Bringing Down the House



It's Friday night and you're on a red-eye to the city of sin. Strapped to your chest is half a million dollars; in your overnight bag is another twenty-five thousand in blackjack chips; and your wallet holds ten fake IDs. As soon as you land in Las Vegas, you are positive you are being investigated and followed. To top it all off, the IRS is auditing you, someone has been going through your mail -- and you have a multivariable calculus exam on Monday morning. Welcome to the world of an exclusive group of audacious MIT math geniuses who legally took the casinos for over three million dollars -- while still finding time for college keg parties, football games, and final exams.  In the midst of the go-go eighties and nineties, a group of overachieving, anarchistic MIT students joined a decades-old underground blackjack club dedicated to counting cards and beating the system at major casinos around the world. While their classmates were working long hours in labs and libraries, the blackjack team traveled weekly to Las Vegas and other glamorous gambling locales, with hundreds of thousands of dollars duct-taped to their bodies. Underwritten by shady investors they would never meet, these kids bet fifty thousand dollars a hand, enjoyed VIP suites and other upscale treats, and partied with showgirls and celebrities.

Handpicked by an eccentric mastermind -- a former MIT professor and an obsessive player who had developed a unique system of verbal cues, body signals, and role-playing -- this one ring of card savants earned more than three million dollars from corporate Vegas, making them the object of the casinos' wrath and eventually targets of revenge. Here is their inside story, revealing their secrets for the first time.  (Summary and book cover courtesy of


This was a non-stop thrill to read.  While reading, I found myself feeling personally invested in the stakes and the outcome of the bets.  But most of all, it wasn’t MY cash on the line!  I read this for the first time in a statistics class and I am glad I did.  The lessons I learned through reading this book come back to mind every time I hear someone reference a casino.

Recently, I found out that sections of this book were embellished or a completely made up.  (Sorry if that ruined things for anyone!  I think it's better to know.) I can’t say that I mind all that much in terms of a story though it’s annoying in terms of a biography.  If I were not annoyed by the lies and a sometimes choppy writing style, it’d be a solid 4 stars.  I definitely still recommend it.

Rating: 3 stars!

Who should read it?  Anyone who finds gambling, statistics or Vegas interesting!