Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions

Ben Mezrich

If you took a bunch of MIT students – smart young men and women who didn’t look like card counters – trained them to play blackjack according to strict rules, and set them loose on Las Vegas, could you beat the house? According to “Bringing Down the House” you not only could, but it’s been done. The key was rigid adherence to card counting strategies coupled with team play – the use of low-roller spotters who signal to high-roller players when the count is right.

“Bringing Down the House” is the story of the MIT team centered around the experiences of one player, Kevin Lewis, from his initiation into the team to the end of the team’s run. For end it did, brought to a conclusion by high-tech casino surveillance and a surprisingly high degree of cooperation among casino security forces.

This is Mezrich’s first non-fiction book. Though he brings a novelist’s sense of timing to this work, he should have left the tired cliches behind. Also, I wish he would have had the journalistic ability to get the other (casino) side of the story. Despite its faults, this is a good read. (For a better-written account of a similar venture, see “The Eudaemonic Pie” by Thomas A. Bass.)

April 3, 2008 update: With the release of the movie version of the book, at there are reports (here, here, and here) that Mezrich’s account was highly embellished.

One thought on “Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions

  1. Lucky Louie

    Of course, Mezrich’s book was highly fictionalized but he captured the spirit of the MIT Blackjack Team that took Vegas for millions. In fact over its nearly 20 year history from its original founding by Bill Kaplan in 1980 to the splinter teams of the mid-1990′s after Kaplan and JP Massar retired from management, nearly 150 players were trained and played on the team.

    By his own admission, many of Mezrich’s characters were composites of people he had never interviewed but only heard about, and many of his stories just never occurred. Nonetheless, “Bringing Down the House” brought the story of the MIT Blackjack Team to the masses, and while Mezrich’s recounting of their ventures might not have always rung true, the true adventures and business of the Team were far more impressive than depicted in the book and the movie.

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