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4.4 out of 5 stars79
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 16 September 2003
Described on the cover as a cross between "Liars Poker" and "Oceans Eleven", this book certainly lives upto the fast pace and style implicit in these namechecks. This pacy style reflects well upon the subject matter, namely an MIT team who set out to beat the casinos at Blackjack. One gets wrapped up in the story, being carried along to the almost inevitable conclusion, and on the way getting a first hand account of both the tension/danger involved in taking the game to the casino and the highs of success.

As a story it pans well, having been told by relating the present day interviewer/storyteller to the key figure we follow throughout what it is appropriate to call an "adventure". This keeps the dialogue fairly tight, and ensures a sense of excitment permiates throughout.

Overall I would recommend this book as a good read, if you are looking for something to entertain you - regardless of whether you gamble or not. One word of warning - the next time you are in a casino I defy you not to spend a fair amount of time watching the crowd for "spotters", "gorillas" or "BP's" !
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on 14 July 2003
Purchased after hearing an interview with the Author on Radio 2. I have always been intrigued with the 'card counting' myth, believing you had to have some sort of photographic memory to even contemplate it.
This book tells the story of various ex students of MIT and how in the mid 90s they made millions from hitting Casinos in Vegas & all over the USA, by applying the most basic form of card counting & adding their own twist - 'Team Card Counting'. Its a truly amazing story, which makes the book fall into 'CANT PUT DOWN' category.
The only down point is that the book has to end. I was left with a feeling of wanting more information - I'd love to read an account of each students experience while on the team, & what they are doing now. This book I feel, only scratches the surface but hey - what a surface !! Please Ben write a follow up ...!
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on 20 December 2014
Interesting that the "about the author" blurb on my copy refers to this book as being his "first foray into non-fiction", when it is clearly a work of fiction - albeit based loosely on events that did take place. It's written in a fairly simple, and easy to absorb, style and the stroyline moves along at a fair pace without hitting any "doldrums". The ending is somewhat of an anti-climax, with quite a few sub-plot elements just being left unresolved by the time you make it to the final page.

Having read Bringing Down the House, I'm afraid it didn't inspire me to pick up any of Mr M's other titles (I think he has fifteen under his belt now?).
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on 8 May 2007
This is a very interesting page turner which has you begging for more when you have finished it in one sitting.

A great story which would also make a great movie as it has the feel of a book of fiction. The characters involved were certainly actors in a perfect setting for the times and you are certainly rooting for them in their endeavours to assist the casinos in parting with their money!

The writer gets into the heart of the characters involved and it is easy to put yourself in their shoes and see what happened from their viewpoint.

Even if you are not interested in gambling to any extent this is still a book that the vast majority will enjoy immensely because the story line is so powerful.

The story is told through the eyes of 20 year old Kevin, a MIT student, who cannot understand why his room mates have a lavish lifestyle on the basis they never do a days work. Kevin enquires about it and this starts him off on a journey of discovery into an alien world that is both frightening and exciting. His room mates invite him down to Atlantic City for the weekend and introduce him to the world of card counting at Blackjack and Kevin takes to it immediately and quickly becoames a major player in the card counting team.

The book is full of anecdotes about their escapades, detailing the casinos they targetted and won from.

The interesting part is when things start to unravel but I won't spoil the story here!

Fantastic story telling.
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on 26 December 2009
This book tells about a group of mathematically skilled gamblers who invented a way of beating casinos at blackjack. They actually earned their living for years by playing until the casino owners made their lives too uncomfortable.

Sure enough, it had already been mathematically proven that you could consistently beat the house at blackjack. The catch was that you could only do it if you counted cards. Since casinos wouldn't allow players to take notes, they would have needed a superhuman memory to employ the winning strategy. The guys in this book, however, worked out a simplified strategy which did require less memorizing, but still enabled them to make a profit. The method involved co-operation between several players who would enter and exit a game, exchanging information with code words. (And sure enough, it would still have exceeded my mental capabilities, but their memories were so good that they were able to pull it off.) It was a never-ending fight against casino owners who would routinely expel any player who was as much as suspected of card counting. Of course they knew all about blackjack math and wouldn't hesitate to even physically assault players who would dare to use it against them.

The only bad thing about this book were the author's poor writing skills. Had it been a fiction book, I don't think I could have been bothered to read beyond page 30. But since it was real, I absolutely wanted to know what would happen. I devoured the book, feeling excitement, hope, exhilaration, fear, anxiety and frustration with the players. I found it very inspiring to read about people who were doing something that was meaningful for them, and succeeded in taking advantage of a system that was never meant to be profited from.
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on 9 April 2005
A great book that is engaging, fast paced and enjoyable. An insight into the life most of us would love to live, but without the hassle of the casino heavys.
I bought this book to read on holiday, only to get a good way through while sat on the plane, only to leave it on their. The story was too good not to just forget about it, so i had to buy it again when i got to canada as i just had to find out how it all turned out!
just don't miss this book!
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on 13 July 2004
I could not put this book down. Ok that's a lie...I did put it down when I couldn't bear to read what happened next. I had many late nights reading this and have raved about it. It's a far cry from my usual reading material but I will deffinately be reading more by Ben Mezrich.
I just want to go to Vegas and have a go myself. ..and if I do I shall try to spot the card counters no doubt !
Read it. You will be engrossed by the mind boggling tactics of card counting and team play. I was.
I am only sad I have finished it....I want more !
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on 21 August 2010
This book was badly written and pretty disappointing really. I also didn't believe parts of it. The author has taken what should have been a very exciting scenario and has turned it into something mundane and confusing. For what its worth the movie version of this book starring Kevin Spacey was pretty awful too.
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on 11 May 2008
Over the years I have become a bit of a fan of Ben Mezrich's style of writing; take a true story, add a few bits from another (parallel) story, and then throw it all together in a style generally reserved for fiction writing.

The story itself is very interesting, and I'm full of admiration for the skills of the people involved in the card counting schemes. Out here in the real world the word used to describe would be "genius". As well telling you about the main characters' back ground, the history of the card counting scheme, and how it was perfected over time, a fair bit of Vegas history is also thrown in throughout the book.

I'm a huge fan of Vegas history books, and this one was the first I read about the card counting scheme. It certainly made me want to read more about the subject; so whilst there may be better books around on the subject this one is certainly a very good place to start.
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on 14 October 2004
I was looking for a book to read over the holidays last year and saw this reviewed and thought it sounded half decent, so gave it ago. Being a fan of Oceans 11 and liking the glamour of Vegas and enjoying people make monkies out of "the house" I thought I would enjoy this.
Anyway a week before going on holiday I'd thought I'd read the first page or so to try and get into the book...
Over the next 48hours I read the book cover to cover, some people may say I have a lot of time on my hands, but it is amazing.
The style of writing is very fast paced and builds up the tension superbly, you become the characters friends and feel all the emotions they feel throughout the book; by the end your willing them to suceed and almost shouting at the pages to warn them of trouble approaching. What makes it even better is that its based on a true story.
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