Wednesday, 27 February, 2008 10:45 AM
Book Review: "21: Bringing
Down the House" is thrilling and exciting
They say whatever happens
in Vegas, stays in Vegas. But thats not true in Ben Mezrichs
21: Bringing Down the House. Mezrich daringly divulges into
the gambling secrets of six M.I.T students who took Las Vegas for
The book is based on
a true account of a group of elite M.I.T students recruited into
a blackjack team devoted to counting cards and beating major casinos
at their own game. They spend their weekdays studying and doing
homework. And on the weekends, they hang out with celebrities, sleep
in hotel suites and make hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In the beginning, their
card-counting careers were successful, but as time passed and the
casinos lost money, the casinos picked up on their skills and started
refusing the let the some of the group set foot in the buildings.
Some of the students even came too close to call of being back
roomed and its the last thing theyd ever
want to happen.
The idea for the book
came from one of the card-counters himself. Kevin Lewis, or Jeff
Ma (his real name) offered Mezrich the details of his lifestyle
in the past, the contacts to the people who were apart of it, and
the card-counters system, in exchange for giving him his moment.
This moment would prove to the world that the story about his double-life
was true. Also, this moment would help him come to terms with the
decisions he made in life.
illustrates the details from Lewis account. From the first
chapter onward, suspense is built up dramatically. At times, the
situations the characters go through, such as strapping tens of
thousands of dollars on their body and going through an airport
metal detector, is described in such detail that its hard
not to feel the characters fear and apprehension about being caught.
He also interviews the
people from Lewis past double-life and gathers more information
about their relationship with Lewis and his friends. Mezrich writes
about these meetings and frequently and flawlessly transitions these
settings from the past to the present.
how many facts he inputs about the game of blackjack. He skillfully
illustrates the complexity of card counting into a simple approach.
He breaks down the rules, signals and terminology to put the reader
into the mindset of one of the card-counters. It is obvious that
Mezrich did a lot of careful research.
Unfortunately, the mastermind
of the teams character is not too well developed. Not much
is said about Micky Rosa but maybe thats apart of the
suspense. The reader is left deciding whether he stands as a good
guy or a bad guy. The ending is also a little
disappointing. It never resolved the big conflict of who ratted
out the team and their card counting ways to the casinos.
The book is a thrilling
and exciting read. Once you begin, its difficult to stop.
The anticipation of whats going to happen next draws you onto
the next chapter. You might even feel the urge to fly to Las Vegas
and try out some of the card-counting techniques.
The movie 21,
based on the book, reaches theatres on March 28.