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Book: Bringing Down the House

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I was motivated to read this book b/c it comes straight out of some of the rumors I had heard at MIT. My friend Jay told me about a grad student who had a Foxwoods Blackjack champion jacket, and after the Wired article was published, others had shared friend-of-a-friend rumors about people on the blackjack team.

In terms of story, the book didn't disappoint. It's full of all the basic elements of a good story, with plenty of intrigue, clever plans, high-profile celebrities, danger, and betrayals. It also revealed the basic elements of their strategy, which surprised me with it's simple algorithm (hi-lo) and clever implementation. There were some more sophisticated tricks they used, such as following high cards through the shuffle and being able to cut exactly 52 cards, but most of the method came down to using a team to bring in the high roller at just the right moment.

In terms of writing, the book did disappoint. I groaned during some of the early chapters when the author introduces some of the characters. Many of his descriptions feel like attempted cleverness, and not once does he actually capture the feel of Boston or MIT. With the written word, there is power to embed great detail, comparison, and nuance, but instead it feels like the author is writing copy for a TV special, with everything reduced to a caricature. There are also several chapters where the author places himself into the story to describe his "research." These clumsy additions read more like attempts at breaking two-hundred pages than meaningful components to the story.

Despite the poor writing, the story is entertaining, and you won't waste too much of your life reading it as you can finish the book in a single night. I bought the book because I needed something to clean out my mind between more difficult prose, and this book didn't disappoint :).

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This page contains a single entry from kwc blog posted on November 15, 2003 6:53 PM.

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