Jonny Magic and the Card Shark Kids

Catalog Cover.PperlI just finished reading Jonny Magic and the Card Shark Kids by David Kushner. It’s the story of how Jon Finkel, a Magic: The Gathering player, went from high-school nerd to world champion, joined a casino blackjack card-counting team, and then decided to take on the World Series of Poker too. It’s a fascinating study of a generation of gamer geeks that I could well have been a part of were I 10 years younger.

I’d long known about the top players on Magic‘s Pro Circuit, and I’d heard stories about how some of them were now winning poker tournaments, but the book goes over it all in loving detail. It’s really a coming-of-age story for Jon, one that many gamers can probably identify with. As gaming becomes more and more mainstream and mass market, it’s wonderful to have a record about those who were there at that cusp and see how they helped define the culture that’s arisen around gaming of all kinds. The fact that I know some of the people named in the book, like Peter Adkison and Richard Garfield, added that much more life to the story.