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¶ Bringing Down the House
Yesterday, I met one of the card-counters from Bringing Down the House. For those who don't know, it's this great story of a team of MIT undergraduates who learned to count cards while playing Blackjack. The book describes their exploits as they take this knowledge and use it to rake in millions of dollars from casinos across the US. The writing of the book itself isn't that great, but the story is awesome.

It was one of those welcome socials, where everyone sort of introduces themself and is supposed to say something a little interesting, and this woman mentioned that she was in the book. All of a sudden, a bunch of us are like, "woah, awesome!" and she's an instant rock star. Later on, she got to telling a few of us about her time on the team and a little bit about what it was like to take the casinos for a ride. Some cool things like how they'd fly out to Vegas and Atlantic City about once a month, and how each year the team would pull in about $1 million. She downplayed the money, saying that with a team of 20 people, a $1 million profit means each person only gets $50k. Micky Rosa never existed, although there was a real Micky involved who was a total cheapskate and jackass. The ridiculous disguises were... ridiculous, although disguises were being used. They didn't actually hire strippers to cash chips, although they did have a ton of trouble when MGM switched all their chips. Good stories.

I thought it was pretty interesting how she talked about it like it was just some part-time hobby, and it really seemed that way to her. The fame and glory brought about by the book far outstripped her own views of the subject. Back when she was still an undergrad, she said the teams were actually trying pretty hard to recruit new players, but almost everyone they approached was wary and skeptical, and thought it must have been some kind of scam. Now, everyone who's read the book or knows something about it gets way more excited about it than she does. She seemed like she almost regretted telling us, and said later on she wasn't even sure she had wanted to. To be honest, I'm not sure if I would've mentioned it either. It was obvious that from now on, a lot of people are going to think of her as "the blackjack girl" and not the other grad student. I imagine it's similar to why Robert Morris never talks about the Morris worm..

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