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Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions Paperback – September 15, 2003
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Bill Simmons ESPN THE magazine This book made me want to gamble! Vegas! Vegas!
Rocky Mountain News (Denver) A lively tale that could pass for thriller fiction....Mezrich's skilled yet easy writing draws sweat to the reader's brow.
About the Author
Ben Mezrich graduated magna cum laude from Harvard. He has published seventeen books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Accidental Billionaires, which was adapted into the Academy Award–winning film The Social Network, and Bringing Down the House, which has sold more than 1.5 million copies in twelve languages and was the basis for the hit movie 21. He lives in Boston.
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From the book, I've learnt a lot about the world of casinos and card counting, the job of the spotters, who cover as many tables as possible and keep running card-counts at their location and help the big player to count cards and the usage of hand signals. For example, a spotter would signal the count of +11 by saying “I wonder if there is a football game today.” (in reference of there are eleven players on a football team). Or he might say “I really suck at bowling” to indicate the count of +10 because in bowling, strike is ten pins. There are also lot’s of other techniques that the team invented. They had their own system. They also learned about the dark side of the casino world, how greedy people are and how the Vegas corporations works. Furthermore, Mezrich always leaves suspense to the readers and stimulate readers’ desire to read more about the story. At the end of all the chapters, you won’t know what’s coming up next. Mezrich is capable of keeping the readers’ eyes glues to the pages. In the book, the MIT team strapped thousands of dollars to their bodies to get the cash onto planes. They used false names, always have limos waiting for them at the airports, always having personal host to escort them everywhere. Reading about their incredibly rich life and their dangerous situation of being caught by the casinos, you will never know what they are going to do next.
Even though the book is a quick read, it interests a wide variety of people, from who wants to feel the thrills and adventure the gambling world to the ones that never gambled before but curious about it. However, the book doesn't related to any big history themes. From the book, it seems like over the course of a few years, gambling is all they do. I couldn't tell how was it like in the 1990s except for the casinos. The author also has too much detail about the card counting techniques and it got repetitive to create the tension between characters and a card counter’s life. It seems like readers can just skim through some parts that is obviously meant to stretch out the book.
Moreover, there are lots of details in the book doesn't seem real. Some of the events doesn't make any sense. For example, why would they hide their cash in all kinds of ways and trying to get through the airport security when they can just use a bank box or a debit card. Moreover, the team always stays at fancy hotels with suites, champagne, limos waiting on arrival, 24-hour open swimming pool just for them. Doesn't it seems too conspicuous to the casinos? Since they wants to keep it low, they shouldn't take risks like that. Also, according to Wikipedia, some of the exciting events didn't not occur. All these over dramatic scenes seems too unrealistic. However, they can really interest the readers. After all, this is one of the cheapest Vegas fantasy people can buy.
Overall, this book contains interesting and exciting stories that keep the readers eyes on the pages. The plot goes quick enough that you won’t find it long or boring. Yet, it’s not the best book to read if you are looking for a historically informative book.
This inside look at casino security and card-counting was very exciting. Seeing how a group of regular kids ( well, genius regular kids ) could learn to exploit an edge and take the big casinos for money, makes for a great story.
I am not a gambler. Well not a gambler in the sense of giving my money away to the casinos, because I know the odds are rigged to the benefit of the house. I did like reading details about how these MIT students found a very slight probabilistic edge and then built a team to exploit that edge. Pretty much the same way traders and hedge funds make money every single day. But the house, like the market, figures these things out and changes the game. The only difference is the market will not "take you for a one way ride into the desert"
I highly recommend the book or the movie.