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Jonny Magic and the Card Shark Kids: How a Gang of Geeks Beat the Odds and Stormed Las Vegas

3.64  ·  Rating Details ·  183 Ratings  ·  29 Reviews
If you think a gang of real-life geeks can’t take on the world and win big . . . think again. And whatever you do, don’t sit down across a gaming table from Jon Finkel, better known as Jonny Magic. Jonny Magic and the Card Shark Kids is his amazing true story: the jaw-dropping, zero-to-hero chronicle of a fat, friendless boy from New Jersey who found his edge in a game of ...more
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Published August 16th 2005 by Random House (first published 2005)
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Aug 14, 2007 Peggy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
These days, you can't throw a stick in a bookstore without hitting a gambling book. Poker tournaments are becoming regular sights on network TV, and online poker sites grow more and more popular. And if you watch those TV tourneys, you'll notice one thing: the final table is often filled with guys who look like they might still be in college. David Kushner, author of Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture tells us who those guys are and how they came to be th ...more
Jon Finkel
Nov 15, 2007 Jon Finkel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
So some might say I'm little bit biased, since I am the subject of the book and all. But to be honest, I found the subject fascinating, and the protagonist is a modern hero in the truest sense of the word.
Dec 28, 2007 Donald rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2007
This is a biographical account of John Finkel, a fat friendless boy from New Jersey who discovered his unique abilities at card games starting with Magic, which is a card game designed to appeal to the Dungeons and Dragons crowd. He progressed to teams of Black Jack card counters and wound up as one of the Greats of the Texas Hold'em crowd.
Josh Liller
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
ley Breach
ley Breach rated it really liked it
Mar 19, 2008
Curtis Butturff
Feb 15, 2010 Curtis Butturff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: games
It's an interesting book in the sense that it identifies the correlation between Magic The Gathering and some of the more successful and young poker players who have made Televised final tables in recent years. It's a case study in the transition of one of the early world champions of MTG tournament play into tournament poker via Atlantic City cash games.

One caveat I'd point out is that most people even if they are poker playing enthusiasts (or MTG for that matter) probably won't recognize the m
Jan 26, 2010 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This would be my biography if I was a) good at Magic: The Gathering b) good at enough and c) ballsy enough to become a card counter in Vegas.
Kate Gould
It’s possibly a common dream among mathematically gifted but socially challenged high school outcasts that traits for which they were shunned will someday emerge as acclaimed talents. Jonny Magic and the Card Shark Kids is the tale of one such transformation. Dismissed as the weird fat kid, Jon Finkel discovers the card game, Magic: The Gathering, and quickly becomes world champion before turning to blackjack and poker. Re-named Jonny Magic, a couple of hundred pounds lighter and a few million b ...more
Apr 10, 2010 Daniel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fun read if you're already familiar with the names in the book and know the games - good for nostalgic stories. For someone not familiar with either, it's probably far less interesting.
Derek James
This book was pretty disappointing. I'm a fan of games in general and Magic: The Gathering and Poker in particular. The true story of a geeky outcast who rises to the ranks of professional Magic, then takes on Vegas as a professional poker player, then card counter, should be a fun and fascinating read. But Kushner's cheesy prose and superficial coverage of events falls flat.

The target audience should be card players who understand the games reasonably well, but Kushner goes for the lowest comm
Nov 01, 2011 Onna rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It started out really good but towards the end I noticed that the language used was just really weird. He went from the "geek" to wanting to "crush" everyone in card games. It was just not fun to read towards the end. It was like listening to that guy brag in the class about his luxury weekend. We get it, you went from being uncool to having "hot babes" in Vegas. I wanted to learn more about poker, but I obviously picked up the wrong book.
Feb 24, 2012 Joshua rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
I don't play poker nor do I play Magic: The Gathering, but I did enjoy this non-fiction look into the creation of the very popular card game and how a group of its fanatics have adapted to the world of professional poker. Even after reading this, I don't want to play poker or Magic, but that shouldn't be seen as a slight against David Kushner's lively, breezy history of the game and profiles of various devotees of Magic. This is a fun one that registers high on the geek ladder.
Ben B
Ben B rated it liked it
Mar 29, 2012
Juan Felipe
Dec 10, 2012 Juan Felipe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kushner's writing style makes this story feel like one of those weekend's morning movies about the underdog/geek/nerd becoming a champion, even if it lacks the hard beatdown part where our hero is punished for beating the system.

Apart from some inaccurate technicalities from the author, and the sporadic cheezy commentary, Jonny Magic & the Card Shark Kids will let every reader wondering if he could be the next hero in town, be it the young kid with Yu-Gi-Oh, the 30'ier in a casino or elderly
Dec 20, 2012 Jared rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This one was difficult for me, as the writing was a bit stale, and the line between legitimate competition and shady-ass loophole exploitation these guys walk evokes strong reactions from me. It was useful to me as a retailer of collectible card games, since I was unaware of how they are now widely considered to be gateways to professional gambling. There was also a bit of geek rage, since the author, despite his time spent amongst professional Magic players, really knew very little about the ga ...more
Justin rated it it was amazing
Jan 13, 2013
Feb 05, 2013 Grg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book for the layman about Magic the Gathering, Blackjack card counting, and the early days of the poker boom. If you're eye glaze over when most people try to explain Magic, this is book to read. Also, a great story about a misfit finding his place in the world through gaming.
James Lance
James Lance rated it really liked it
Oct 09, 2013
Very interesting subject. If you can see through the writing there is some interesting content. The author seems to have greatly misjudged his audience though and the result is rather unfortunate. Kushner writes as if he was expecting his audience to be people who know nothing about competitive magic, blackjack, or even just general nerd-culture. I don't understand why anyone without a working knowledge of those subjects would have any interest in reading this book. I do think there is a great s ...more
David Schwarm
“You are contaminated.”
Thus ends the first biography of Jon Finkel [my Hero] by author David Kushner [Masters of Doom]. A Casino Pit Boss has seen the author chatting with a known card counter, and Mr Finkel wants to remain uncontaminated thus Mr Kushner must move on so Mr Finkel can continue to play…A pretty perfect ending to a not so perfect book…

Jonny Magic is a quick read—ideal for anyone interested in background information on the greatest game create
Dec 22, 2013 MaryBeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended by a poker-loving friend -- perhaps a window into my 10 year old magic-loving son. Interesting!
Erin rated it it was amazing
Jan 02, 2014
Jun 28, 2014 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought Jonny Magic and the Card Shark Kids was a good read. David has a knack for making unlikable, socially awkward, nerdy people somehow likable in his books. Taking a kid who is a champion magic player and then showing people that this kid is smart and applied his knowledge from a more high scale, less accessible card game like Magic to Poker and Blackjack was fun to read about.

Jonny Magic starts out as a super unlikable personality, to the point where in the first couple chapters I asked
James Pfeiffer
This was not amazing as a book; it had a weird writing style. Also the magic terminology used was strange. But I really wanted to read the story of Jon Finkel, so I stuck through it.

Also, after I finished it I started to get into poker.
Pia Roper
Who knew that many Magic card players were also great gamblers? Interesting read, but not particularly well written.
Nov 14, 2014 Joshua rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: america, journalism
The writing in this book was overwrought and kind of annoying. Even the concept -- that it was somehow surprising that nerds who played magic were good at poker -- was pretty flawed. You can also tell which parts of the book the author witnessed (those were convincing) and which were based on the nostalgic recollections of the characters (those weren't.) But if you're interested in the worlds of competitive cards, professional sports betting, or nerdom in general, it's worth putting up with that ...more
Jennifer rated it really liked it
Jan 15, 2015
Sam rated it it was ok
Apr 17, 2015
Scott Jonas
Scott Jonas rated it it was amazing
Jan 27, 2016
Charles Reimler
May 18, 2016 Charles Reimler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Basically Story Of An Introvert Person Social Growth Develops Skills In Living! Success In Card Games Makes Logic Due Not Athletic! Brains To Advance In Life's Learning Is A Process! Smart Guy Struggles Adjust To Life People Skills Is A Good Read!

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David Kushner is an award-winning journalist and author. He is a contributing editor of Wired, Rolling Stone, and Spectrum and is an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University.
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