'Bringing Down The House'
By: Ben Mezrich
(Hardcover / 257 Pages / Free Press / ISBN: 0743225708 / $24.00)
Description: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. The rest, as they say, is history !
Verdict:'Bringing Down The House' - as you would expect - tells this monetary tale primarily from Kevin's point of view, managing to somehow substain a certain degree of suspense throughout this 'known' and by now, well-documented escapade. But the tension is undercut by the first-draft feel of his pedestrian prose, alternating between irrelevant details and heightened melodrama. Basically, for the most part though, the book stays on a roll as it describes how the young gambler and his card-counting cohorts employ simple math and complex disguises to win nearly $4 million at the blackjack tables. Bouncing from huge scores to frightening banishments, the M.I.T. team fights a winning battle against the law of averages - until they're forced to flee south like Butch and Sundance from the gaming industry's Joe LeFors ! Man, would this be a story to tell the grandkids ?!
Reviewed by Marty Wilson