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21

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3.85  ·  Rating Details  ·  18,515 Ratings  ·  1,660 Reviews
It's Friday night and you're on a red-eye to the city of sin. Strapped to your chest is half a million dollars; in your overnight bag is another twenty-five thousand in blackjack chips; and your wallet holds ten fake IDs. As soon as you land in Las Vegas, you are positive you are being investigated and followed. To top it all off, the IRS is auditing you, someone has been ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published January 29th 2008 by Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group (first published 2002)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Petra X
May 05, 2015 Petra X rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Casinos deserve whatever anyone can get from them. Card-counting is using your noodle, it is by no means a criminal activity, yet the casinos which say that gambling is a good sport we should all enjoy, don't act like good sports when others are enjoying winning (regularly). Nope, they then act like very bad sports indeed by getting these winners banned from each and every casino in the world.

Gambling in general and casinos in particular were very much in the grip of the Mafia until times not so
...more
Jonathan Ashleigh
The pace of this book was off at certain times and the characters were not believable most of the time, even though it was supposedly a true story. If you delve past the surface, you will find out that it is not actually a true story all of the time. The story about testing students at a mob-style poker game is entirely made up and unfortunately this is the best part of the first section in the book, while also being unimaginable. The relationships seemed the same and I imagine that the main cha ...more
Greg
Apparently this book is bullshit. Oh well. I was the sucker who shut off my critical tools when reading it and swallowed this hook-line-and-sinker. I should have known something was wrong when the geography of the Strip was fucked up in his mini-history of the rise of the mega-casinos. He placed Excalibur halfway down the Strip from Luxor (or was it MGM Grand), which is all wrong, they are right across the street from one another (which works out for either Luxor or MGM in relation to Excalibur) ...more
Brian
Apr 11, 2008 Brian rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Toby
Jun 28, 2008 Toby rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
"Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions" by Ben Mezrich is a nonfiction work that takes a look at a group of MIT graduates and dropouts who develop and perfect a card counting system, which they use to great effect. Specifically, the book concerns Kevin Miller, who is apparently Asian despite the inventive pseudonym, and his involvement with the team of MIT card counters.

As I read this book, I kept flipping back to the frontispiece and wonder
...more
Brian Hodges
Let me say this first: read the book. SCREW THE MOVIE!

I picked up this book because the trailers for the movie "21" (based on the book) intrigued me. I'm no speed reader but i finished this thing in two reading sessions less than 24 hours after getting it from the library. It's the TRUE story (as the title indicates) of a bunch of MIT students, brilliant with numbers, who work out a sophisticated card-counting scheme that they use to win millions of dollars from various casinos over the course o
...more
Rachel
Aug 22, 2008 Rachel marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rachel by: 21 movie credits
When he saw that I'd earmarked this book as one I'd like to read, my friend John offered to lend me his copy. It turned out, however, that he only owns a different book by the same author. That book, Busting Vegas, is the inside story of five MIT students who took Vegas for millions (although the long-winded official subtitle for that one bills it as "A True Story of Monumental Excess, Sex, Love, Violence, and Beating the Odds.").

My interest in the subject (blackjack) and author was initially p
...more
Tracy
Jul 06, 2008 Tracy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, own-it
This bood reads like a suspense novel- an easy read, that I finished in one sitting. I have to admit, I was riveted, although the writing itself leaves something to be desired.
My husband's aunt used to be a dealer in Atlantic City so I've heard a lot of stories from her, but this book really opened my eyes to the gambling industry. The book made me NOT want to gamble and pretty much squelched what miniscule desire I had to visit Vegas anyway.
I could see how easily one could get caught up in th
...more
Jyothi Karthik
Dec 19, 2015 Jyothi Karthik rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes, the fact that a book is based on something that actually happened adds a bit more value to my read. May be because the twists and turns were not made up? This is a book that is based on the actual stories of the MIT blackjack team. The book moves back and forth between the events of the MIT team and the author's present day research. It deals you the behind the scenes reality of all the glitz and glamour of the Vegas nightlife. If you've seen the movie, the book is almost nothing like ...more
Ensiform
Feb 06, 2012 Ensiform rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, gaming
The story of Kevin Lewis and some other MIT kids of Asian descent, who were hand-picked by a former MIT prof to count cards in Vegas. Backed by “shady investors” that they supposedly never met, the team used a decades-old method of card counting (a modified version of “hi-lo,” based on the number of high cards left in the deck) and some interesting hand signals to collectively rake in the millions.

This is Mezrich’s first non-fiction book, and it shows; oh does it ever show. There is a small “det
...more
Madeline
Apr 28, 2008 Madeline rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: nobody
Recommended to Madeline by: nobody
i didn't hate it. but it was definitely nothing special.

here's some examples of the ridiculous writing:

"Vegas was a juicy oyster, and Kevin was going to suck the motherfucker dry"

"He leaned back, kicked his feet up onto the table -- right on the goddamn felt -- and waited for them to pay him off. He knew he looked like the most arrogant prick in the world, but he didn't care. Hubris had no place in a card counter's vocabulary. Barry Chow was king of the goddamn paddleboat."

"He closed his eyes,
...more
K.D. Absolutely
I like the fact that this is really happened. That the protagonist name is really Jeffrey Ma and he agreed to surface 7 years after the book was originally published. The story is astonishing: imagine an MIT grad raking millions of pesos by card counting in Las Vegas. Talking about using one's brain to circumvent the old, old game of blackjack!

I saw the movie in a cheap DVD copy from St. Francis and I liked it. The book version is tamed which is expected because it is based on actual events whil
...more
Michael
The book is well written, but what is irritating is that it holds itself out as a non-fiction, but after reading about the book online, it appears the book is far more fiction then non-fiction. The person that the book is centered around has apparently admitted several key scenes from the book didn't happen, and that many other scenes were similarly fabricated. Also, because many of the people in the book are composites of two or more people, it makes me wonder what, if anything, from the book i ...more
Paul Gaya Ochieng Simeon Juma
I am not a gambler. The gambling that I have done, involved a small amonut of money, ten shillings or 20 shollings, if it's too much.

I dont play cards. The little experience I have had with cards is not something to take back home. I have played the sipmlest version of poker and other childhood card games which is insignificant.

I have nevr taken time to learn the rules of even the little poker that I know. The rules, in my case depended on the oponent am facing, not to mention that I also have
...more
Phai___
Apr 28, 2016 Phai___ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I started this book not expecting anything at all since my mother recommended it to me and I don't trust her tastes. But fortunately I was wrong and I ended up being really surprised by this book. Just knowing that it is a real story makes you even more thrilled while reading about it and I was sad everytime I had to put this book down. Mostly because I really got attached to the characters (*SPOILERS* even if they don't stick together as a team till the end */SPOILERS*). The writing style was g ...more
Michael Burnam-fink
May 12, 2014 Michael Burnam-fink rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
Casinos have always fed on the greed of people who don't understand statistics, but black jack is the one game that can be beaten. Basic card counting a la Rain Man won't cut it. Most people lose money, and the distinctive changes in bets draws attention from the pit bosses. But a group of MIT students figured out how to combine statistical wizardry with team work, signalling a Big Player to sweep in on a hot table and bet the bank. Kevin Lewis and his friends had a good run, raking in close to ...more
Malin Friess
Feb 23, 2015 Malin Friess rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Blackjack is the only Casino game where the past can partially predict the future. Mathmaticians have realized that high cards (10-K, and Ace) are favorable to the player, and low cards (2-6) are favorable to the dealer while middle value cards are neutral. A typical Vegas BlackJack game used a 6 deck shoe. As the game progresses if a higher majority of lower cards have been played--the deck becomes hot..and a good player now has around a 2% odds of winning over the house.

In Bringing Down the HO
...more
Klare
Oct 22, 2015 Klare rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Excellent book, read whilst chilling by the pool on holiday and was a really enjoyable read.
Bob
Sep 14, 2015 Bob rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Now, this was fun. From reading about it, it's not non-fiction: it's a fictional story based on a true story: would've been better if he'd sold it that way. It was okay: the (possibly entirely fictional?) interludes where the author was interviewing some of the main characters was amusing and gave a different feel to the book.

And the story was terrific: fast-paced, explained well and you never knew where things were going to go next. I've played blackjack a couple times, but needed a refresher
...more
Mbarca
Jan 02, 2016 Mbarca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is about an MIT student who learns to count cards. In this book a young man named Kevin is taught that gambling is not always a gamble, but if you know how to play games like black jack they are very easy to win. Kevin meets someone named fisher who teaches him about card counting and how casinos work. Kevin joins forces with fisher and his team and together they go to casinos and play black jack. In the beginning of the book it starts with gambling in Atlantic City, New Jersey then la ...more
Katie Paulson
Bringing Down The House was an exciting, suspenseful read, but it was hampered by the knowledge (I had) that it wasn't completely accurate. I've always been interested in blackjack and card counting - my father's a gaming statistics professor and I've been to Vegas more times than someone who's not 21 should - so I thought I'd give it a try. Even without the stain of the movie, it's a bit unbelievable, enough to where you might go look it up on your own without anyone telling you parts of the st ...more
Abigail
This is actually 3 1/2 star rating. I deal Blackjack for a party casino company and I chose to read this at a busy time when I was working on a lot of events, to relate with the real life theme going on in my own life. The beginning of the book was great, explaining card counting in detail and describing how the team operated, though I already got that from watching the film. I am very familiar with the film "21" that was based on this story, having seen it many times before I read this book. I ...more
Scott Hoverman
Mar 08, 2008 Scott Hoverman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ah, Blackjack and the flashy, magnetic draw of America's Playground. Why do we foolishly appease Vegas, allowing it to offer it's tantalizing promises like a carrot dangling in front of a rabbit? A part of us likes to think we can GET the carrot; And it's that part of us that keeps us coming back like lemmings. Well in this story, the rabbit got the carrot. And then some.

An extremely fast & entertaining read, this book sweeps you through the highs and lows of what it feels like to temporaril
...more
Ed Smiley
Strange but true, apparently.

For those who are unfamiliar with this story:
Teams of MIT students with mathematical aptitude were recruited by a professor to play blackjack at casinos. Now blackjack is the only casino game that has a memory of previous play, because it uses a number of decks shuffled together straight through. Therefore, the percentage of cards favorable to the player can be estimated based on tracking the type of cards that have been in play since the last shuffle. A simple form
...more
Suzanne
Jan 13, 2009 Suzanne rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I really resent it when an author states that their work is one of nonfiction, when it isn't. Apparently Mezrich wrote this story based on his meetings with some members of the MIT Blackjack teams. "Bringing Down the House" is a fictional work inspired by real life events. The character's names have been changed and many of the individual characters Medrich writes about, are actually composites of several people. There are places described that don't exist (underground casino in Chinatown) and ...more
Jsavett1
I read this in the hospital while recovering from surgery, so I must say from the start that my concentration wasn't at at its height.

This book was totally FINE. If someone approached me urging me to read the story of how a bunch of socially awkward M.I.T. students outsmarted casinos for years, and in the process, earned millions of dollars and experiences with women they would have never met, this book would be EXACTLY what I'd expect.

It's funny in parts, a little nerve wracking as you feel the
...more
Donna Davis
Oct 02, 2012 Donna Davis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, blogged
Suspenseful and great fun. My son has a good friend who has been a professional gambler for years. He doesn't do this, though, because it's true, you do become unwelcome once you have won too many times, or if you come in as a team.(It seems credible, too, that it might be illegal to signal someone to come join a card game at the very moment you know the shoe is loaded with face cards and aces).

It's an exciting book to read--and I've read it twice--simply because it is so daring, and Vegas seems
...more
Matt Brockway
Dec 20, 2012 Matt Brockway rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
1. Plot Overview (Don’t give the ending away!) What did you like about the plot? Did it move quickly or slowly? What didn’t you like? Was it interesting or not? Why? Give details!

The plot was pretty good. The story was about students at MIT college who count cards in blackjack and convince an extremely smart student to join their group. They go to Las Vegas every weekend to count cards and come back to attend school durring the week days.




2. Character Overview: Who were you favorite characters? D
...more
Brianna Sanchez
During the late years of the 80's and early 90's a group of overachieving students from MIT discovered an almost flawless plan to beat the casinos in Las Vegas. A double life doesn't seem so bad when you're making 50,000 in one weekend in Las Vegas and attending one of the most prestigious schools in the country during the week but for Kevin Lewis he quickly learns that everyone's luck runs out sooner or later.

Ben Mezrich illustrates how Kevin and his group of genius classmates perfected a stra
...more
internat librarian
There’s lots of fast-paced excitement and fear in this marginally real-life thriller. It reads like a crime novel, with brilliant gambling schemes to keep just seconds ahead of the take-no-prisoner casino thugs. The main players are a great mix: there’s a healthy dose of lies and back-stabbing to keep the plot moving. And plenty of seedy Vegas backstory – the waves of alcohol and profanity and topless women left me feeling swamped.

Too much to be true, in fact. It took me until the final chapter
...more
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Ben Mezrich has created his own highly addictive genre of nonfiction, chronicling the amazing stories of young geniuses making tons of money on the edge of impossibility, ethics, and morality.

With his newest non-fiction book, Once Upon a Time in Russia, Mezrich tells his most incredible story yet: A true drama of obscene wealth, crime, rivalry, and betrayal from deep inside the world of billionair
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“Everyone had a story he believed was worthy of a best-seller; for me, reality was rarely interesting enough to take the place of fiction.” 6 likes
“in other words, his story was part boast, part confession.” 3 likes
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