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.)