Tuesday, January 18, 2005

I've had Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions by Ben Mezrich on my to-be-read list for years but decided to bump it higher when I saw Daisy picked it as one of her top books of the year. It is excellent - fast paced and suspenseful and reads more like a thriller than nonfiction. The students assumed aliases and disguises and partied with sports stars and high rollers on the weekends, all the while taking millions from the casinos at blackjack by counting cards in teams.

It showed me a side of Vegas that I never experienced growing up. When you live there, the casinos and gambling in general are so much a part of the landscape that they just become background. You avoid the Strip and Downtown because of the tourists, maybe throw your change from getting groceries into the video poker machines on your way out from the local Albertsons, or blow $5 at the nickel slots when you go out to eat on the weekends. The casino floor becomes just another maze to navigate to get to the bowling alley, movie theaters, or arcade. We used to make fun of the tourists sitting there losing all their money and joke about how we should thank them for funding our educations. It actually took me a long time to get used to not having to run the video poker gauntlet to get anywhere once I moved away. I certainly won't look at the casino floor the same way again after reading this book though. I'll be thinking about the Eye in the Sky and looking for young, ethnic high rollers who might be headed back to Boston with a hundred grand strapped to their chests.

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