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21: Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions (Anglais) CD – Livre audio, 31 janvier 2008

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Chapter One

It was ten minutes past three in the morning, and Kevin Lewis looked like he was about to pass out. There were three empty martini glasses on the table in front of him, and he was leaning forward on both elbows, his gaze focused on his cards. The dealer was still feigning patience, in deference to the pile of purple chips in front of the martini glasses. But the other players were beginning to get restless. They wanted the kid to make his bet already -- or pack it in, grab the ratty duffel bag under his chair, and head back to Boston. Hell, hadn't he won enough? What was a college senior going to do with thirty thousand dollars?

The dealer, sensing the mood at the table, finally tapped the blackjack shoe. "It's up to you, Kevin. You've had a hell of a run. Are you in for another round?"

Kevin tried to hide his trembling hands. Truth be told, his name wasn't really Kevin. And he wasn't even slightly drunk. The red splotches on his cheeks had been painted on in his hotel room. And though thirty thousand dollars in chips was enough to make his hands shake, it wasn't something that would impress the people who really knew him. They'd be much more interested in the ratty duffel bag beneath his chair.

Kevin breathed deeply, calming himself. He'd done this a hundred times, and there was no reason to think that tonight would be any different.

He reached for three five-hundred-dollar chips, then glanced around, pretending to look for the cocktail waitress. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw his Spotter. Red-haired, pretty, wearing a low-cut blouse and too much makeup. Nobody would have guessed she was a former MIT mechanical-engineering major and an honors student at Harvard Business School. She was close enough to see the table but far enough away not to draw any suspicion. Kevin caught her gaze, then waited for her signal. A bent right arm would tell him to double his bet. Both arms folded and he'd push most of his chips into the betting circle. Arms flat at her sides and he'd drop down to the lowest possible bet.

But she didn't do any of these things. Instead, she ran her right hand through her hair.

Kevin stared at her, making sure he had read her right. Then he quickly started to gather his chips.

"That's it for me," he said to the table, slurring his words. "Should have skipped that last martini."

Inside, he was on fire. He glanced at his Spotter again. Her hand was still deep in her red hair. Christ. In six months, Kevin had never seen a Spotter do that before. The signal had nothing to do with the deck, nothing to do with the precise running count that had won him thirty thousand dollars in under an hour.

A hand in the hair meant only one thing. Get out. Get moving. Now.

Kevin slung the duffel bag over his shoulder and jammed the purple chips into his pockets.

The dealer was watching him carefully. "You sure you don't want me to color up?"

Maybe the man sensed that something wasn't right. Kevin was about to toss him a tip when he caught sight of the suits. Three of them, coming around the nearest craps table. Big, burly men with narrow eyes. No time for niceties.

"That's okay," Kevin said, backing away from the table. "I like the way they jiggle around in my pants."

He turned and darted through the casino. He knew they were watching him from above -- the Eyes in the Sky. But he doubted they would make a scene. They were just trying to protect their money. Still, he didn't want to take any chances. If the suits caught up to him -- well, everyone had heard the stories. Back rooms. Intimidation tactics. Sometimes even violence. No matter how many makeovers the town got, deep down, this was still Vegas.

Tonight Kevin was lucky. He made it outside without incident, blending into the ever-present flow of tourists on the brightly lit Strip. A minute later, he was sitting on a bench at a neon-drenched cabstand across the street. The duffel bag was on his lap.

The redhead from inside dropped onto the bench next to him, lighting herself a cigarette. Her hands were shaking. "That was too fucking close. They came straight out of the elevators. They must have been upstairs watching the whole time."

Kevin nodded. He was breathing hard. His chest was soaked in sweat. There was no better feeling in the world.

"Think we should quit for the night?" the girl asked.

Kevin smiled at her.

"Let's try the Stardust. My face is still good there."

He put both hands on the duffel bag, feeling the stacks of bills inside. A little over one million dollars, all in hundreds: Kevin's bankroll, partially financed by the shadowy investors who recruited him six months before. They had trained him in mock casinos set up in ratty apartments, abandoned warehouses, even MIT classrooms. Then they had set him loose on the neon Strip.

Most of his friends were back at school -- taking tests, drinking beer, arguing about the Red Sox. He was in Las Vegas, living the high life on a million dollars of someone else's money. Sooner or later, it might all come crashing down. But Kevin didn't really care.

He hadn't invented the System. He was just one of the lucky few smart enough pull it off...

Copyright © 2002 by Ben Mezrich --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

Revue de presse

"... Bringing Down the House is a can't-miss deal" (Lorenzo Carcaterra)

"A surreal cacophony of glamour, suspense and, eventually, terror. Part Tom Clancy, part Elmore Leonard...Gripping" (The List)

"The tale laid out in Bringing Down the House is so beguiling, so agreeably reminiscent of, say Ocean's Eleven or House of Games that you find yourself mentally casting the parts as you read along... A fine yarn' Sunday Times"

"A lively tale that could pass for thriller fiction ... Mezrich's skilled yet easy writing draws sweat to the reader's brow" (Rocky Mountain News)

"Bringing Down the House has a sensational story to tell" (Literary Review) --Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.

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61 internautes sur 66 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Overheated prose, engaging story...and a big mystery... 2 septembre 2004
Par Craig Kenneth Bryant - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
...namely, how much of this tale to believe?

But first, the basics: "Kevin" joins a team of Blackjack players based out of MIT, and extracts some ungodly number of dollars from the casinos over the course of a five-year romp. Then the casinos wise up to the game, and start putting the squeeze on Kevin and his buddies: expulsions, IRS audits, intimidation, and a little rough stuff in back rooms.

Ben Mezrich is a thriller-writer by day, and the prose is a bit too ripely melodramatic--cliff-hanger chapter endings that go nowhere, visual metaphors culled from Raymond Chandler's wastebasket: "the muscles beneath his MIT T-shirt rippled like a plastic trash can left out in a heat wave." (And just when did everyone at MIT get so darned _ripped_? Almost everyone's a stud or a babe, except for the shadowy Asian ringleader with the horrible teeth and bad vision. Must be a different part of campus than I usually see.) But he manages to keep the writing at a good poolside or plane-time level, and you can skim the bits that are obviously padded out to stretch a 150-page story into a 250-page book.

The Blackjack itself seems mostly reasonable. The kids practice the classic "Hi-Lo" count, but with a clever twist. Hi-Lo calls for the player to bet the minimum a lot of the time, then dramatically raise the betting level when the distribution of cards turns favorable. One thing this isn't, is inconspicuous--the casinos are good at spotting this stuff. So the MIT gang fielded two types of players--some always bet low, but kept track of the "count." When it became favorable, these players would give the high-sign to a "Gorilla" or "Big Player," who always bet high, and sat at a hot table until the count went bad again. Then the Big Player would drift off and look for the next signal. Nobody ever altered their betting levels; but the high-rollers just seemed to magically land at one hot table after another.

It sounds like a pretty good scheme...even a bit like some of the tactics Blackjack writer Stanford Wong talks about. I guess it could work.

The trouble is that too much of the story just doesn't seem to wash. My spider-sense started tingling early in the book, when a character grabbed two martinis off a passing cocktail waitress's tray...like she was passing them around at a catered party. Now, I'm no Vegas-hound, but I've never known the cocktail service at a casino to work that way. And this happens two or three times over the course of the narrative. It's a small thing, almost trivial...but definitively _wrong._ I don't think a writer who's done his homework will miss something like that.

And now that I was thinkig suspiciously, a whole lot of things started smelling fishy. Let me mention a few:

--The team is continually faced with the challenge of moving as much as $600,000 across the country from Boston to Vegas and back, week after week. They have to employ all kinds of subterfuge to get the cash through airport security--hollow laptops, fake casts, ziplock bags in their underwear. Well, why bother? That money is working capital, not profit--why doesn't it just stay in Nevada, in a string of deposit boxes? They mention using _some_ bank boxes, so why run the risk of looking like drug runners?

--The team is forever staying in comped "high roller" suites in big-name casinos: hot tubs, bottle of champagne waiting on arrival, limos to the airport, the whole nine yards. Uhh, way not to attract attention, guys. You can have a safe room just a few steps off the strip for a hundred bucks or less. In a game where once the casinos know your game, it's over, why would "professionals" take these kinds of outrageous risks just to get a free room?

--In fact, to heck with staying in hotels. With the kind of money this book is talking about, the smart investment would be a house, somewhere in the sleepier suburbs of Clark county. Then you'd never have to worry about making one absolute rookie mistake the MIT team makes--counting cards in the same place you're sleeping. It makes for a dramatic scene with hotel security, but it doesn't make a lick of sense. Heck, even _I_ know enough not to do that.

I could go on, but you get the idea. All of these little oddities and inconsistencies make no sense except for one thing--they all serve to sex up the storyline, make it more exotic, more James Bond...make it sell more books. Hmmm. I know a little bit about the proud traditions of tall tales and practical jokes at MIT and Harvard (the author's alma mater). At the end of the day, I have to think that there's more Vegas razzle-dazzle than journalistic truth in here.

But hey, don't we go to casinos to believe in a fantasy? At fourteen bucks, this is one of the cheaper Las Vegas illusions you can buy.
110 internautes sur 123 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Beating the odds and living a constant adrenaline high! 3 mai 2003
Par Linda Linguvic - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
This is a fast and explosive read. It's a true story that's so high-powered that the tension never ceases and I was thrust into a roller coaster ride that kept my eyes glued to the pages.
The story is told through the eyes of the author, who met one of the students at a party and was so intrigued by his outrageous tale that he was compelled to put it into a book. This is a story of a group of math whizzes, most of Asian descent, who used the art of card counting, worked as teams, and legally won as much as 4 million dollars during the few years they spent their weekends in the Vegas casinos, living the high life.
They strapped thousands of dollars to their bodies with Velcro to get the cash onto planes, used false names, and were always on the lookout for Las Vegas personnel who would sometimes personally escort them out of the casinos. They also learned about the seediness of the gambling world, greed, the way the Vegas corporations work. Of course they all went through changes. And eventually, it had to come to an end. Some of it is kind of scary too. But mostly, it's about beating the odds and living with a constant adrenaline high.
Well, reading this book is an adrenaline high of it's own. It put me right into the action and kept me there for the whole 257 pages. I loved it. And highly recommend it.
88 internautes sur 100 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Cardiac meds needed for Mezrich's thrilling ride 22 novembre 2002
Par Amazon Customer - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
As a physician I have my fill of non-fiction with an abundance of journals so when I read for relaxation I want a story that keeps me excited, interested and sleepless until it is finished. Bringing Down the House is such a book and reads like a Clancy or Pollock with a little lower body count, but with no less excitement.
Ben Mezrich is superb writer and story teller with the amazing ability to weave the excitement of a Las Vegas casino, the mathmetics of card counting with enjoyable interpersonal dynamics so that this is a consuming story with people you care about. His description of the high roller lifestyle in Vegas takes you to the tables playing sums you watch others wager with the adrenaline rush like you were part of the team. I bought the book in Boston having just missed him at a book signing and had a hardtime finishing the conference. I found myself in the room reading a book I could not put down instead of going out in one of the towns in which the story was set. It was that engrossing.
My Christmas list now contains all of his previous writings as this is an author who knows how to tell a story.
26 internautes sur 27 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Intense, Intriguing, and Fun for Everyone 23 avril 2010
Par James J. Murphy - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Poche
After reading the book, Bringing Down the House, I was excited and intrigued with the world of card counting and the lives of the card counters. I plan to read more books about the subject. From the book, I got the feeling that Mezrich's goal throughout the book was to captivate and teach people about the world of casinos and card counting. He met one of the characters at a party and was fascinated enough to put the story into a book to enthrall everyone who reads it. I can guarantee to any readers of the book, that they will feel mesmerized by the casino life and more educated about the subject. This book will be a quick read that the reader will not be able to put down. It will interest a wide variety of people, from those who love to gamble and go to casinos all the time to those who have never stepped foot in one in their life. I know this from reading the reviews of the people before me. Many of them said that they gambled before, but a surprisingly large number of them said that they had never gambled in their lives.

In response to a few of the negative reviews, I read through many of them and have a few major disagreements to point out. First, J. Danielson, you talked about how you went to MIT and that Mezrich got a few of the details wrong about the school. To tell you the truth, when people read this book they won't remember the little details of graduating with honors or not, they'll remember the intense casino scenes. This brings me to the next topic of yours that I disagreed with. You talked about how you have been banned from a casino before and that they don't rough you up the way Mezrich made it seem like in his book. Well, there are more than a few casinos and what actions they take when kicking someone out will probably vary between them. Now, to Critical Reader, you say that you did research on Wikipedia after reading the book and found that some of the facts that Mezrich talked about were false. If you want to accuse someone of using false facts, you might want to try a reliable source next time. Finally, to the "crimsonwildcat," in your review, you accuse Mezrich of having what comes off as false conversations with the people in the book. If you haven't met any of these people, then I don't think you can really tell if it was false or not. However, I must agree with the negative reviews when you say that some parts of the book got repetitive. That was definitely a weakness, but Mezrich had many more high points, like expressing the tension between characters and showing the excitement of Las Vegas and a card counter's life.
218 internautes sur 257 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Pro Player Says This Book Busts 14 février 2004
Par Joshua Axelrad - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
Author Ben Mezrich is on the streak of a lifetime, with his top-selling, wildly flawed, heavily fictionalized "history" of a well-known blackjack team getting made into a movie by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Pretty impressive. MGM, after all, as Mezrich notes in a recent interview, is "the same company that owns most of the large casinos in Vegas." (See the February, 2004 Kuro5hin interview at [...]) The only problem with this observation, like many of the major and minor details in Mezrich's book, is that it isn't true. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the movie company, and MGM Mirage, the casino company, are totally separate corporations, just as Mezrich's Las Vegas and the real Nevada town are totally different. Mezrich may be the only gambling writer in America who doesn't know these elementary facts.
For four years I've supported myself and my family by counting cards in American casinos and winning at blackjack. It is a tense, weird, exhilirating life, and I would love for more of my friends to understand it. This book doesn't help. Not only is the grade-school prose tedious. Not only are the technical blackjack details, on those few occasions when Mezrich summons the pluck to try tackling them, incorrect or misleading. The dramatic structure gropes and falls flat. The journalism is scandalously lazy and erroneous. Above all, the spirit, the eclat that card counters muster to wage our little war against casinoland is missing. Mezrich doesn't get it and can't report it. He hasn't been there and he doesn't know, his scanty experimental plays with MIT alums notwithstanding. If you want to know what gamblers are like and how we live, skip this drivel.
Look instead at legendary hustler Amarillo Slim's new memoir, Amarillo Slim in a World Full of Fat People. Look at Jesse May's insuperable poker novel, Shut Up and Deal, which more than any other book depicts the dark heart of the professional player. If it's blackjack history and the activities of the major teams you're into, read Ken Uston. If you want to understand the technical aspects of the game, get Don Schlesinger, Arnold Snyder, Peter Griffin, and, for old time's sake, Ed Thorpe. If you want to learn how a notorious high-stakes counter makes his way in the world, read Ian Andersen's Burning the Tables in Las Vegas. There's so much good gambling writing out there, with so much real-life experience underlying it, that wasting time and money on Mezrich is a sucker's bet.
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