“Depend on the rabbit’s foot if you will, but remember it didn’t work for the rabbit.” – R. E. Shay
Once upon a time I made a little stop on a business trip and found myself sitting at a green baize-covered table flipping the pasteboards in a blaringly loud casino. The game was blackjack and, quite astonishingly, I found myself up $300 by the end of the evening. I was always quite pleased with myself for winning…and more importantly for walking away with my winnings in my pocket instead of fruitlessly pursuing more.
I was never foolish enough to attribute it to anything but dumb luck.
Bringing Down the House is the highly readable, if not mesmerizing, tale of MIT’s underground blackjack club. The book tells the story of Kevin Lewis, a math-science “whiz kid” from Exeter, MIT student and card-counter extraordinaire, outlining his recruitment into the world of professional card-counting. Lewis joined a small, secretive, MIT-based card-counting team that would, eventually, take the major casinos of Las Vegas for more than $3-million, before fate and the casino security operatives eventually caught up with them.
Ben Mezrich brings a vivid cast of characters and settings to life, outstripping what you find in most fictional thrillers, opening up the hidden world of blackjack, professional gamblers, card counters, and casino backrooms to scrutiny. Interestingly enough, the card-counters of MIT weren’t breaking the law (card-counting is perfectly legal as long as no artificial means are being used to count and the integrity of the game is not being violated)…just emptying the casino’s pockets by cutting out their statistical edge.
Blackjack, more than any other casino game is predictable at a mathmatical level. It has a history – you know what cards have been played and can therefore guess what cards remain in the dealers’ hand. You can’t know the exact outcome, but you can know the statistical probability of the remaining unplayed cards. With a team tracking the cards, you can bet accordingly and … bring down the house.
Mezrich’s book is rich with compulsion, greed and adreneline, and filled with…well everything you need to know to count cards at blackjack, including Spotters, Gorillas, Big Players, the Eye-in-the-Sky, code signals, “back-rooming” and shuffle-tracking. Highly entertaining, tense and difficult to put down, Bringing Down the House is no gamble, it is a terrific read.
Try out this magic virtual card trick. Did you figure out how he did it?
Want to find out what’s happening right now in Vegas? Check out Las Vegas LiveCams for a look at where the gamblers like to roam.
Think you have a system that can beat the casinos? Have I got a card game for you!
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