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Champ To Chump:Jonny Magic and the Card Shark Kids

By Chuckmonster on Friday, 30th September 2005 9:38am
  » filed under Las Vegas  comments: 0


"Jonny Magic and the Card Shark Kids" Book excerpt from RollingStone.com

Magic: The Gathering is a card game that has quietly spawned an international phenomenon and multibillion dollar industry. Brought to market in 1993 for under $100,000, it now outsells Monopoly and Scrabble combined. It's overlooked, misunderstood, and, for some of the smartest kids on the planet, profoundly influential. Magic is the boot camp of geekdom, attracting pubescent power nerds and transforming them into real-life players. Those who seek insight into the future of Wall Street traders, research scientists, poker stars, technologists, and boot-strapped entrepreneurs would be well-served to sit down at a neighborhood Magic game.

Created by an iconoclastic, Ivy League mathematician named Dr. Richard Garfield, Magic combines mythological fantasy, baseball-card-style collectibility, and raw competitive strategy into something unique: it's called a trading card game. The fundamental design, which Garfield patented, is the basis of a cottage industry titles such as Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! It's the reason Hasbro -- the powerhouse behind Playskool, Tonka, and Milton Bradley toys and games -- paid a half billion bucks in 2000 to buy Wizards of the Coast, the scrappy start-up Garfield co-owned. The trail of Magic's shiny wrappers runs through pizza joints and dorm rooms, summer camps and cafeterias from the Main Streets of New Jersey to the hillsides of Japan. The game, published in ten languages and fifty-two countries, is now Hasbro's top brand. For the best players, it's also a surprisingly lucrative lifestyle. Starting as young as fourteen, the elite travel to exotic locales from Rio de Janeiro to Kuala Lumpur competing in tournaments for $3 million in cash prizes. The pros make a living at Magic alone. With individual earnings as high as $350,000, many have put themselves through college with the game. In short, Magic is morphing legions of neglected whiz kids into ultra-savvy teenage high rollers or, as Garfield likes to call them, "mental athletes." Now this new generation of players weaned on video games, schooled on Magic, and empowered by the Internet is coming of age and cashing in. No one has cashed in more than Finkel, the greatest champ this underworld has ever produced, and no one has been more transformed.

In the decade since he was cowering in the locker room, he has gone from Magic World Champion to self-made millionaire renaissance gambler. He razed underground poker clubs, and online sites. He rose to the top of the country's largest card-counting blackjack team, earning a place on the most wanted list of nearly every casino around. He even beat the most seemingly unbeatable game of all, sports betting. As his younger sister Jenny jokes, "He's the poster boy for a generation of losers. He's shown that they can be successful too."



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