Is "Bringing Down the House" really a true story?

I’m sure that there must have been a thread or two discussing this book, but the #*(#)#ing search function won’t let me include the word “down” in my search and I therefore get skillions of pages of results, so screw it, I’m posting a new thread.

Ahem. Anyway. I’m currently about a third of the way through the book Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich, purportedly a true story of a group of MIT students that won millions in Vegas casinos by forming card-counting teams. The author has chosen to write the story in sort of an overblown, purple-prose kind of way, and a lot of it just really rings false to me. Particularly most of the dialogue (he has long sections of expository dialogue that just seem completely unrealistic) and the stuff written from the viewpoint of the main character, Kevin Lewis. I also note that the author has written six other books, all of which are fiction novels.

I want the story to be true, partially because my skepticism is preventing me from fully enjoying the book. Does anyone have details about whether or not this is actually a true story and unfolded in the way it does in the book?

And one additional note: Does Boston’s Chinatown really cover five square miles? That seems kind of… large. Relevant quoted text from book:

(Also, ya see what I mean about the purple prose?)

According to the City of Boston, Chinatown is .2 square miles.

We went through this a week or two ago in GQ. It is real and I am a little surprised that people don’t believe at least the basics of it. They were really smart people who hit the casinos at all their defenses at once and won. Card counting does work in theory but they that was just the core of what they did. Casinos already looked out for successful card counters so the MIT guys played characters and used counters that weren’t doing the big bets themselves but rather signalling the big spenders to just drop in and drop a big wad and then leave. You can’t do that stuff now because casinos have really good security and can pick anyone out for any reason they choose. Their method required mathematical skills but also acting skills and a boatload of cash to just drop a load on a hot table but then just walk away no matter what the outcome until the next one came up.

I am not claiming that the whole book, which I have, is a diary. I have no doubt that things are moved around to tell a better story but the strategy and outcome are real.

Anyone else wondering if Steve Martin might have really had ‘jungle fever’? (I know, it was actually Eugene Levy, but I’m trying to forget the movie)

The whole “winning a bunch of money in a casino” thing I can believe. The part about casino goons breaking into their apartments and whatnot, I’m a little skeptical of. Do casinos even have goons anymore?

The author also at one point says that Atlantic City, NJ is west of Las Vegas, NV.

Thanks for the info, Shagnasty. If someone can find the previous thread and provide a link to it, I’d appreciate it. My search fu is poor today.

I think this was it:

Can you REALLY win counting cards at blackjack?

The OP in that case suspected the whole story was fabrication because they didn’t think counting cards was possible.

Yeah, you’re not the only who thought about that movie.

Ah, thanks for the link, panamajack. Someone in that thread linked to ANOTHER thread in which someone mentioned having seen a History Channel documentary on the MIT blackjack team, which cements the story’s veracity for me, or at least the basic details. I still feel that the author took a lot of license with the facts in order to tell a more dramatic story, but it’s good to know that the core of the story is accurate.

It is West of LV, just not by the most direct route. :slight_smile: