From Publishers Weekly
"Shy, geeky, amiable" MIT grad Kevin Lewis, was, Mezrich learns at a party, living a double life winning huge sums of cash in Las Vegas casinos. In 1993 when Lewis was 20 years old and feeling aimless, he was invited to join the MIT Blackjack Team, organized by a former math instructor, who said, "Blackjack is beatable." Expanding on the "hi-lo" card-counting techniques popularized by Edward Thorp in his 1962 book, Beat the Dealer, the MIT group's more advanced team strategies were legal, yet frowned upon by casinos. Backed by anonymous investors, team members checked into Vegas hotels under assumed names and, pretending not to know each other, communicated in the casinos with gestures and card-count code words. Taking advantage of the statistical nature of blackjack, the team raked in millions before casinos caught on and pursued them. In his first nonfiction foray, novelist Mezrich (Reaper, etc.), telling the tale primarily from Kevin's point of view, manages to milk that threat for a degree of suspense. But the tension is undercut by the first-draft feel of his pedestrian prose, alternating between irrelevant details and heightened melodrama. In a closing essay, Lewis details the intricacies of card counting.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
For the first third of his nonfiction debut, novelist Mezrich craps out. Ground lights viewed from an airplane aren't just pinpricks, or even little pinpricks, but "tiny little pinpricks." Las Vegas tourism facts are crammed onto the pages like seven decks in a six-deck shoe. But Mezrich finally hits the jackpot on page 79, when M.I.T. student Kevin Lewis steps onto the floor of the Mirage. The book stays on a roll as it describes how the young gambler and his card-counting cohorts employ simple math and complex disguises to win nearly $4 million at the blackjack tables. Bouncing from huge scores to frightening banishments, the M.I.T. team fights a winning battle against the law of averages--until they're forced to flee south like Butch and Sundance from the gaming industry's Joe LeFors. Although Mezrich's prose never rises above serviceable (and he pointlessly injects himself into the narrative at every turn), the story he tells will grip anyone who has ever hoped to break the bank at Monte Carlo. Frank SennettCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved