alan Jackson. A couple of pros (Chris Benafel, PTR, Gabe Walls) saw it the night before, and I believe they bought the decklist from Alan, or maybe he gave it to them, I don’t know. I know Chris claimed he got it from “some kid”.

I end up playing PTR round 3, we are both 2-0. The details of the whole match are pretty hazy – I believe I won game one, and the Wooded Foothills part comes in game 2. I have him on complete lockdown in game 2, Form on board, Future Sight on board, tons of lands in play, and I believe several cards in hand. He might have been at 10, I was a couple turns from taking the match anyway, and the only real thing I need to counter is Chain of Vapor on Form.

He taps 7 lands, and casts Blatant Thievery on my Wooded Foothills.

This threw me off in a huge way for two reasons:

1. I made the deck. I don’t have Blatant Thievery in the list! (Turns out he ran it over a Cromeshell Crab.)

2. Why would he target the Foothills of all things?

So I sit confused, and thinking for a minute. What could he need one more land for? Of course, that is a narrow way to look at it, he needed me to sac it, which I stupidly did, and he promptly shocked me twice. He actually didn’t get all that out of control about it – he was more relieved, and incredulous. I remember him asking “WHY!? WHY WOULD YOU SAC IT!?” I was stunned. We shuffled up, and he beat me easily game 3. All in all, he wasn’t that big of a dick about it, even talking to me a couple times later in the day to see where I was at. He did, however, call me Wooded Foothills at every chance, at that tournament and future tournaments.


6 responses to “PTR Stories Vol. 1

  1. As an amateur I met PTR in tournaments “twice” and I put quotes, because the 2nd time was at a local card store. I beat him both times, the Pro Tour Qualifying match being a typical unpleasant experience. Even in defeat, Peter could irritate me, and force me to make a few bad plays.

    But I’ll never forget what he said when I beat him in the first round of a sealed deck tournament at a local card shop. “That was a kick in the nuts!”

    Apparently the flipside of his persona was occasional self deprecation in the face of other “Good players” away from the “public eye.” — I never looked at the saying “kick in the nuts” the same way again. He seemed to be harping on the humor of a “huge pro icon like himself, losing to a struggling Pro Tour Wanna be like me” But it came off as very funny, and generous. I think I earned some respect that day (finally).

    Of course afterwards he immediately began to ignore me and sneer at me occasional when seeing me around. But that was my experience with him.

  2. I had exactly one person in the entire world that I said I would throw a party upon their death. I said that about 9 years ago about this person. Nine years later, it still holds true. If this news is true, then let’s break out the bubbly.

    ptr was an absolutely despicable human being. I don’t care about his antics playing the game. Bad behavior while playing MTG is somewhat to be expected and part of gamesmanship. Lord knows I have engaged in plenty of it in my day. No, I’m referring to his antics away from matches, away from tournaments, away from any place where his behavior could be justified. I remind you, this is the same guy who missed a Grand Prix once because the airline kicked him off the flight. What, was he trying to get into a flight attendants head? No, he was being ptr.

    I can safely say the world will be a better place with ptr. I won’t take anything away from him as a player – the guy was a great mind in the game, and his accomplishments prove that. But, I don’t care if the guy was a 10 time World Champion and the greatest player of all time (both of which are completely false, obv), this guy was a disgrace to the human race and only good can come from him being dead.

    Now, I’m just waiting for a body confirmation so I can let the celebration begin. I would far from put it past ptr to fake his own death.

    • He wasn’t a bloodthirsty dictator. He wasn’t a convicted sex offender (to my knowledge). You simply feel good enough to celebrate that he’s gone because you thought he was a douche. How a grown adult can reconcile this is beyond me.

      I didn”t know PTR… don’t think I ever met him. Saw him at a tournament or two, my knowledge is only secondhand, and most of the stories I heard weren’t flattering. In fact, had he pulled one of his more heinous stunts on me, it probably would have gone outside and gotten ugly… but seriously? To wish someone dead the way you do?

      By no means am I going to canonize anyone, but the way you speak of his death in such glorious terms is beyond anything he could have possibly done to merit such vitriol from you.

      Jesus, and you’ve held this grudge for NINE years? Get over it. Enjoy your champagne while his friends and family grieve. You apparently won.

    • I haven’t had a chance to read all these stories yet, as I am not emotionally ready to do so. I am looking forward to reading about Peter’s antics and grateful that people took the time to write them and honor his life (even if the stories are “unflattering”).

      What I have perused however are these comments. I am shaking right now so furious that someone can be so offensive and pathetic as this Scott Gerhardt. You “knew” my brother as an 18-20 year old boy who was playing a character in the magic world to bring some life and entertainment to a game.
      He may have angered people. He may have been irrational. And he also may have been immature at the time.
      To wish someone to die a decade later, someone who just pissed you off, is so sad and disgusting, I feel bad for you, Scott.

      Thank you Chris Worden for responding with compassion.

  3. Magic history is littered with pricks who did things to look cool in front of their friends. In some ways, PTR was the most outsized personality to act this way, but I always viewed him as sort of a malevolent trickster who simply delighted in tormenting others. I don’t think he was as mean-spirited as someone like Jordan Berkowitz [the biggest douchebag in MTG history] but he def rubbed plenty of people the wrong way. I guess the closest analog I can find is the hockey player Sean Avery.

  4. I’m not allowing further comments on this – knowing how things involving Peter could quickly flare out of control, I should have sensibly closed them in the first place. My bad.