Busting Vegas: The MIT Whiz Kid Who Brought the Casinos to Their Knees

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He played in casinos around the world with a plan to make himself richer than anyone could possibly imagine -- but it would nearly cost him his life.

Semyon Dukach was known as the Darling of Las Vegas. A legend at age twenty-one, this cocky hotshot was the biggest high roller to appear in Sin City in decades, a mathematical genius with a system the casinos had never seen before and couldn't stop -- a system that has never been revealed until now; that has nothing to do with ...

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Busting Vegas: The MIT Whiz Kid Who Brought the Casinos to Their Knees

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Overview

He played in casinos around the world with a plan to make himself richer than anyone could possibly imagine -- but it would nearly cost him his life.

Semyon Dukach was known as the Darling of Las Vegas. A legend at age twenty-one, this cocky hotshot was the biggest high roller to appear in Sin City in decades, a mathematical genius with a system the casinos had never seen before and couldn't stop -- a system that has never been revealed until now; that has nothing to do with card counting, wasn't illegal, and was more powerful than anything that had been tried before.

Las Vegas. Atlantic City. Aruba. Barcelona. London. And the jewel of the gambling crown -- Monte Carlo.

Dukach and his fellow MIT students hit them all and made millions. They came in hard, with stacks of cash; big, seemingly insane bets; women hanging on their arms; and fake identities. Although they were taking classes and studying for exams during the week, over the weekends they stormed the blackjack tables only to be harassed, banned from casinos, threatened at gunpoint, and beaten in Vegas's notorious back rooms.

The stakes were high, the dangers very real, but the players were up to the challenges, consequences be damned. There was Semyon Dukach himself, bored with school and broke; Victor Cassius, the slick, brilliant MIT grad student who galvanized the team; Owen Keller, with stunning ability but a dark past that would catch up to him; and Allie Simpson, bright, clever, and a feast for the eyes.

In the classroom, they were geeks. On the casino floor, they were unstoppable.

Busting Vega$ is Dukach's unbelievably true story; a riveting account of monumental greed, excess, hubris, sex, love,violence, fear, and statistics that is high-stakes entertainment at its best.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Semyon Dukach was Las Vegas's worst nightmare. For nearly five years, this MIT prodigy and his buddies laid siege to Vegas blackjack tables, raking in tens of thousands of dollars at a single sitting. The breathtaking success of the youthful gamblers mystified casino owners ever watchful for conventional card counters. But Dukach's team of mathematicians and computer experts had devised a system far more sophisticated than mere counting. In Busting Vegas, Ben Mezrich describes how Dukach's plan made him almost unbelievably rich -- and nearly cost him his life.
Library Journal
Ugly Americans author Mezrich profiles a 21-year-old computer/mathematics genius who figured out a way to win a lot of money in Vegas. Look for Mezrich's Playboy feature on this topic in the fall. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786283798
  • Publisher: Gale Group
  • Publication date: 5/28/2006
  • Series: Thorndike Nonfiction Series
  • Edition description: Large Print Edition
  • Pages: 463
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.99 (d)

Meet the Author

Ben Mezrich

Ben Mezrich graduated magna cum laude from Harvard in 1991. 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. Mezrich has also published the national bestsellers Sex on the Moon, Ugly Americans, Rigged, and Busting Vegas. He lives in Boston.

Ben Mezrich graduated magna cum laude from Harvard in 1991. 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. Mezrich has also published the national bestsellers Sex on the Moon, Ugly Americans, Rigged, and Busting Vegas. He lives in Boston.

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Read an Excerpt

Busting Vegas
A True Story of Monumental Excess, Sex, Love, Violence, and Beating the Odds

Chapter One

The Ranch
Carson City, Nevada

Present Day

Way too much velvet for three in the afternoon. Even for an oasis in the middle of the desert, a place that reeked of perfume and cigar smoke and Jack Daniel's, a place that I had been directed to by a cocktail napkin scarred by bright red lipstick. The velvet seemed to flow from everywhere at once; snaking down the wood-paneled walls, erupting from the low, tiled ceiling in voluptuous, pulsating waves, bursting from the shadowy corners, undulating beneath the plush daybeds and aging sofas that lined both sides of the ornate parlor. The stiff, blustery air-conditioning wasn't helping matters; the blasts of frigid air made the velvet dance and shimmer like living tissue. As a visual, it was more nauseating than enticing.

It had been a long taxi ride from the Strip, and I was dead tired from the heat outside. Arid, desert heat, not the kind that makes you sweat. Rather, the kind that cooks your brain. It was early September, and in this part of Nevada, that still counted as summer. You had to be crazy to come this far out into the desert in summer. Crazier still, to come to a place like this in the middle of a Friday afternoon.

I stepped deeper into the parlor, calming my nerves with deep breaths of frigid perfume, smoke, and whiskey. I wondered if the taxi was still waiting outside, as I had asked, or if the driver had simply pulled away as soon as I'd passed through the metal gate and made my way to the wire-screened front door. I certainlywouldn't have blamed him. Anyone deviant enough to pay three hundred bucks for the ride out to this ranch in the middle of nowhere deserved what was coming to him. I was no exception.

The truth was, this wasn't my first time in a place like this. For the past ten years, I'd traveled the world in search of stories, and sometimes those stories took me to places you really couldn't talk about at cocktail parties. Places like this ranch of paneled wood and velvet; a low, squat building that from the outside seemed to blend into the horizon -- except for the neon sign on the roof and the decorative hitching posts in the driveway.

I took another step into the parlor, a circular space cluttered with anachronistic furniture, braced on one side by a long, mahogany bar. The bar stools were the same color as the velvet, a dusty crimson, and the sofas and daybeds had been upholstered to match. There were paintings on the walls, most of them of horses, a few of women and men in Wild West getups: hoop skirts, cowboy hats, boots with spurs. Kitschy, except I was pretty sure some of the paintings were authentic, since I knew that this place had existed, in some form or another, since the days of boots with spurs. An institution, of sorts, certainly more permanent than the neon behemoths of the Vegas Strip, built on something more primitive, seductive, and, indeed, human than the vice that had founded Sin City itself.

I'd almost made it to the middle of the room when I saw the woman sitting at the stool at the far end of the bar.Midfifties, short, squat, wearing a pink summer dress and white, high-heeled shoes. Her hair was a mop of curls, and her lipstick was an unnerving shade of orange. There was a glass of brown liquid on the bar in front of her. It could have been Coke, but just as easily whiskey. She heard my progress through the parlor and turned, but there wasn't any surprise in her gaze. I guessed that despite the heat and the time of day, this place still had its fair share of visitors.

She slid off her stool and turned toward me, smiling an orange smile.

"Welcome, stranger." She didn't seem to really look at me, instead focusing on a point just left of my ear. Seemed like force of habit; maybe she didn't want to remember my face. "Have a seat on any of the couches, and I'll show you what we've got."

I lowered myself onto one of the daybeds, tucking my legs under the plush material. I was trembling beneath my white cotton buttondown shirt, but the truth was, it was more anticipation than fear. Even though I was there for different reasons than the average client, the thrill was impossible to ignore.

The woman leaned back against the bar and clapped her hands. Then she cleared her throat.

"Ladies from the right!"

There was a shuffling sound, then a door opened along the right wall of the parlor. The first woman who came through the open doorway was ridiculously tall, maybe six feet, and her eight-inch stiletto heels made her seem almost gargantuan. She had flowing blond hair, glowing strands twisting down over her bare shoulders, gold rivulets dancing down the cavern of her surgically enhanced chest. Her bright red lingerie left little to the imagination. She was pretty, certainly, but more than a little terrifying as well. And she wasn't alone.

She was followed across the parlor by three more women, all in brightly colored lingerie and stripper heels. Two of them blond, one African-American. One of the blondes was short, a little more rounded, with a circular face and ovoid eyes. She could have been nineteen, if not for the spiderweb of lines at the edges of her overly pursed lips. The other blonde was much older, though she carried herself well. Surgery, again, and a lot of makeup, expertly applied in thick swatches across her cheeks, under her eyes, across her lips. The black girl was the only one of the four who was smiling, and it helped her stand out even more; she was by far the most beautiful of the girls, and she wouldn't have looked out of place on the pages of a magazine. Five nine, thin, smooth, brown legs, and a rounded, natural chest. Her outfit was lacy and white and fit perfectly over her curves.

Busting Vegas
A True Story of Monumental Excess, Sex, Love, Violence, and Beating the Odds
. Copyright © by Ben Mezrich. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 15 of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 23, 2014

    I'm glad to see some smart, young mathematician outwit the unscr

    I'm glad to see some smart, young mathematician outwit the unscrupulous casino owners that pay uneven odds to the gamblers, take people's paychecks, and eat up social security from senior citizens. Of course, the truth may have been a little  or a lot to make it more interesting, but the book was a great read. It was fast-paced, even featuring the red-haired billionaire Trump, and he walked out of nearly every high stakes casino in the world with tens of thousands.

    But never forget the old lesson "play with fire and you're going to get burned."

    He even talks about the system he used to recognize the high cards being shuffled throughout the decks and on the sleeve you can purchase his instruction set.

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  • Posted October 3, 2010

    Highly Recommended

    Busting Vegas written by Ben Mezrich, is an incredible story about the game of blackjack. It seems almost impossible that the famous Las Vegas game of Blackjack can actually be beat. Semyon Duckach also known as the Darling of Las Vegas, and his geeky team of MIT students figured out systems casinos had never seen before, and couldn't stop. They did this without cheating, without card counting, but by using math. Making over 2 million dollars within the six months of playing, they brought the most famous casinos to their knees. Being a high roller like this not only comes with perks, but also danger. They dealt with drugs, criminals, and the famous back rooms of casinos. Busting Vegas is book all about seven MIT students, and there dangerous adventures of playing blackjack in casinos all over the world. This book is filled with suspense, and mind blowing experiences that these young kids experience. The major themes in this book were money, love, lust, and trust. Their interest in money was what brought all these kids together in the first place, and you can't be doing such a dangerous task with people who you don't completely trust watching your back. I really enjoyed this book, and once I got started reading it, I had a hard time putting it down. I recommend this book to people who like suspenseful, intriguing books. I don't know anything about gambling, or the game of blackjack, but to read and enjoy this book that knowledge is not important. This book is a quick read, but a great book if you enjoy suspenseful novels. This is not Ben Mezrich's only great book, the book he wrote before this was Bringing Down the House. I have not read this book but it gets great reviews and if you like how Busting Vegas was written, I recommend looking into that book as well. I would rate Busting Vegas five stars because I really enjoyed it, not only the story line but how it was written. Mezrich puts in interviews of people who either know Semyon, or a lot about the game of blackjack in the book as well. It puts into perspective of how others viewed him, and even how the casinos felt about everything he and his team did. Overall, I recommend this book to others and give it a high rating.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2006

    Great book

    This book is great. It is actually the first book I've read by Ben Mezrich but it certainly will not be my last. I did not think I would like a book about blackjack, not being a gambler and hardly knowing the game, but it was interesting and suspenseful. Mezrich tells the story of Semyon Dukach and puts in recent interviews of different people who know about Semyon or just Las Vegas and gambling in general. This is great and has gotten me interested in blackjack and Mezrich.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2005

    this book is different from Bringing Down the House, but even more enjoyable to read

    Busting Vegas was truly an entertaining read. When i first picked up the book, i thought perhaps it would be a rehashing of the other story. However, upon reading BV, i learned that it is a totally different story. it takes place all across the globe detailing the story of Semyon Dukach, the Darling of Vegas. His methods for beating the house were entirely different from the original MIT BJ team, and Mezrich clearly explains his three techniques. If you want to learn about these explosive three methods and also how to make your own team, you MUST READ this book! and do it quickly, since casinos are sure to be in hot pursuit of ways to combat them!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2005

    Disappointed

    After truly enjoying Bringing Down the House, I was excited about Busting Vegas. It was an awefully quick read, and other than the different ways of winning in blackjack, the story seemed too similiar to the first. It was very predictable. I was dissapointed in this one.

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    Posted April 28, 2010

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