The game play can vary from 'fast and furious' to 'slow and cautious' on a whim, depending on your own play style, and the matchup with the opponent. The rules have been ironed out over the past 20 years, and really there aren't many situations that aren't explicitly covered in the rules. There are definitely dominant strategies in the game, but discovering those strategies is probably one of Magic's best features anyways.
The setting varies from year to year, but the game is basically high-fantasy, with a few Sci-Fi and steampunk nods here and there. This year, the setting is inspired by Greek mythology, and has been really good for attracting new players. Most of the cards are goofy and fun - like the Akroan Horse, or Colossus of Akros (Trojan Horse and Colossus of Rhodes) - but there are also some amazingly powerful creatures known as Gods, and they have such an epic feel that people are just drawn to them.
Now, the biggest difference between Poker and Magic is the economy that surrounds it. Each card has a value that can spike or plunge depending on supply and demand. Following the economics of the game is pretty important, especially for game store owners, but also for players in general. Some cards can be worth a lot of money because they are especially good / useful in the present tournament environment. At present, there are easily 100+ cards that are worth 20 dollars or more in just my store, and this is mainly from trading with the customers / my original stash of cards, as well as a few collections we've been able to pick up. Other stores have much bigger collections, and that actually takes us to the topic at hand - competition.
When Ed picked out the space that we are in now, there wasn't a gaming store for miles. There had been a gaming store in the mall around the corner from us, but they closed a few months before we moved in. I guess they were planning to reopen gradually, but it seems like they opened quickly because of us. I can't know for sure, but that's the impression that I get. No offense to them at all, I go there every once in a while to hang and play some cards, and most of the people there are totally cool. If we don't have something, and people don't want to wait for us to order it, we always send them over there.
My point is this: suddenly, we had competition, and it was in the mall, rather than right around the corner from it. We actually don't have too much overlap of stock, besides the card game stuff, so it's a peaceful existence. We have a lot more room for gaming, but they have the higher traffic of the mall. Fair enough.
Surprisingly, it isn't the chain-store Gamers World that is basically a five minute walk from us that is the scary thought, because we are in the ring with some giants. This would be a great time to talk about the biggest contender, the one I call the 'Goat Man', but I think I will save Jeff and his Gaming Goats for a separate entry. He isn't really near enough to us to be direct competition, but if he ever decided to move in next store, we'd be farked.
No, the big head ache for us comes from a store that is about 5 miles East of us on Irving Park - Hot Sauce Games. They opened up a couple months ago or so, probably in October I'd say. I am not totally sure if they are a chain store or not, but I have definitely ordered from them multiple times through TCGPlayer over the years. For now, they have the money to compete better for the bigger ticket tournaments than us, and this means the pro / aspiring players are more likely to be drawn towards their store. They are pretty much exclusively a Magic card store though, so they don't offer competition for non-Magic products whatsoever.
Anyways, for the uninitiated who don't understand how anyone can have a profitable business in games... well, it's because of Magic.