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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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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top Customer Reviews
But first, the basics: "Kevin" joins a team of Blackjack players based out of MIT, and extracts some ungodly number of dollars from the casinos over the course of a five-year romp. Then the casinos wise up to the game, and start putting the squeeze on Kevin and his buddies: expulsions, IRS audits, intimidation, and a little rough stuff in back rooms.
Ben Mezrich is a thriller-writer by day, and the prose is a bit too ripely melodramatic--cliff-hanger chapter endings that go nowhere, visual metaphors culled from Raymond Chandler's wastebasket: "the muscles beneath his MIT T-shirt rippled like a plastic trash can left out in a heat wave." (And just when did everyone at MIT get so darned _ripped_? Almost everyone's a stud or a babe, except for the shadowy Asian ringleader with the horrible teeth and bad vision. Must be a different part of campus than I usually see.) But he manages to keep the writing at a good poolside or plane-time level, and you can skim the bits that are obviously padded out to stretch a 150-page story into a 250-page book.
The Blackjack itself seems mostly reasonable. The kids practice the classic "Hi-Lo" count, but with a clever twist. Hi-Lo calls for the player to bet the minimum a lot of the time, then dramatically raise the betting level when the distribution of cards turns favorable. One thing this isn't, is inconspicuous--the casinos are good at spotting this stuff. So the MIT gang fielded two types of players--some always bet low, but kept track of the "count." When it became favorable, these players would give the high-sign to a "Gorilla" or "Big Player," who always bet high, and sat at a hot table until the count went bad again.Read more ›
The story is told through the eyes of the author, who met one of the students at a party and was so intrigued by his outrageous tale that he was compelled to put it into a book. This is a story of a group of math whizzes, most of Asian descent, who used the art of card counting, worked as teams, and legally won as much as 4 million dollars during the few years they spent their weekends in the Vegas casinos, living the high life.
They strapped thousands of dollars to their bodies with Velcro to get the cash onto planes, used false names, and were always on the lookout for Las Vegas personnel who would sometimes personally escort them out of the casinos. They also learned about the seediness of the gambling world, greed, the way the Vegas corporations work. Of course they all went through changes. And eventually, it had to come to an end. Some of it is kind of scary too. But mostly, it's about beating the odds and living with a constant adrenaline high.
Well, reading this book is an adrenaline high of it's own. It put me right into the action and kept me there for the whole 257 pages. I loved it. And highly recommend it.
Ben Mezrich is superb writer and story teller with the amazing ability to weave the excitement of a Las Vegas casino, the mathmetics of card counting with enjoyable interpersonal dynamics so that this is a consuming story with people you care about. His description of the high roller lifestyle in Vegas takes you to the tables playing sums you watch others wager with the adrenaline rush like you were part of the team. I bought the book in Boston having just missed him at a book signing and had a hardtime finishing the conference. I found myself in the room reading a book I could not put down instead of going out in one of the towns in which the story was set. It was that engrossing.
My Christmas list now contains all of his previous writings as this is an author who knows how to tell a story.
For four years I've supported myself and my family by counting cards in American casinos and winning at blackjack. It is a tense, weird, exhilirating life, and I would love for more of my friends to understand it. This book doesn't help. Not only is the grade-school prose tedious. Not only are the technical blackjack details, on those few occasions when Mezrich summons the pluck to try tackling them, incorrect or misleading. The dramatic structure gropes and falls flat. The journalism is scandalously lazy and erroneous. Above all, the spirit, the eclat that card counters muster to wage our little war against casinoland is missing. Mezrich doesn't get it and can't report it. He hasn't been there and he doesn't know, his scanty experimental plays with MIT alums notwithstanding. If you want to know what gamblers are like and how we live, skip this drivel.
Look instead at legendary hustler Amarillo Slim's new memoir, Amarillo Slim in a World Full of Fat People.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
fascinating read several paragraphs were very riveting....all in all one great bookPublished 2 months ago by Larry Peck
If you are interested in activities where you have to calculate probabilities (like trading for example), this book gives you an idea how gambling becomes a game of probabilities... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Reima
One can hardly deny that making money runs the world today. There are the specialists in making easy money. These are broadly characterized as speculators and gamblers. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Passin' Through
This will keep you engaged. Once you get started you want to keep reading.Published 8 months ago by Walter B Turner
more game theory and less hollywood dialogue would make for a better readPublished 8 months ago by Mr. X
Loved the movie, and love the book. Who doesn't enjoy finding out how people got rich cheating in Vegas? Ha ha!Published 9 months ago by serious shopper