SOM Novice Succeeds in First Tourney

Strat-O-Matic Novice Succeeds

in His First STAR Tournament


By Glenn Guzzo


A little more than a year after donating a kidney to one brother, Darryl Horvath took a very different risk for another brother and quickly became a “poster boy” for the nationwide Strat-O-Matic STAR Tournaments.


In his first STAR Tournament after playing only a handful of Strat games in his life, the 42-year-old Horvath stunned a field of 14 more experienced players by advancing to the semi-finals of the tourney in suburban Detroit, May 21-22.


That made him one of the four money-winners in the tournament eventually won by … older brother Vic Horvath.


Long-time tournament veterans Hank Smith, Bill Fenlon, Don Leong and Eric Rusk, who all played in Detroit, said Darryl Horvath’s rookie success demonstrates how STAR has leveled the playing field for newcomers.


Darryl Horvath said his Strat-O-Matic experience was limited to a few games on the computer a decade ago – “I basically just pushed enter and watched the fireworks graphics on home runs” – and a couple of board games with Vic when Darryl decided to join his brother in the tournament.


But he downloaded STAR’s free Draft Simulator (at and ran practice drafts on the computer for a month during evenings after work. At the tournament, he used the Draft Simulator and the Average Pick Sheet (which shows where each player has been going in this year’s drafts) distributed to all entrants. The computer recommends players and Darryl accepted its advice several times, then let the computer recommend the ballpark best suited to the players he drafted (San Francisco).


Darryl said his opponents were also helpful, guiding him through the rules during games.


“Guys will help you along the way. I was very comfortable,” he said. “I’d do it again when it comes close to town. Even if I had finished last, I still had fun with it.”


Still, the extent of Darryl Horvath’s success as a novice was extraordinary.


“I’ve never seen it,” said brother Vic, a three-time tourney winner who was runner-up in the 2005 World Championship tournament.


But, Vic said, his brother “knows baseball and he’s very competitive in whatever he does. And when we go to the casinos, he gets so hot with the dice. I’ve been begging him to come with me (to STAR tournaments) and just throw the dice, that’s all I want him to do. So it didn’t surprise me when I heard what he did.”


            The “did” included closing the first round of games with a seven-game winning streak to finish tied for first (and No. 1 after tie-breakers) in his division. That included a three-game sweep of Fenlon when all Fenlon needed was one win to clinch the division and knock Darryl Horvath out of the playoffs. Instead, Horvath eliminated Fenlon.


Earlier in the win streak, Horvath hit five consecutive home runs in one inning – a feat unmatched in Major League history. (The MLB record is four by 1961 Milwaukee, 1963 Cleveland and 1964 Minnesota.)


Someone who knows casinos probably should understand that you don’t walk away from the table when you’re hot with the dice. But after clinching his playoff spot, Horvath took timeout for a stop at a fast-food restaurant before taking on brother Vic in the semi-finals. Result: Vic swept the best-of-five series, then eliminated finalist Jim Jasper.


“I ate a Wendy’s sandwich. Then the dice went cold on me,” Darryl lamented.


He entered the Detroit tourney – one of about 30 on the nationwide STAR tour this year – because he’s close to his brother Vic.


“I always wanted to go with him. I like hanging out with him,” Darryl said.


If anything, Darryl is even closer to younger brother Robert. They played professional hockey together for Erie in the East Coast Hockey League. Then, in March 2004, Darryl donated a kidney to Robert.


“We’re all close,” Vic Horvath said of the four brothers, but “Darryl and Robert are probably closest of all.”