The New York Times best-selling book, “Bringing Down the House” by Ben Mezrich is being made into a movie! Scenes from the movie were shot in Las Vegas earlier this year and Kevin Spacey is starring in the flick. Producers plan on releasing the movie in 2008.
“Bringing Down the House”, published in 2002 was an accurate account about MIT students employing card counting techniques taught to them by an MIT professor to take casinos for literally hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Mike Aponte and David Irvine, two former students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were at the Global Gaming Expo recently and informed the audience that the practice of card counting is still going on today. Neither of the speakers utilize their skills in the casino any more; instead, they formed the Blackjack Institute which teaches students how to count cards. In addition to teaching gamblers card counting techniques, Aponte and Irvine also help casino executives to protect their games.
"The movie is a fictionalized version of a book that took a lot of liberties," Irvine said. "All the names are made up and the characters are basically caricatures. The general story in the book is 100 percent correct with a little bit of editorializing."
I remember reading the novel on a flight out to Vegas and not being able to put it down. In the book, groups of MIT students formed teams and took turns coming out to Las Vegas for weekend trips, employing the skills they learned from their professor, and routinely returning home with $100,000 profit. MGM was one of their favorite haunts, but they actually traveled all over the country and even to the islands.
Card counting is not an illegal practice; it’s a method that gamblers employ to gain an edge over the house by counting how many face cards are left in the deck. Although it’s not technically illegal, the casino can ban you from the premises if they suspect that you are counting cards. This is precisely what happened to the MIT students as they grew bigger, stronger, and started winning more and more. The students were so successful because back in those days, casinos didn’t exchange information. If one casino kicked them out, they could easily move down the strip and hit another one. That certainly isn’t the case today. Casinos today use modern technology in the form of face recognition to cut down on what they consider cheating.
Irvine and Aponte are the only two members of the MIT card counting team who are still involved with blackjack. They were fortunate enough to turn their skills into a mainstream business opportunity while the other members are doing normal jobs.
“I have a way of beating the casinos with a different twist and that’s what the casinos need to stay up on”, promises Irvine. Sounds like a great marketing ploy to sign up for his class, or maybe we can just wait until the movie comes out!