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Pente - Dastardly Review #054

Updated: Jul 2, 2018

Gary Gabrel, a dishwasher at Hideaway pizza, created Pente in the 1970’s while going to college in Stillwater OK. Hideaway pizza had checkered vinyl tablecloths. Gary and the other staff would play games on the tablecloths after the pizza joint closed for the night.

Gary created Pente as a simpler version of the classic Go which has been around for 4,000 years. Pente was an instant...well... not a success. All the big game companies turned it down. Banks refused Gary any significant sized loans. His partner didn’t think Pente was ready.

Gary sold copies of Pente out of his van as he drove around. Slowly he built up a following. His passion for the game was contagious as was the simple, speedy play. Pente is played on a 19x19 grid. A player wins by either getting five stones in a row horizontally, diagonally or vertically or making five captures. Captures happen you a player bookends two opponent stones with his own stones such as XOOX.

Gary drove and demoed his game. All the while animatedly talking about Pente. The excitement was contagious.

Gary also couldn’t afford boxes for Pente so he rolled up the vinyl mat and slid it into a cheap cardboard tube….and the iconic packaging was born! Retailers didn’t like how the tubes stacked but the game ended up flying off of the shelves which they did like.

Gary invested in and became one the group that franchised Hideaway Pizza.

$4.5 million in Pente sales in 1982….that’s a lot of pizza!

The Good: Loved Pente as a kid.

The Bad: It hurts when you drop the tube on your toe.

The Dastardly: Hasbro quit distribution of Pente in 1993. Winning Moves started releases Pente games in 2004.


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