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Bringing Down the House
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Product Description

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 going through your mail -- and you have a multivariable calculus exam on Monday morning. Welcome to the world of an exclusive group of audacious MIT math geniuses who legally took the casinos for over three million dollars -- while still finding time for college keg parties, football games, and final exams. In the midst of the go-go eighties and nineties, a group of overachieving, anarchistic MIT students joined a decades-old underground blackjack club dedicated to counting cards and beating the system at major casinos around the world. While their classmates were working long hours in labs and libraries, the blackjack team traveled weekly to Las Vegas and other glamorous gambling locales, with hundreds of thousands of dollars duct-taped to their bodies. Underwritten by shady investors they would never meet, these kids bet fifty thousand dollars a hand, enjoyed VIP suites and other upscale treats, and partied with showgirls and celebrities. Handpicked by an eccentric mastermind -- a former MIT professor and an obsessive player who had developed a unique system of verbal cues, body signals, and role-playing -- this one ring of card savants earned more than three million dollars from corporate Vegas, making them the object of the casinos' wrath and eventually targets of revenge. Here is their inside story, revealing their secrets for the first time. Master storyteller Ben Mezrich takes you from the ivory towers of academia to the Technicolor world of Las Vegas, where anything can happen -- and often does. Bringing Down the House launches you into the seedy underworld of corporate Vegas -- deep into the realm of back rooms, ever-present video cameras, private investigators, and the threats and tactics of pit bosses and violent heavies. Equipped with twenty different aliases and disguises, the group of young card counters struggles around these roadblocks to live the high life -- until one fateful day when Vegas violently follows them home to Boston. Suddenly, there can be no more hiding behind false identities; the high life folds like a bad hand of cards. Filled with tense action and incredibly close calls, Bringing Down the House is a real-life mix of Liar's Poker and Ocean's Eleven -- and it's a story Vegas doesn't want you to read.

Customer Reviews:

  • great book
    Seeing the previews of the movie made me remember how great of a book this was. It's a great story with a surprising amount of suspense and action, that will have you reading nonstop. It also shows just how difficult it was to do what they did, which makes it even more impressive...more info
  • 21
    This was an Easter basket hit! The book was well received, on time and in great condtion....more info
  • Great book
    Pros: Great book about MIT students who use their brains for more than science, but to take advantage of inefficient markets. Well written, fast paced and exciting.

    Cons: None

    Summary: Fast read about a real story that's exciting and fun.

    Overall: 9/10...more info
  • "House" brings it home a review by Riley Simpson
    Based on a true story, "Bringing Down the House" offers comedy, suspense, drama, and the feeling that you too have won millions and that you're ready to take on the house, just by reading it. Kevin Lee, an MIT student with amazing skills in math, was recruited by two friends to join them in a Blackjack club at school in the mid 90's. From here, the book takes us on a neon-filled and highflying spree as Kevin and his team travel to and from Las Vegas, winning millions by taking advantage of the house rules. The book slows down when the action suddenly stops as the author, Ben Mezrich, takes us from the 90's to present time (2002, when the book was published) where the he tracks down main players to interview them. These parts lack the spark the other scenes offer. When Kevin is on his first gambling escapade, he learns all new casino terminology. These jargon has actually helped me understand a lot more of the dialogue from the Ocean's Eleven movies. All in all, "Bringing Down the House" is a fun and fresh experience that lets you walk away with more than a read and hopefully a stack of chips. I'll bet you'll like this book!This MIT student should get a Ph.D. in 21....more info
  • Bringing Down the House

    Bringing Down the House is Ben Mezrich's non-fiction story about how college students took Las Vegas for millions of dollars. If you didn't know this story was non-fiction before you started reading, you probably would have never guessed it. The book has almost all the aspects of a good novel, in which there are characters who some could identify with, as well as a unique personality, and a good plot. The only quality the book lacks is a great ending, which the author has no say in because of how the true-life story played out. This is one of the few weaknesses of the book. The book includes some great characters like Kevin Lewis, Fischer and Martinez. All of them have very unique personalities. Kevin Lewis is a whiz kid from MIT who just wanted to have some fun. Fischer was a big, burly guy on a mission to break Vegas and make a living off of it. Martinez is a free spirited, fun-loving guy who also wants to make some money and have fun. Ben Mezrich does a great job expressing the emotions and the personalities of the book, making this one of the major strengths of the book. A final strength of the book is the ability of the author to show life in Vegas.
    This is Ben Mezrich's first non-fiction book, and it is impressive. Ben has written seven other books throughout his career as a writer. These include, Reaper, which was turned into a TBS movie. His books have sold over one million copies in nine different languages. He is also a 1991 graduate of Harvard.
    The movie, based on the book, 21 has probably helped make more people aware of Mezrich's story. This book does not disappoint!

    ...more info
  • Interesting and Amazing
    In Bringing Down The House, Ben Mezrich tells the true story of a group of MIT students who count cards in blackjack. The story focuses on Kevin Lewis, and how he came to be an expert card counter. At no time is this story dull or boring. It will keep you into it until the very end. The story itself is unbelievable, which makes the book even more amazing. Mezrich does a great job of describing the thoughts and actions that each student took during the book. He also does a good job on showing each character's growth and development during the book. Kevin starts off the story as a shy Asian kid who is not happy with his job at the lab. Once his friends Martinez and Fisher show him the amazing world of counting cards, Kevins life turns completely different. The Las Vegas highlife and huge amounts of money turn Kevin into a completely different person. His change during the book is smooth and very believable. This is the kind of book that you will pick up and wont be able to put down. It's an easy and a very fun read. It will show you a different side of Vegas and a different side of Blackjack. Mezrich shows how difficult card counting really is and how much hard work it is to master it. Kevin and his team went out nearly every weekend to Vegas to count cards. Their lives in Las Vegas completely overshadowed their lives at home. Not only did the team spend almost every weekend in Las Vegas, but they had to keep their double lives secret from all their family and close friends. The team counted for over a year. Spending that much time together, there must be some problems they encounter. If you read this book I can guarantee you that you will not be disappointed....more info
  • Interesting story, decent writing...I just wish it was true.
    I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which I actually read after seeing the movie. I was not surprised that they made some changes and added and subtracted some things for the movie, but I have to admit that I was surprised at how much they went out of their way to make the movie bankable. It was a bit frustrating to discover that they literally made up huge chunks of the movie because they obviously didn't think the whole "overprivileged Asian kids beating Vegas" was dramatic enough.

    As for the book itself, I was surprised to find, after a bit of research, that there was hardly any truth to it whatsoever. I reference a Boston Globe article that so many others have in their reviews:
    [...]
    Although I understand the changes that were made the lies that were perpetuated in the movie for drama's sake, it frustrates me that Mr. Mezrich essentially fabricated so much of this book simply to make it more "interesting". I would have read it had it not ever mentioned these MIT kids being chased out of Vegas casinos or suffering beat-downs at a casino in the Bahamas.

    That said...it is still an interesting story and at least Mr. Mezrich did a decent job of telling it. It's a good read but anyone who picks it up needs to know that it is really more a work of fiction than of non-fiction....more info
  • Bringing down the House (High-School Review)
    "Bringing Down The House", was a great book and I honestly enjoyed reading it. I would have to give it a stable 4/5. There were many great elements to the book and Ben Mezrich did a great job at getting his point through.

    I believe that Mezrich was trying to portray the idea of knowing the right time to stop and walk away from a shifty environment. In this certain book this idea relates to the idea of playing Blackjack and its drawbacks.

    Kevin is a MIT student and wants nothing more to do than just finish college and get a successful job. Then, that faithful day comes when he learns about his two friends and how they have been supporting each other. At first, when he learns about the idea of Blackjack and making millions, he quickly swipes it away. But, as time goes on he sees there is more to the game than just luck and that is counting cards. In a matter of weeks Kevin is hooked on the idea of making "free money" by using his school skills. In a matter of months Kevin becomes a pro and is considered an elite player. The question is when will his streak end?

    When I got to the part of the serious gambling, that is when the real action in the book picks up for me. The idea of gambling and being able to sink a casino in a matter of weeks, gives you a thrill. There is also the part which everyone fears and that is getting barred from the casino or sometimes even worst. For me it can't get any more intense than that. This adrenaline flows into you while reading and the suspense builds up. You can not wait to flip the page and see what follows because you are so wrapped up in the story. I was on the edge of my seat throughout the book trying to anticipate the characters next move, which was very intriguing. The book is also very thorough at explanations. At times it is as if you can see the surroundings near you because of the vivid details.

    Mezrich does a great job to make the story flow smoothly and yet include those great moments. His writing style is unmistakable and very unique itself.

    The reason I gave it a 4/5 though was because after a few Las Vegas chapters the writer would switch back to what the narrator is experiencing. To me this is when the story got dull and took more time to read. It was informational and all, but it just took away from the action of Vegas. To me without that second secret life Kevin was just ordinary and that was not too interesting to read about. Anyway that was the only real part I was really bugged by, otherwise it was a great book.

    Overall, this book was great. It had all the right elements for a nice read. Definitely one of the best non-fiction books I have read in a long time and it was written in a way that was not too hard to understand, but yet contained some difficulty too. In my opinions this is the type of book other kids my age would greatly enjoy since it could be easily connected to events in real life.
    ...more info
  • This isn't non-fiction.
    According to a Boston Globe article here ():

    ""Bringing Down the House" is not a work of "nonfiction" in any meaningful sense of the word. Instead of describing events as they happened, Mezrich appears to have worked more as a collage artist, drawing some facts from interviews, inventing certain others, and then recombining these into novel scenes that didn't happen and characters who never lived. The result is a crowd-pleasing story, eagerly marketed by his publishers as true - but which several of the students who participated say is embellished beyond recognition."

    Moreover, the Globe continues, "Both Mezrich and the book's publisher, Simon and Schuster's Free Press, see nothing to apologize for. The book, they point out, was published with a disclaimer (in fine print, on the copyright page) warning that the names, locations, and other details had been changed, and that some events and individuals are composites, created from other events and individuals. Nearly all the details and facts in the book were culled from his research, Mezrich says, and where they were compressed or creatively rearranged, the fundamental truth of the story he tells is undiminished."

    ***

    So--like the fake Holocaust memoir and the false story of the white girl who grew up black L.A. street gangs--we have here a fictional book which is purporting to be pure non-fiction. It's being marketed as non-fiction. And it isn't. It is, at best, a broadly fictionalized account rather than a recounting of the actual occurrence.

    I would not object to paying for an entertaining piece of fiction on the subject. I would not even mind if the book were being marketed as a fictionalized account.

    It's the "well, we know it isn't what actually happened, but so what?" attitude that I find reprehensible....more info
  • A Thrilling Page Turner!
    I loved this book! It's a real page turner and I could not put it down! I felt like I was right in the middle of the action as things got bigger and bigger for the characters in the book! This book is non-stop action and you can't stop reading because you know something is about to happen, but you don't know what! Also, I liked the main character, Kevin Lewis, and how he began to question that person he was turning into and the lifestyle that he had chosen. I love Las Vegas, but I'll never look at it the same way after reading this book. I haven't seen the movie yet, but I don't know how it could be as good as this book. This book was really fun to read!...more info
  • More stars if he had correctly identified it as highly fictionalized.
    This is a somewhat entertaining book that might have rated four stars if it were true. Under no circumstances would this book be rated five stars--it is just not that well written. Now that the movie is out, which itself plays fast and loose with the contents of the book in order to entertain us (since the goal in the movies is rarely truth), the book's veracity is getting more attention. Read the other negative reviews here as a starting point. Then read the article in the Ideas section of today's Boston Globe Ideas section. A synoposis--the author plays fast and loose with reality, and many of the people involved with the team don't recall many of the 'facts' the author claims they were involved with. One glaring example is a team member being beaten up by casino goons. It apparently never happened, but certainly makes for exciting narrative, doesn't it? If you want an engaging story, it might be worth reading. If you want non-fiction, look elsewhere....more info
  • Great book
    This is the first book that interested me enough to actually finish at the age of 24. The story is excellent and told very well. You won't be bored or disappointed if you get it. ...more info