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

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

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by Ben Mezrich
     
 

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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

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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

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061739804
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
03/17/2009
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
193,640
File size:
1 MB

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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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