Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Review of Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich; reviewed by Siddhi Patel

Siddhi Patel

Book Review: Bringing Down The House (by Ben Mezrich)

The book Bringing Down The House by: Ben Mezrich appears to be a novel at first
glance, but is actually a true story all the way through. This nonfiction New York Times
Bestseller is truly one of a kind, and I have never read a book that even compares to the action
filled “plot” of this one. Bringing Down The House is the story of how six M.I.T. students made
millions of dollars off Las Vegas. These students, originally part of a local blackjack club,
mastered the art of playing blackjack. Blackjack is a card game that can be played to an
individual’s benefit through the use of mathematics and probability. Card counting is a method
used to keep track of the types of cards in a deck (high or low). There are multiple ways to count
cards, but the students at M.I.T. formed a rather simple one, where cards 2-6 are +1, and cards
10-Ace are -1. By keeping track of the count, they knew it was time to bet higher when the card
count was positive. This fairly simple system was accompanied by words that signaled the card
count. For example 1 = tree, 2 = switch, glove = 5, sweet = 16 and so on. These may seem
random at first, but they were mnemonics.
The six students formed their own team and traveled to Las Vegas every weekend to
play in the casinos. They set up a system, with different identities and personas to blend into the
casino’s atmosphere, in addition to a simple coded language, only understood by them,
accompanied by various body signals to communicate. To start off, the 3 main roles assigned in
every shift of playing were the “spotters”, “gorillas”, and “big players”. “Spotters” would keep
track of the card count and then signal a “gorilla” or “big player” to come to that particular table
when the count was good. “Gorillas” would blindly trust the “spotters” from earlier, usually acting
extremely drunk, and place high bets every round. The “big players”, aka “BP”, would count
cards while betting correctly as to not raise suspicion, but earn the largest sum of money. At the
same time, they would also be playing a different persona and interacting with the other players
to blend in.
Personally, I found this book extremely fascinating. This book demonstrated that nothing
is impossible in the real world. While reading this, I could hardly believe that this had actually
happened not that long ago in the 1980s-1990s. I am sure that technology has improved and
casinos have caught onto what happens at blackjack tables by now. However, that just makes it
more fascinating as to how six students used their brains to make millions rapidly. I would give
this book a 10 out of 10, as it is truly one of a kind. This book is not filled with unnecessary fluff,
but has the perfect balance of action. I would recommend this non-fiction book to anyone who is
looking to read something new for a change.

No comments:

Post a Comment