Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions [NOOK Book]

Overview

#1 National Bestseller, now the major motion picture, 21

The amazing inside story about a gambling ring of M.I.T. students who beat the system in Vegas—and lived to tell how.

Robin Hood meets the Rat Pack when the best and the brightest of M.I.T.’s math students and engineers take up blackjack under the guidance of an eccentric mastermind. Their small blackjack club ...
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Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions

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Overview

#1 National Bestseller, now the major motion picture, 21

The amazing inside story about a gambling ring of M.I.T. students who beat the system in Vegas—and lived to tell how.

Robin Hood meets the Rat Pack when the best and the brightest of M.I.T.’s math students and engineers take up blackjack under the guidance of an eccentric mastermind. Their small blackjack club develops from an experiment in counting cards on M.I.T.’s campus into a ring of card savants with a system for playing large and winning big. In less than two years they take some of the world’s most sophisticated casinos for more than three million dollars. But their success also brings with it the formidable ire of casino owners and launches them into the seedy underworld of corporate Vegas with its private investigators and other violent heavies.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
In the Greed Is Good '80s, a group of MIT geniuses decided to break the bank at Las Vegas. Utilizing their own mathematical wizardry and large doses of moxie, these six co-conspirators legally beat Vegas's largest casinos out of more than $3 million in less than two years. Harvard University graduate/thriller author Ben Mezrich has recomposed their story, an arresting hybrid of Liar's Poker, The Cuckoo's Egg, and Ocean's Eleven.
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.
Kirkus Reviews
Thriller author Mezrich (Reaper, 1998, etc.) depicts a team of card-counting MIT students who live the Vegas high life for a while before getting caught and barred from all casinos everywhere. Approached to join the MIT blackjack club, Kevin Lewis was hesitant: Aren’t they nerds who play cards in the library all night long? Still, Kevin is far enough along in his education to know that he’s not cut out for the typical life of an MIT alum, so he decides to check out the club, which he discovers is churning out teams of card counters. (The author suggests that the Techies developed a new system for card counting, but it seems more likely they simply expanded its possibilities.) After passing a series of tests, learning "basic strategy," and such, Kevin is allowed to join the teams of counters spread throughout a casino so as to raise the chance that someone will find a sufficiently advantageous situation to play in. (Playing alone can take forever.) Soon he’s mastered all the dodges, and before he can say Ocean’s 11 he’s rolling in dough and dating an LA Rams cheerleader. The scam works for a time—it’s legal, actually, so where’s the fun?—but soon enough the casinos seem to be onto them. Faceless authority suddenly assumes the form of Vincent Cole, who may work for a private investigation service specializing in routing out counters. From there it’s mainly a question of how the counters got caught. Did one of their own turn them in, or was it facial recognition software developed at (you guessed it) MIT? Mezrich’s prose is generally colorless, and he unwisely attempts to punch it up with some over-dramatized scenes at the card tables and by using italics wherever he’s talking about a lot ofmoney. Compelling—if you’re into that sort of thing.
From the Publisher
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.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743250849
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • Publication date: 12/2/2002
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 58,764
  • File size: 367 KB

Meet the Author

Ben Mezrich
Ben Mezrich graduated magna cum laude from Harvard in 1991. Since then he has published twelve 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 became the basis for the Kevin Spacey movie 21. He has also published the national bestsellers Ugly Americans, Rigged, and Busting Vegas, and Bringing Down the Mouse, a book for young readers. He lives in Boston.
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Read an Excerpt


Chapter One

It was ten minutes past three in the morning, and Kevin Lewis looked like he was about to pass out. There were three empty martini glasses on the table in front of him, and he was leaning forward on both elbows, his gaze focused on his cards. The dealer was still feigning patience, in deference to the pile of purple chips in front of the martini glasses. But the other players were beginning to get restless. They wanted the kid to make his bet already -- or pack it in, grab the ratty duffel bag under his chair, and head back to Boston. Hell, hadn't he won enough? What was a college senior going to do with thirty thousand dollars?

The dealer, sensing the mood at the table, finally tapped the blackjack shoe. "It's up to you, Kevin. You've had a hell of a run. Are you in for another round?"

Kevin tried to hide his trembling hands. Truth be told, his name wasn't really Kevin. And he wasn't even slightly drunk. The red splotches on his cheeks had been painted on in his hotel room. And though thirty thousand dollars in chips was enough to make his hands shake, it wasn't something that would impress the people who really knew him. They'd be much more interested in the ratty duffel bag beneath his chair.

Kevin breathed deeply, calming himself. He'd done this a hundred times, and there was no reason to think that tonight would be any different.

He reached for three five-hundred-dollar chips, then glanced around, pretending to look for the cocktail waitress. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw his Spotter. Red-haired, pretty, wearing a low-cut blouse and too much makeup. Nobody would have guessed she was a former MIT mechanical-engineering major and an honors student at Harvard Business School. She was close enough to see the table but far enough away not to draw any suspicion. Kevin caught her gaze, then waited for her signal. A bent right arm would tell him to double his bet. Both arms folded and he'd push most of his chips into the betting circle. Arms flat at her sides and he'd drop down to the lowest possible bet.

But she didn't do any of these things. Instead, she ran her right hand through her hair.

Kevin stared at her, making sure he had read her right. Then he quickly started to gather his chips.

"That's it for me," he said to the table, slurring his words. "Should have skipped that last martini."

Inside, he was on fire. He glanced at his Spotter again. Her hand was still deep in her red hair. Christ. In six months, Kevin had never seen a Spotter do that before. The signal had nothing to do with the deck, nothing to do with the precise running count that had won him thirty thousand dollars in under an hour.

A hand in the hair meant only one thing. Get out. Get moving. Now.

Kevin slung the duffel bag over his shoulder and jammed the purple chips into his pockets.

The dealer was watching him carefully. "You sure you don't want me to color up?"

Maybe the man sensed that something wasn't right. Kevin was about to toss him a tip when he caught sight of the suits. Three of them, coming around the nearest craps table. Big, burly men with narrow eyes. No time for niceties.

"That's okay," Kevin said, backing away from the table. "I like the way they jiggle around in my pants."

He turned and darted through the casino. He knew they were watching him from above -- the Eyes in the Sky. But he doubted they would make a scene. They were just trying to protect their money. Still, he didn't want to take any chances. If the suits caught up to him -- well, everyone had heard the stories. Back rooms. Intimidation tactics. Sometimes even violence. No matter how many makeovers the town got, deep down, this was still Vegas.

Tonight Kevin was lucky. He made it outside without incident, blending into the ever-present flow of tourists on the brightly lit Strip. A minute later, he was sitting on a bench at a neon-drenched cabstand across the street. The duffel bag was on his lap.

The redhead from inside dropped onto the bench next to him, lighting herself a cigarette. Her hands were shaking. "That was too fucking close. They came straight out of the elevators. They must have been upstairs watching the whole time."

Kevin nodded. He was breathing hard. His chest was soaked in sweat. There was no better feeling in the world.

"Think we should quit for the night?" the girl asked.

Kevin smiled at her.

"Let's try the Stardust. My face is still good there."

He put both hands on the duffel bag, feeling the stacks of bills inside. A little over one million dollars, all in hundreds: Kevin's bankroll, partially financed by the shadowy investors who recruited him six months before. They had trained him in mock casinos set up in ratty apartments, abandoned warehouses, even MIT classrooms. Then they had set him loose on the neon Strip.

Most of his friends were back at school -- taking tests, drinking beer, arguing about the Red Sox. He was in Las Vegas, living the high life on a million dollars of someone else's money. Sooner or later, it might all come crashing down. But Kevin didn't really care.

He hadn't invented the System. He was just one of the lucky few smart enough pull it off...

Copyright © 2002 by Ben Mezrich

Chapter Two

Boston, Present Day

Twenty-five thousand dollars in hundreds, strapped to each thigh. Another fifty thousand in a Velcro bag taped to my chest. Fifty thousand more stuffed into the pockets of my jacket. A hundred thousand nestled against the small of my back.

I felt like a cross between the Michelin Man and a drug dealer. Bulging and nervous, I pushed through the revolving glass door and entered Logan Airport. Refrigerated air smacked me full in the face, and I paused, getting my bearings. Terminal B was bustling with college kids fleeing town for the long Memorial Day weekend: backpacks, baggy jeans, baseball caps, duffel bags. Everyone moving in every direction at once, the unchoreographed ballet of a modern American airport. I took a deep breath and joined the flow of people.

I kept my eyes low, watching my scuffed dark loafers pad across the tiled floor. Act casual, think casual, be casual... I tried not to think about the new BMW strapped to my back. I tried not to think about the down payment for a two-bedroom condo nestled in my jacket pockets. I concentrated on looking like everyone else; maybe not a college kid, but perhaps a grad student, a teaching assistant -- someone's older brother here to help with the luggage. Just part of the cacophony, a statistic in Logan's weekly FAA report. Act casual, think casual, be casual...

Suddenly, the modern equivalent of Stonehenge loomed in front of me: two airport metal detectors standing side by side, flanked by waist-high conveyor belts continuously feeding into boxy steel X-ray machines. My pulse rocketed as I mentally checked myself. No bills hanging from my sleeves, no glimpses of green sticking out through the buttons on my shirt. I stepped into line behind a pretty brunette in low-riding jeans, even offering to help her hoist an oversize, sticker-covered suitcase onto one of the conveyor belts. Act casual, think casual, be casual...

"Next." A tall African-American woman in a grey Logan uniform beckoned. There was a name tag on her right lapel, but I couldn't make out what it said because of the sweat stinging my eyes. I blinked rapidly -- but casually -- and stepped forward through the disembodied door frame. The invisible rays sliced and diced my entrails in search of metal. Just as I started to breathe easier, a high-pitched mechanical scream tore through the dead air. I froze.

The woman with the name tag pointed me back through the machine. "Empty your pockets of any metal objects and try again."

My throat constricted. My hands jerked instinctively toward the bulges beneath my jacket. Above the stacks of hundred-dollar bills, I felt something shaped like an enormous suppository.

Shit. I had forgotten about my cell phone.

My fingers shook as I reached into my coat and fumbled for my Nokia. I could feel the woman's eyes on me. If she asked me to take off my jacket, I was dead. She'd see the bulges and all hell would break loose. I'd spent the past six months researching stories involving attempts at sneaking undeclared fortunes through airport-security checkpoints, and I knew all about customs law.

The security agents can detain you for forty-eight hours. They drag you to a windowless room, sometimes handcuff you to a chair. They call in agents from the DEA and the FBI. They confiscate your stake, sometimes without even giving you a receipt. It will take lawyers and letters and appearances in court to get the money back. Maybe six months, maybe a year. Meanwhile, the IRS will descend on you like grey-suited locusts. It will be up to you to prove you weren't planning to trade the cash for little bags of fine white powder. Because to customs agents, money smells like cocaine. Especially hundred-dollar bills. I've read that 95 percent of the hundred-dollar bills in circulation have minute traces of cocaine embedded in their fibers. That means those specially trained customs dogs can sniff out a professional blackjack player faster than they can spot a drug courier. To the dogs -- and the customs agents -- they both smell the same.

Fear soaked my back as I handed the woman my cell phone. She looked at it like she'd never seen one before. She turned it on, turned it over, then handed it back. Behind me, a kid in a tie-dyed sweatshirt tried to shove a potted plant onto the conveyor belt. The woman with the name tag rolled her eyes. Then, thankfully, she waved me past.

"You're okay. Have a nice flight."

I was barely breathing as I stumbled toward my gate. America West, flight 69. Boston to Vegas direct, the Friday-night neon express. A line of people had already formed by the check-in desk; boisterous, drunk, mostly male, palpably eager.

Kevin Lewis was waiting quietly near the back of the line. I spotted him immediately. Tall, athletically built, but with a slight, shy stoop to his shoulders. Dark hair, dark eyes, a wide, boyish face beneath a mop of dark hair. Vaguely ethnic, but beyond that, indeterminate. His roots could have been Asian, Latino, even Italian or Russian. Like me, he was older than most of the college kids boarding the flight, but he easily fit in with the crowd. He could have been twenty-one, twenty-six, or thirty-five. Wearing a jeans jacket and a baseball cap, he could have passed for a BU frat boy. In a suit and tie, he would have blended in on Wall Street. At the moment, he was wearing an MIT sweatshirt and baggy shorts. The classic MIT stereotype, right out of his parents' dreams.

He saw my flushed cheeks and smiled. "That's what it felt like. Every day."

The bravado seemed incongruous with the shyness in his shoulders. In many ways, Kevin was the classic MIT stereotype. His résumé was perfect: a math-science whiz kid who'd graduated at the top of his class from Exeter, the exclusive New Hampshire boarding school. An electrical-engineering major with an incredible affinity for numbers, a straight-A student who'd covered all the premed requisites -- partially to appease his father, partially because the challenge excited him.

But Kevin's résumé didn't tell the whole story. There was another side to his life, one written in neon signs and purple casino chips.

In Boston he'd earned straight A's at MIT.

In Vegas he'd partied with Michael Jordan, Howard Stern, Dennis Rodman, and Kevin Costner. He'd dated a cheerleader from the L.A. Rams and gotten drunk with Playboy centerfolds. He'd been chased off of a riverboat in Louisiana and watched a teammate kicked out of a Las Vegas casino. He'd narrowly escaped being thrown into a Bahamian jail. He'd been audited by the IRS, tailed by private investigators, had his picture faxed around the globe by men with shadowy reputations and guns holstered to their waists.

Along the way, he'd amassed a small fortune which he kept in neat stacks of Benjamins in a closet by his bed. Although nobody was quite sure how much money he had made, it was rumored to be somewhere between one and five million dollars. All of it legal, none of it spawned from his perfect, stereotypical résumé.

Shy, geeky, amiable Kevin Lewis had led a double life for nearly four years. Now I was going to tell his story.

"The Velcro's starting to itch" was all I could think to say as I shook Kevin's hand. "There's got to be an easier way to carry your stake."

He grinned, his head cocked to one side. "Sure. Fake umbrellas. Phony laptop computers. Plaster casts and hollow crutches. We went through a gadget phase. You know, James Bond kind of stuff. But hollow crutches are a lot harder to explain to the FBI than Velcro."

If there hadn't been a quarter million dollars taped to my body, I'd have thought he was joking. But Kevin was dead serious. He was keeping his part of our bargain, disclosing the secrets no one on the outside had ever heard before.

I met Kevin Lewis nearly seven years earlier, in a local Boston bar. I had graduated from Harvard a few years before he left MIT, and we shared a few mutual friends as well as a few minor interests: sports, late nights at college pubs, widescreen TVs. I was a fledgling writer at the time of our introduction, just about to publish my first novel. As far as I knew, Kevin was employed by some sort of computer software firm, something he had never explained in detail -- probably because I had never been interested enough to ask.

Kevin seemed too much the typical MIT grad: a true engineer at heart. As my writing career began to take off in the years that followed our first meeting, we rarely crossed paths. It was almost six years later that we ran into each other at a Super Bowl party in an apartment located a few blocks from Fenway Park. Kevin had just flown in from a "business" trip to Las Vegas. During the game's halftime show, I found myself alone with him in the kitchen. After a quick exchange of pleasantries, he surprised me by lowering his voice and beckoning me in close: "I've got a great story for your next book," he began.

I immediately thought about edging toward the exit. Like every other writer, I had heard this opening a thousand times in my career. Everyone had a story he believed worthy of a best-seller; for me, reality was rarely interesting enough to take the place of fiction.

But as Kevin began to open up to me, I felt the hair rising on the back of my neck. Unlike the thousands of other cocktail party stories I had heard, Kevin's tale had all the elements of a high-concept, cinematic thriller -- but it was real. Everything Kevin was relating to me had actually happened. He had lived it, every minute of it, and he was willing to let me get it all down on paper.

"Why?" I had asked, amazed.

Kevin never answered my question directly. Over time, I've tried to piece together an answer of my own.

Kevin had been part of something incredible. He and his friends got away with one of the biggest schemes in Vegas history -- and nobody knew a damn thing about it. Telling the story was his way of reliving the experience in a public forum. It was a way for him to prove to himself and to anyone who cared that it had actually happened.

More than that, it was a way for Kevin to come to terms with the choices he had made, the decisions that had led him to his double life. Many of those choices might have seemed immoral to the outside world. By telling his story, Kevin could explain himself to those who believed that what he did was somehow wrong.

In other words, his story was part boast, part confession. For me, this was too good a story to pass up.

As the Super Bowl played on in the other room, Kevin made me an offer. He promised to tell me everything, to give me access to his contacts and his lifestyle. He promised to teach me his system and show me the key that could unlock the casino's coffers.

In return, I would give him his moment.

The deeper I delved into Kevin's double life, the more I realized how far I had come out ahead in our bargain. When I finally sat down to put the words onto paper, Kevin's story flashed by my eyes in Technicolor as bright as a Vegas marquee...

Copyright © 2002 by Ben Mezrich

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 9
111
2 Boston, Present Day 16
3 Boston, June 1994 26
4 Atlantic City, June 1994 36
5 Boston, September 1994 66
6 Boston, October 1994 81
7 Boston, October 1994 95
8 Las Vegas, Present Day 105
9 Thirty Thousand Feet, November 1994 117
10 Las Vegas, November 1994 128
11 Weston, MA, Thanksgiving 1994 154
12 The Double Life, 1994-95 164
13 Chicago, May 1995 180
14 Boston, June 1995 191
15 Foxwoods Casino, Present Day 202
16 July 1995 to October 1995 213
17 Boston, Halloween 1995 225
18 Boston, November 1995 232
19 Las Vegas, Present Day 256
20 Las Vegas, Fall 1997 267
21 Boston, Fall 1997 287
22 Las Vegas, Present Day 303
23 Boston, Valentine's Day 1998 313
24 Las Vegas, President's Day 1998 319
25 The Bayou: Shreveport, LA, 1998 329
26 Boston, Spring 1998 345
27 Boston, Spring 1998 350
28 Boston, Spring 1998 360
29 Boston, Spring 1998 373
30 Las Vegas, Memorial Day 1998 385
31 Boston, June 1998 392
32 Las Vegas, Hard Rock, Present Day 402
How to Count Cards and Beat Vegas 411
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First Chapter

Chapter Two

Boston, Present Day

Twenty-five thousand dollars in hundreds, strapped to each thigh. Another fifty thousand in a Velcro bag taped to my chest. Fifty thousand more stuffed into the pockets of my jacket. A hundred thousand nestled against the small of my back.

I felt like a cross between the Michelin Man and a drug dealer. Bulging and nervous, I pushed through the revolving glass door and entered Logan Airport. Refrigerated air smacked me full in the face, and I paused, getting my bearings. Terminal B was bustling with college kids fleeing town for the long Memorial Day weekend: backpacks, baggy jeans, baseball caps, duffel bags. Everyone moving in every direction at once, the unchoreographed ballet of a modern American airport. I took a deep breath and joined the flow of people.

I kept my eyes low, watching my scuffed dark loafers pad across the tiled floor. Act casual, think casual, be casual... I tried not to think about the new BMW strapped to my back. I tried not to think about the down payment for a two-bedroom condo nestled in my jacket pockets. I concentrated on looking like everyone else; maybe not a college kid, but perhaps a grad student, a teaching assistant -- someone's older brother here to help with the luggage. Just part of the cacophony, a statistic in Logan's weekly FAA report. Act casual, think casual, be casual...

Suddenly, the modern equivalent of Stonehenge loomed in front of me: two airport metal detectors standing side by side, flanked by waist-high conveyor belts continuously feeding into boxy steel X-ray machines. My pulse rocketed as I mentally checked myself. No bills hanging from my sleeves, no glimpses of green sticking out through the buttons on my shirt. I stepped into line behind a pretty brunette in low-riding jeans, even offering to help her hoist an oversize, sticker-covered suitcase onto one of the conveyor belts. Act casual, think casual, be casual...

"Next." A tall African-American woman in a grey Logan uniform beckoned. There was a name tag on her right lapel, but I couldn't make out what it said because of the sweat stinging my eyes. I blinked rapidly -- but casually -- and stepped forward through the disembodied door frame. The invisible rays sliced and diced my entrails in search of metal. Just as I started to breathe easier, a high-pitched mechanical scream tore through the dead air. I froze.

The woman with the name tag pointed me back through the machine. "Empty your pockets of any metal objects and try again."

My throat constricted. My hands jerked instinctively toward the bulges beneath my jacket. Above the stacks of hundred-dollar bills, I felt something shaped like an enormous suppository.

Shit. I had forgotten about my cell phone.

My fingers shook as I reached into my coat and fumbled for my Nokia. I could feel the woman's eyes on me. If she asked me to take off my jacket, I was dead. She'd see the bulges and all hell would break loose. I'd spent the past six months researching stories involving attempts at sneaking undeclared fortunes through airport-security checkpoints, and I knew all about customs law.

The security agents can detain you for forty-eight hours. They drag you to a windowless room, sometimes handcuff you to a chair. They call in agents from the DEA and the FBI. They confiscate your stake, sometimes without even giving you a receipt. It will take lawyers and letters and appearances in court to get the money back. Maybe six months, maybe a year. Meanwhile, the IRS will descend on you like grey-suited locusts. It will be up to you to prove you weren't planning to trade the cash for little bags of fine white powder. Because to customs agents, money smells like cocaine. Especially hundred-dollar bills. I've read that 95 percent of the hundred-dollar bills in circulation have minute traces of cocaine embedded in their fibers. That means those specially trained customs dogs can sniff out a professional blackjack player faster than they can spot a drug courier. To the dogs -- and the customs agents -- they both smell the same.

Fear soaked my back as I handed the woman my cell phone. She looked at it like she'd never seen one before. She turned it on, turned it over, then handed it back. Behind me, a kid in a tie-dyed sweatshirt tried to shove a potted plant onto the conveyor belt. The woman with the name tag rolled her eyes. Then, thankfully, she waved me past.

"You're okay. Have a nice flight."

I was barely breathing as I stumbled toward my gate. America West, flight 69. Boston to Vegas direct, the Friday-night neon express. A line of people had already formed by the check-in desk; boisterous, drunk, mostly male, palpably eager.

Kevin Lewis was waiting quietly near the back of the line. I spotted him immediately. Tall, athletically built, but with a slight, shy stoop to his shoulders. Dark hair, dark eyes, a wide, boyish face beneath a mop of dark hair. Vaguely ethnic, but beyond that, indeterminate. His roots could have been Asian, Latino, even Italian or Russian. Like me, he was older than most of the college kids boarding the flight, but he easily fit in with the crowd. He could have been twenty-one, twenty-six, or thirty-five. Wearing a jeans jacket and a baseball cap, he could have passed for a BU frat boy. In a suit and tie, he would have blended in on Wall Street. At the moment, he was wearing an MIT sweatshirt and baggy shorts. The classic MIT stereotype, right out of his parents' dreams.

He saw my flushed cheeks and smiled. "That's what it felt like. Every day."

The bravado seemed incongruous with the shyness in his shoulders. In many ways, Kevin was the classic MIT stereotype. His résumé was perfect: a math-science whiz kid who'd graduated at the top of his class from Exeter, the exclusive New Hampshire boarding school. An electrical-engineering major with an incredible affinity for numbers, a straight-A student who'd covered all the premed requisites -- partially to appease his father, partially because the challenge excited him.

But Kevin's résumé didn't tell the whole story. There was another side to his life, one written in neon signs and purple casino chips.

In Boston he'd earned straight A's at MIT.

In Vegas he'd partied with Michael Jordan, Howard Stern, Dennis Rodman, and Kevin Costner. He'd dated a cheerleader from the L.A. Rams and gotten drunk with Playboy centerfolds. He'd been chased off of a riverboat in Louisiana and watched a teammate kicked out of a Las Vegas casino. He'd narrowly escaped being thrown into a Bahamian jail. He'd been audited by the IRS, tailed by private investigators, had his picture faxed around the globe by men with shadowy reputations and guns holstered to their waists.

Along the way, he'd amassed a small fortune which he kept in neat stacks of Benjamins in a closet by his bed. Although nobody was quite sure how much money he had made, it was rumored to be somewhere between one and five million dollars. All of it legal, none of it spawned from his perfect, stereotypical résumé.

Shy, geeky, amiable Kevin Lewis had led a double life for nearly four years. Now I was going to tell his story.

"The Velcro's starting to itch" was all I could think to say as I shook Kevin's hand. "There's got to be an easier way to carry your stake."

He grinned, his head cocked to one side. "Sure. Fake umbrellas. Phony laptop computers. Plaster casts and hollow crutches. We went through a gadget phase. You know, James Bond kind of stuff. But hollow crutches are a lot harder to explain to the FBI than Velcro."

If there hadn't been a quarter million dollars taped to my body, I'd have thought he was joking. But Kevin was dead serious. He was keeping his part of our bargain, disclosing the secrets no one on the outside had ever heard before.

I met Kevin Lewis nearly seven years earlier, in a local Boston bar. I had graduated from Harvard a few years before he left MIT, and we shared a few mutual friends as well as a few minor interests: sports, late nights at college pubs, widescreen TVs. I was a fledgling writer at the time of our introduction, just about to publish my first novel. As far as I knew, Kevin was employed by some sort of computer software firm, something he had never explained in detail -- probably because I had never been interested enough to ask.

Kevin seemed too much the typical MIT grad: a true engineer at heart. As my writing career began to take off in the years that followed our first meeting, we rarely crossed paths. It was almost six years later that we ran into each other at a Super Bowl party in an apartment located a few blocks from Fenway Park. Kevin had just flown in from a "business" trip to Las Vegas. During the game's halftime show, I found myself alone with him in the kitchen. After a quick exchange of pleasantries, he surprised me by lowering his voice and beckoning me in close: "I've got a great story for your next book," he began.

I immediately thought about edging toward the exit. Like every other writer, I had heard this opening a thousand times in my career. Everyone had a story he believed worthy of a best-seller; for me, reality was rarely interesting enough to take the place of fiction.

But as Kevin began to open up to me, I felt the hair rising on the back of my neck. Unlike the thousands of other cocktail party stories I had heard, Kevin's tale had all the elements of a high-concept, cinematic thriller -- but it was real. Everything Kevin was relating to me had actually happened. He had lived it, every minute of it, and he was willing to let me get it all down on paper.

"Why?" I had asked, amazed.

Kevin never answered my question directly. Over time, I've tried to piece together an answer of my own.

Kevin had been part of something incredible. He and his friends got away with one of the biggest schemes in Vegas history -- and nobody knew a damn thing about it. Telling the story was his way of reliving the experience in a public forum. It was a way for him to prove to himself and to anyone who cared that it had actually happened.

More than that, it was a way for Kevin to come to terms with the choices he had made, the decisions that had led him to his double life. Many of those choices might have seemed immoral to the outside world. By telling his story, Kevin could explain himself to those who believed that what he did was somehow wrong.

In other words, his story was part boast, part confession. For me, this was too good a story to pass up.

As the Super Bowl played on in the other room, Kevin made me an offer. He promised to tell me everything, to give me access to his contacts and his lifestyle. He promised to teach me his system and show me the key that could unlock the casino's coffers.

In return, I would give him his moment.

The deeper I delved into Kevin's double life, the more I realized how far I had come out ahead in our bargain. When I finally sat down to put the words onto paper, Kevin's story flashed by my eyes in Technicolor as bright as a Vegas marquee...

Copyright © 2002 by Ben Mezrich

Read More Show Less

Introduction

Bringing Down the HouseBen Mezrich

Introduction

Blackjack is beatable — so we beat it.

We beat the hell out of it.

Author Ben Mezrich takes readers into the inner circle of the M.I.T. blackjack club whose members develop a system for card counting based on techniques from Edward Thorp's 1962 book, Beat the Dealer. Using their unique system, this group of highly educated young men and women take Vegas for more than three million dollars.

And it's all legal.

Told from the perspective of amiable, attractive Kevin Lewis — an M.I.T. electrical-engineering major who is torn between a life where his knack for numbers cashes out big and a life that will please his traditional, hard-working father, Bringing Down the House follows Kevin from his elaborate induction into the club and his first time counting cards to his role as Big Player and life as a Vegas high-roller. Under the guidance of the mysterious mastermind and former M.I.T. professor, Micky Rosa, Kevin and his teammates work together to win large sums of money, one casino at a time. Their success opens up a world where luxuries are comped and everyone — whether a high-priced stripper or high-rolling celebrity — is cheering them on. But shadows begin to appear in their neon lifestyle in the shape of casino managers who want to talk to them "downstairs" and an investigator who always seems to be one step ahead of the team. Within the group itself, tensions build and betrayal surfaces, and Kevin learns that "the most important decision a card counter ever has to make is the decision to walk away."

A New York Times bestseller and soon to be a moviestarring Kevin Spacey, Bringing Down the House is the true story about "working the system, turning the math into money, [and] keeping the count without breaking character."

Discussion Questions:

1. Do you see the M.I.T. card counters in this book as heroes who beat a greedy system or do you see them as spoiled Ivy Leaguers with too much time on their hands? When reading the book, do you root for them to succeed? Discuss greed and its role in our society. Do you think it contributes to, or detracts from, the "American Dream"?

2. If Kevin values his father's approval so much, why is it that he becomes a card counter — a profession of which his father would not approve? Do you think Kevin is rebelling against the stereotype of the studious, straight-laced Asian? If so, is he helping to perpetuate a new Asian stereotype — that of the Asian gambler?

3. Have you ever counted cards at a casino? If so, did it work? If not, would you try it now that you've read this book? Before you read this book, would you have considered card counting to be gambling? Would you have considered it illegal? What is your opinion about card counting now that you've read the book?

4. The fact that these club members are Asian and of college age is significant in helping them avoid suspicion and dupe the casinos. This is not the only way appearances can be misleading. How do stereotypes play a role in this book? What is your stereotype of a gambler?

5. Are Kevin and his card-counting colleagues gambling addicts? If not, how are they different from addicts? Do you think they are driven simply by ego and greed? Or are they driven by something more complex?

6. How does Bringing Down the House portray gambling centers like Las Vegas and Atlantic City? Do you think books and films about card counting can hurt or help casinos?

7. The book has a who-done-it element that is never fully revealed. Who do you think ratted out the team, selling a list of card counters for $25,000? The Amphibians? Mickey? A member of their own team?

8. Is Micky Rosa a good guy? A father figure and misunderstood genius? Or is he something more sinister? Kevin Spacey will be taking on the role of Mickey in the film version. Who would you choose to play this part?

9. In Kevin Lewis's essay at the end of the book, he tells us, "Keep in mind, card counting isn't gambling" (page 257). If gambling is defined as betting on an uncertain outcome, do you agree with Kevin? If not, explain your reasons.

10. Now you are the card counter. Decipher these code numbers:

One more drink and I'll fall off this stool.

The all-you-can-eat buffet here has the best eggs you ever had.

If I don't start winning, my girlfriend can kiss that engagement ring goodbye.

They've got a great sports book here. Especially when it comes to football.

Hey, where can I go bowling around here?

And translate these phrases into the team's gestures:

The deck's warm

The deck's turned hot

I need to talk

What's the count?

Something's wrong, get out now!

Who Said That?:

"A whale is someone who can lose a million dollars at cards — and not give a damn." (Answer on page 22.)

"We're freedom fighters, Kevin. We liberate money from the hands of the oppressors. We're Robin Hood, and the casino is the sheriff." (Answer on page 41.)

"Card counting can be good for business, too. They make the civilians think the game is beatable." (Answer on page 66.)

"...the law is pretty clear: As long as you don't alter the outcome of the game, or use a mechanical device such as a calculator or a computer, the worst they can legally do is throw you out." (Answer on page 124.)

"Every time you walk into a casino, they're watching. Every time you cash in a chip, they're taking notes. Sooner or later, they're going to start asking questions. And things will change." (Answer on page 138.)

"Card counting is a misnomer; the practice has nothing at all to do with the ability to count the cards coming out of the deck." (Answer on page 257.)

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide


Bringing Down the House Ben Mezrich

Introduction

Blackjack is beatable -- so we beat it.

We beat the hell out of it.

Author Ben Mezrich takes readers into the inner circle of the M.I.T. blackjack club whose members develop a system for card counting based on techniques from Edward Thorp's 1962 book, Beat the Dealer. Using their unique system, this group of highly educated young men and women take Vegas for more than three million dollars.

And it's all legal.

Told from the perspective of amiable, attractive Kevin Lewis -- an M.I.T. electrical-engineering major who is torn between a life where his knack for numbers cashes out big and a life that will please his traditional, hard-working father, Bringing Down the House follows Kevin from his elaborate induction into the club and his first time counting cards to his role as Big Player and life as a Vegas high-roller. Under the guidance of the mysterious mastermind and former M.I.T. professor, Micky Rosa, Kevin and his teammates work together to win large sums of money, one casino at a time. Their success opens up a world where luxuries are comped and everyone -- whether a high-priced stripper or high-rolling celebrity -- is cheering them on. But shadows begin to appear in their neon lifestyle in the shape of casino managers who want to talk to them "downstairs" and an investigator who always seems to be one step ahead of the team. Within the group itself, tensions build and betrayal surfaces, and Kevin learns that "the most important decision a card counter ever has to make is the decision to walk away."

A New York Times bestseller and soon to be a movie starring Kevin Spacey, Bringing Down the House is the true story about "working the system, turning the math into money, [and] keeping the count without breaking character."

Discussion Questions:

1. Do you see the M.I.T. card counters in this book as heroes who beat a greedy system or do you see them as spoiled Ivy Leaguers with too much time on their hands? When reading the book, do you root for them to succeed? Discuss greed and its role in our society. Do you think it contributes to, or detracts from, the "American Dream"?

2. If Kevin values his father's approval so much, why is it that he becomes a card counter -- a profession of which his father would not approve? Do you think Kevin is rebelling against the stereotype of the studious, straight-laced Asian? If so, is he helping to perpetuate a new Asian stereotype -- that of the Asian gambler?

3. Have you ever counted cards at a casino? If so, did it work? If not, would you try it now that you've read this book? Before you read this book, would you have considered card counting to be gambling? Would you have considered it illegal? What is your opinion about card counting now that you've read the book?

4. The fact that these club members are Asian and of college age is significant in helping them avoid suspicion and dupe the casinos. This is not the only way appearances can be misleading. How do stereotypes play a role in this book? What is your stereotype of a gambler?

5. Are Kevin and his card-counting colleagues gambling addicts? If not, how are they different from addicts? Do you think they are driven simply by ego and greed? Or are they driven by something more complex?

6. How does Bringing Down the House portray gambling centers like Las Vegas and Atlantic City? Do you think books and films about card counting can hurt or help casinos?

7. The book has a who-done-it element that is never fully revealed. Who do you think ratted out the team, selling a list of card counters for $25,000? The Amphibians? Mickey? A member of their own team?

8. Is Micky Rosa a good guy? A father figure and misunderstood genius? Or is he something more sinister? Kevin Spacey will be taking on the role of Mickey in the film version. Who would you choose to play this part?

9. In Kevin Lewis's essay at the end of the book, he tells us, "Keep in mind, card counting isn't gambling" (page 257). If gambling is defined as betting on an uncertain outcome, do you agree with Kevin? If not, explain your reasons.

10. Now you are the card counter. Decipher these code numbers:

One more drink and I'll fall off this stool.

The all-you-can-eat buffet here has the best eggs you ever had.

If I don't start winning, my girlfriend can kiss that engagement ring goodbye.

They've got a great sports book here. Especially when it comes to football.

Hey, where can I go bowling around here?

And translate these phrases into the team's gestures:

The deck's warm

The deck's turned hot

I need to talk

What's the count?

Something's wrong, get out now!

Who Said That?:

"A whale is someone who can lose a million dollars at cards -- and not give a damn." (Answer on page 22.)

"We're freedom fighters, Kevin. We liberate money from the hands of the oppressors. We're Robin Hood, and the casino is the sheriff." (Answer on page 41.)

"Card counting can be good for business, too. They make the civilians think the game is beatable." (Answer on page 66.)

"...the law is pretty clear: As long as you don't alter the outcome of the game, or use a mechanical device such as a calculator or a computer, the worst they can legally do is throw you out." (Answer on page 124.)

"Every time you walk into a casino, they're watching. Every time you cash in a chip, they're taking notes. Sooner or later, they're going to start asking questions. And things will change." (Answer on page 138.)

"Card counting is a misnomer; the practice has nothing at all to do with the ability to count the cards coming out of the deck." (Answer on page 257.)

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 139 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(82)

4 Star

(38)

3 Star

(11)

2 Star

(5)

1 Star

(3)

Your Rating:

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 139 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 18, 2013

    The book ¿Bringing Down the House,¿ features an MIT grad student

    The book “Bringing Down the House,” features an MIT grad student who is living a double life. Kevin Lewis, the main character is brought to work with a club called the MIT blackjack team who has a knack for counting cards on the biggest stage, Las Vegas. Kevin gets on to the team and as a whole they make a whole lot of profits. He goes through many adventures getting banned for casino’s and his face is known forever to the “eyes in the sky.”
    A major theme from this thrilling novel is Duty vs. Desire. Kevin wants to live up to his parent’s wants of him having a nice job and live a “real” life but also he wants to have the double life counting cards partying with celebrities and being rich. It is all up to Kevin. Another minor theme in this book is the idea of big brother. There is always someone watching you in those casinos and most defiantly someone is watching Kevin and knows his face. A minor theme also is quitting while ahead. The team always wants more which could lead you into trouble.
    One major like of this book is all of the action is has in store page to page. Every time I read it I always looking for more. I love how I feel like I am on the edge of my seat reading it. I also like how the author, Ben Mezrich, is very detailed with his writing. It makes me feel like I am sitting at the same blackjack table as Kevin and the rest of the MIT Blackjack team. One dislike I had of the book is that Mezrich uses very large words and those words are sometimes hard to comprehend with all of the action going on. I have to go back and use other words to figure what it means.
    Why I think someone should read this book is because it is action packed and will leave you wanting more and more. Also because it is very interesting how such a prestigious school like MIT would have a club that makes a huge profit and lives a double life. Also there is another book that is similar by Mezrich which is called “Busting Vegas” about another MIT student living a double life and living it up. Similar to this story just a different character. My overall rating of the book, “Bringing Down the House” has got to be 4½ stars out of 5 Stars. I give it that because it is so exciting and I could not put it down and even though Mezrich writes in a big vocabulary it does not slow down the reading one bit.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2012

    Good Story!!

    I could not put it down, I could not wait to see the movie!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2012

    The book "Bringing Down the House" is about the MIT bl

    The book "Bringing Down the House" is about the MIT blackjack team and their card counting adventure in Las Vegas. The book has a lot of drama and exciting moments, but some of them seem a little far fetched for non fiction. I enjoyed the book because it was honestly a page turner, the book was exciting and kept the reader interested through out the whole thing. This book would be a good read for someone who likes a fairly basic storyline with moderate character development. It was an easy read but don't read if you want a strictly non fiction book. A lot of the topics and dialogue is highly over emphasized and could be made up. A good motif I noticed was duty vs. desire, there is always the desire to make more money and enjoy life but the duty is to keep playing by the rules of the club to make money to help pay for college. This is a constant battle throughout the story. Hodges 6block

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2012

    !

    Good god

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 9, 2011

    Great book

    If you liked the movie you will really like the book.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2011

    LOVED IT

    If you loved the movie, you'll love the book. If you haven't seen the movie, read the book first. Thrilling, absorbing, exciting, and simply awesome. Recommended for all.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 2, 2011

    AWESOME BOOK

    Title says it all

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 7, 2011

    ...I may just have a horse to sell you!!!!

    First things first, this book is a slow read. Putting that aside, it does pick up steam, and become very interesting in terms of the turns that it takes for each of the characters. You will find yourself rooting for them toward the end and wishing that things turned out a differenct way for them. I will say that it was more interesting than the movie based on it, because the movie failed to really capture the essence of the time and place that the story takes place in. I still recommend this for anyone looking for a different kind of read, it will fit the bill.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2010

    Vegas! Vegas! Vegas! A true David vs. Goliath

    Bringing Down The House is a truly inspirational story of how six M.I.T students brought Vegas to its knees. The novel unfolds as the main character, Kevin Lewis, describes all the events leading up to, including, and after his four years of expert card counting. Recruited by two of his M.I.T college friends, and trained by a brilliant card counting college professor, Kevin made millions during his double life as whoever he wanted to be in Vegas. At first card counting seemed like an exciting and fun way to challenge his brain, though not necessarily gambling, the Vegas life consumed the blackjack team and almost cost them more than money at the casinos. The ultimate test changed from counting cards, into learning when to quit, as Vegas' abilities of tracking down the card counters and physically making them stop became a major issue. Mezrich's writing style seemed to capture all the glamour and excitement of Vegas into words. Every chapter kept me wanting to read on; and the easy writing style also made me feel as though I could participate with the very best and take down Vegas. I really enjoyed the way Mezrich was able to describe the greats of Vegas, and his ability to create wonder and hope in reader's minds of what is capable. There is no question that after reading this novel, I and readers alike will be trying to buy the next plane ticket to Vegas to give their own luck a chance. The only complaint about the novel that I have would be the open ended ending. I think though the ending leaves the reader with many questions, to Mezrich's credit; it also leaves possibilities open to the readers minds. I would most defiantly recommend this book to both intellectual thinkers who would enjoy the possibility of mathematical success, as well as those just looking to better understand the gambling world. If reading isn't the viewer's optimal choice, though lacking some glamour and understanding of the counting system, I would recommend watching the movie 21. It gets the books point across and basically takes the books main concepts and compresses them. If viewers would like the full card counting, glamour, and Vegas experience, the book is defiantly the recommended way to go.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 2, 2009

    M.I.T Students "Brought Down The House"

    Ben Mezrich's tale about six M.I.T students beating the system had me wanting for more! Bringing Down The House was definitely a face paced page turning adventure. You could definitely feel the rush and the tense action as you read the story. You could even feel your heart beating faster and faster as the characters live out their lives as extraordinary Vegas gamblers beating the system, winning high stakes, and switch to a normal M.I.T student back to the best gamblers Vegas has ever encountered. Ben Mezrich's story about the M.I.T students and their card counting shows that blackjack is a beatable game if they used their mathematics skills. It was absolutely the one thing that I liked about the book because it clearly showed that using what you've learned can be useful if you know how to apply it. Another thing I loved about this novel is how they put so much thought into their own system beating the system in Vegas. This itself made the story so interesting and so believable. With how the blackjack team ran their so called club, it was more of a business. During the novel, main character had visited the back room several times throughout the story which made me want to continue reading the book because of the suspense it brings as to what will happen. Ben Mezrich's inside story really is a great book to read.

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  • Posted August 31, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Different

    I wanted to read this book because a movie was made of it. I've not seen the movie, as usually the book is better than the movie version. In this instance; however, I think watching the movie would help in understanding what they are describing in the book, being that I am not a gambler of any sort.

    It was an interesting book all the same, and makes me realize how people can get addicted to gambling and that way of life.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 8, 2009

    Bringing down the House by Ben Mezrich

    Bringing down the House, by Ben Mezrich, was a great read! It was definitely a page turner. I could not put it down. The excitement of winning thousands of dollars, living out of enormous penthouse suites with complimentary champagne and tons of other gifts, as well as the adrenaline rush of Vegas was very intriguing. Something about reading events that do not happen to the normal everyday person just grabs your attention.

    Another thing i liked about this novel was that it made blackjack seem like it was more like an equation than just pure luck. These kids weren't your normal students. They were MIT students. They knew all about numbers and statistics. This fact almost made it ok for them to count cards, which isn't illegal per say, just frowned upon. But since they put so much intelligent thought and planning into it, it made me feel like the pit bosses and other casino managers should just back off. It wasn't gambling, it was business. And yes, they did clean out a few casinos and perform a few shady acts to do so, but hey, isn't the casino business a little shady itself? This fact was further proven by many events that took place along the way including a few "back room visits" where tough looking casino managers threatened the card counters.

    All in all, I thought that Bringing Down The House was a great read.

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  • Posted April 8, 2009

    Bringing down the House Review

    This book is an excellent book to read in shcool becuase it is very enjoyable and has a lot of things students are interested in. It gives you a break from the average books people are forced to read in school. I would recommend this book to students and adults that are interested in gambling, controversy, and getting away with things. I think that this is a well written book, and the coolest part is thta it is a true story. I think everyone should get a chance to read this book.

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  • Posted April 8, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Gripping Book

    The novel Bringing Down the House was a great story. The main character Kevin is described in a way that helps the reader feel like they are in his shoes. As Kevin progresses through the story, I felt as though I could understand his thought process and connect more easily. In the begining there are a lot of undiscovered secrets about the characters lives. Throughout the book the author, Ben Mezrich, tells the story in an enticing way that makes the reader just want more. The lives of the individuals in the MIT group come together and drift apart and come together and drift apart again as most groups do. Ben Mezrich helps tell the story through different eyes while focusing on Kevin's. It helps to make the book not seem as bias and makes for a great read. The students all have their own personalities but have the capabilities to transform into someone else entirely on the weekends. It is fun to just imagine what that must be like for them. It is hard to relate to the big picture of a double life and Vegas, however the individuals have real fealings and worries just like everyone else making it easy to relate. It is hard book to put down because it is such a gripping and exciting story to read. I highly reccomend this book to anyone interested in reading about the 'double life' these kids lead.

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  • Posted April 8, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Entertaining

    I found this book highly entertaining. It was fast paced and the author made it feel as if you were watching a movie. As a reader you really feel as if you know the main character, Kevin, and can relate to his problems even if yours are not as exciting as card counting. Kevin is a highly relatable character with real emotions and real excitement. I think the best part is that throughout the book you have to keep remembering that this was really happening to him. That it is a true story. Remembering this makes the book feel all that more exciting. Every time the team gets into a mess that seems to crazy to be true the author switches the next chapter to be a little about his journey's during his research. While this, again, reminds you that the story really happened it also takes you away from the excitement of the story and creates a bit of a lull in the story. Overall it was highly entertaining and a good book to read in your free time.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2009

    Great Book

    I feel like Bringing Down The House is one of the most interesting books I have ever read. It was very well written and pulls you in right from the begining. The author Ben Mezrich makes you feel like you are part of the action right from the begining. I really like how you can feel Kevin transform throughout the book. I also like the part when he cracks the million dollar mark. Over all it was a great book and I would recomend it to any reader.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 27, 2009

    A classic

    This is one of the greatest book i have ever read. In the first day since i had it i read the first 8 chapters in a day. within a week i finished it. you won't want to put it down if you can get past the first few pages. This book has a lot to offer not just in the sense that it's about BlackJack but in the sense that it's about what happens when you live double lives, as well as the issues that come with lies that you know you can't keep up. When i was reading it made me want to play BlackJack. Bringing Down The House has Everything a book needs and this book makes you feel a part of the action. This is going to be a classic for years to come.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 24, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Disguises,and allias every weekend, who knew? Partying with celebrities, going to all the hottest clubs, having pockets of cash to spend, sound like fun? It comes with a price.

    Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich is a true account of MIT students who formed their own small, and secret society of counting cards, and took their skills across the country to beat the major casinos. Backed by a mysterious leader and shady investors, the team became successful and infiltrated Vegas and made off with millions of dollars. But as time goes on, the ring of card counting savants, get greedy and take too many risks, but some learn to leave and some stay. In the end, those that called it quits learned to lead a normal life and those that stayed continued to live a double life. The major message of this book is to know when to call it quits and how to find a balance in one's life. A double life cannot fulfill a person's need and desires. It might sustain for a period of time, but in the long wrong, it will cause chaos and pain. I liked this book in the fact that it was kind of written in a fiction book type of way because unlike most non-fiction books, it wasn't written in first person. I also liked how it gave great description and it wasn't proper, there was some profanity which made it more real. I didn't like how it would go from the present day, to the actual story. It would tell like four chapters of the story and then skip ahead for a chapter to the present day. I would still be in the mind set of the story of the MIT students and then it would rapidly shift to the present day of Kevin, main character. If someone likes the casino scene and the heart beating action of almost getting caught over and over, then I would recommend this book. And for anyone who likes a little romance, and watching someone show how they can move past their mistakes and learn from them. Another book by Ben Mezrich is Rigged. This book is like Bringing Down the House because it tells of rags to riches story and how alumni from a prestigious school, such as Harvard, can beat the system and get ahead using his brains and skills. I would rate this book a four on a scale of one to five, five being the best. Because it was hard for me to put the book down, I wanted to know if they were going to get caught, but parts of it were a little dull, and confusing.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2008

    Mezrich¿s Novel Brings down the House

    By Kyle DeCruccio This gambling book would have had profound success as a fiction novel with its intense parts that really got my heart racing. The fact that it shows you a very different side of Sin City and all casinos in general makes it a great read. It illustrates the side of the high rollers getting all the great treatment playing in the high stakes gambling areas and partying with celebrities. Then the dangerous side the side of the cheaters and card counters where you¿re getting kicked out of casinos, and being asked to go to back rooms to ¿talk¿ with security, and being followed back to your hometown. The very best part about this book is that it is all true. During the book, they go to many places all over the US. The main places are Las Vegas and Boston, their hometown. In the middle of the book Kevin moves to Chicago to get a better job and ends up living there for a year. While he was there he discovered a great river boat casino called the Grand Victoria where the group goes to gamble frequently. They also go to another two floating casinos down South. Another place they go is two local casinos we probably all know Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun the largest casinos in the world. I wouldn¿t try going to Mohegan Sun to try out the MIT team play strategy because the team burned that place out taking 1 million dollars in one night. Mohegan sun then later changed their rules so team card counting was impossible. The star, Kevin, is one of the top student scientists at MIT and a member of the swim team. When he isn¿t at the lab he¿s at the pool doing laps. If he¿s not at the pool he¿s eating sushi with his fellow MIT friends Martinez and Fisher. Martinez is a genius and an MIT dropout. No one knows why he dropped out but you later find the reason was to make card counting his main priority and focus. Fisher is another MIT dropout for the same reason as Martinez. They bring Kevin to a meeting with the rest of the MIT blackjack team where he meets Micky. Micky is a retired teacher from MIT and had been counting cards for years before he got burned out at every hotel in Vegas and various others around the country. The MIT card counting team had come up with the perfect strategy to beat the house. They use team play that involves spotters, gorillas, and big players. The spotter stays at a certain table counting, betting the minimum, and waiting for a positive count. Once it is positive, or hot, the spotter calls over the big player or gorilla by folding their arms across their chest. Then they say a random sentence that contains a code word for the count. For example, ¿My room here is the size of a voting booth.¿ This sentence is saying start betting your savings because the count is + 18. They say 18 because you have to be 18 to vote, hence the words ¿voting booth¿. The count is a way to determine how many high cards are in a shoe. A card from 2-6 adds one to the count, a card from 7-9 does nothing, and a card 10-Ace subtracts one from the count. So + 18 means that there are 18 high cards '10+' in the shoe. The gorillas are usually the best actors of the group. They come down and sit at the table pretending to be drunk, throwing ¿random¿ high bets out there. But the truth is the gorillas are never truly drunk, they just pretend to be. While they¿re acting all loopy, they¿re actually getting the count from the spotter. The Big players do everything, keep count and bet probably more than your week¿s salary with each hand. They pose as offspring of big business owners who have nothing to do but waste their money gambling. They are the ones who bring in the most money out of the team. They party with celebrities and get front row seats during fight nights. One of those fight nights went wrong. It was the fight of the year, Tyson vs. Holyfield, the MGM grand was as crowded as possible. Then it all went down hill as Tyson bit off Holyfield¿s ear and then a gun was fired. They evacuated the whole casino. L

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2008

    What A Book!!!

    This book is complicated to the un-complicated. It's a non-stop thriller and page turner!

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