“I Love Money” – 8.0
Last year, I met someone who lived his life in Las Vegas. Until the point he took out the colourful chips from his shining aluminium suitcase, I never thought there was real people who would gamble for a living. It was spellbinding to see how he played the hands – elegant and artful. It was just like how Ben described in the book – an carefully orchestrated play.
In theory, Casino houses enjoy a statistical advantage against individual gamblers. So over a large sample size, Casino houses are bound to win. In other words, any gambler who played long enough is sure to lose. Someone in MIT thought they could game the system. Kevin was one of them. After being introduced to the group, Kevin quickly climbed to a leadership role. Thanks to meticulous mathematics, seamless coordination and Oscar grade acting, he and his team swept the Blackjack tables across the country. Six of them prided themselves as crusaders, liberating millions from the closely guarded coffin of giant casinos. With the windfall, Kevin got himself new gadgets, paid off his mortgage and enough he upgraded both his apartment and his girlfriend.
Batman has seeded the fantasy in everyone’s heart to live a double life: by the day, as a nerdy, geeky student in one of the most prestigious university on earth; by the night, they stood against silhouette of big corporate machines.
Couple of months into the game, the players no longer satisfied with their “meagre” share of handsome profit. They got rid of their mentor who led a consortium of investors. For another couple of months, things couldn’t have been better.
Then things took a sharp turn.
It started like an one off event. The team was asked to leave. It quickly went down to direct physical assaults. Even the team’s oversea adventure was sabotaged. The casino houses always found a way to be one step ahead! Someone sold them out! They were being marked down by professional hunters who wouldn’t hesitate to use any mean to squash them.
The team was quickly turning into a dinosaur – a card counter’s term that the team is fully exposed and can no longer play. The looming end fragmented the already fragile structure. Tension, betrayal and burglar. Eventually, Kevin was forced out.
The 300 pages book was a smooth read and page turner. Although in comparison to his later work, Bring Down the House wasn’t conjured with many quick humor, Ben demonstrated his unmatched ability to research and connect dots. It was a book about money and all the things money can buy: sex, liquor, luxury and stretch limo and all the excessive extravaganza. And all the thing money can’t: love, loyalty and family. It was the perfect read for a long haul flight.