BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions

Ben Mezrich, Author . Free Press $24 (272p) ISBN 978-0-7432-2570-0

"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.(Oct. 8)

Forecast:A Today show appearance, a three-city author tour (Boston, N.Y., Vegas), a 20-city radio satellite tour and an article in the October issue of Wired should inform cardsharps and casino hoppers about this.

Reviewed on: 07/29/2002
Release date: 09/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
Prebound-Other - 257 pages - 978-1-4176-6563-1
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-4498-9067-4
Paperback - 306 pages - 978-0-09-946823-3
Hardcover - 423 pages - 978-0-7862-5257-2
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