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"Jonny Magic and the Card Shark Kids" Review

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TitleJonny Magic and the Card Shark Kids
AuthorDavid Kushner
Skill Levelany
ProsCovers poker and specifically the 2004 World Series of Poker from the perspective of the players with a Magic: The Gathering background.
ConsLess than a quarter of the book is about poker. Jonny Magic is initially a Magic: The Gathering player, then a blackjack card counter, and finally a poker player.

Table of Contents
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xiPrelude: The New High Rollers
3Dawn of the Dork1
13Geek Poker2
21The Magic Bullet3
37Jersey Kids Vs Dead Guys4
91Jonny Magic7
113The Card Shark Kids8
135Send In The Clowns9
159The Final Table11
173The Only Game In Town12
185Appendix A: Magic: The Gathering Basics
189Appendix B: Texas Hold Em Poker Basics
193Appendix C: Blackjack Basics
215Author's Note

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Jonny Magic and the Card Shark Kids is the success story of a bullied nerd who transforms himself into a winner. Jon Finkel grew up in New Jersey but finds himself even more of an outcast when his family relocates to England. He stumbles into a game store where people are playing Magic: The Gathering and is instantly hooked. When the family returns to the U.S., Finkel enters a contest where his skill in the card game nets him eighth place and a $1,000 prize in the Junior Division. With the help of other fanatical Magic friends, he continues to improve until he is the best player in the world in 2000.

Even the top Magic players can't make that much money, however, so after dropping out of college, he joins a blackjack card counting team and rakes in large amounts of money until he's been banned by too many casinos to continue.

Here he follows in his friend David Williams's footsteps. Despite being two years younger than Finkel, Williams has found poker first. In 2004 however, Finkel and Wiliams are both ready to take their first crack at the pinnacle of poker, the $10,000 buyin World Series of Poker Main Event.

Finkel's own run in the tournament is short, but Williams runs deep, outlasting numerous other players who were also Magic: The Gathering players first. In the end, Greg Raymer becomes the worthy champion, but Williams collects a healthy $3,500,000 for his runner-up finish.

Overall, this is an inspirational book for nerds and game players. Despite covering Magic, blackjack, and poker, it contains almost no useful strategy advice, making it a very easy read. Instead, it shows how these three worlds intersected, especially for young players, during the turn of the 21st century.

Poker fans will wish that Finkel had continued improving his Hold 'Em skills so more of the book could have been about poker, but after a couple of small successes in 2005 (a second place finish in a Circuit event early in the year followed by a decent cash in the WSOP Main Event), he seems to have stopped playing tournament poker. He continued to be a top ten Magic player in several years until 2017.

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