Ben Mezrich may have garnished the real story of MIT Mechanical Engineering graduate Jeff Ma with fictional elements but the idea that blackjack as beatable game in casino is a good reason to enjoy this novel for any pro, amateur, or non-player. Even a mathematics or statistics major will like this book. This is a cool story of MIT students--the Blackjack team taking Vegas for millions by adopting the basic principles of card counting developed by an MIT professor named Edward Thorp in 1963.
Reading the story has the same thrill and wonder as watching Ocean's Eleven or Rain Man and it's probably the same reason that after reading the adapted story in Wired Magazine, Kevin Spacey produced (and even starred in) the film adaptation in 2008 that simply titled as 21. To be successful in blackjack, you never have to keep track of 312 individual cards in a game or memorize a pattern. You only need to follow a set of rules and bear in mind that the game is subject to continuous probability. The challenge actually lies in the synergy of specific rules, codes, and a lot of teamwork (and false identities).
What I like reading about this book is that I took a lot of time without any hassle at all. There was never a rush-to-finish situation, you just go with the flow of the narrative that switches from history (the main character's story in 1994-1998) and the present first-person narrative of the interviewer--the author. It's informative, rational, funny, and also scary at that part when they have to deal with the enemy and the mob. It's also cool to know that facebook has already been used as a term for criminal and cheater profiles by the FBI way before Mark Zuckerberg used and copyrighted the term as online domain for collecting personal data for free (yup, it sucks to be ignorant these days).
One thing is certain, blackjack is not gambling if you know how to play it. Because if you gamble, the probability of winning is a constant 50% at maximum. But if you're a player, the probability of winning is higher than that. That's enough for a brain food.
My favorite qoute:
'I don't know," Kevin said. 'It sounds kind of shady.'
'Shady?' Martinez broke in. 'We're freedom fighters, Kevin. We liberate money from the hands of the oppressors. We're Robin Hood, and the casino is the sheriff.'
Genre: Modern Thriller
Rating: 4 Pit Bosses