Archive | December, 2011

Bringing Down The House by Ben Mezrich

28 Dec

A few geeks from MIT, over educated and over intelligent,  find a way to beat the odds and take more then three million dollars from casinos – mostly Vegas.  They play as a team wherein some members spotters play continuously betting low and losing some.  The big-players are called when the odds are favorable to the player.  These big-players bet big and almost always win big!  The modus operandi of the team is based on the simple fact –

Blackjack is a casino game that is beatable.  This is because blackjack is subject to continuous probability.  This simply means that the past always affects the future.  For example if an ace comes out of the blackjack shoe it implies that there is one less ace in the shoe and hence the odds of drawing another ace has gone down by a calculable fraction.

However, it is not just about the money rather it is all about the money.  The players are hounded and chased away from the casino’s inspite of being legal.  It is about “what measures people would take to protect their money!”.    Finally after facing several intimidations, a couple of robberies and trashing … the more sober of the team realize that …

… on new years eve … shared champagne with a roomful of strangers; mostly inebriated, middle-aged men dressed in expensive clothes and surrounded by strippers in sparkling dresses and high-class escorts in Versace gowns.  Enveloped by so much Vegas glitz, Kevin had experienced a sudden sense of melancholy – was this where he belonged?  Was this who he had become?  As the New Year’s ball dropped, he had no one to hug or kiss or laugh with.  Instead he had teammates down the casino who would call him into positive shoes.  He had strippers who knew him by his fake names and danced for his real money.  … He had a family at home who didn’t know him anymover, and ex-grilfriend whose heart he had broken because she didn’t play blackjack … he wondered Is this who I have become?

… all this during a tough IRS audit where one of the protagonists Kevin realizes that over the last year he has made…

… twenty trips to Vegas.  Twenty weekends in casinos consisting of about forty hours of blackjack every weekend, with sixty hands of cards played in an hour.  Altogether, that made forty-eight thousand hands of blackjack!!!  This is not counting another fourteen trips to casinos at Chicago!

Finally Kevin becomes straight and narrow; very rarely visiting Vegas and he still wins in Blackjack!    All this is well summarized when Kevin’s buddy and partner in crime Martinez says “… it was inevitable.  MIT chaos theory.  Put a bunch of overly intelligent, socially inept people together, sooner or later you get chaos”

This is a truly great read and I would recommend it highly!!!!  Any commentary would be incomplete with the cheat sheet used by the team.

The mnemonics to pass the count

Tree: The signal for a count of +1. because a tree looked like a one

Switch: +2 because a switch was binary, on or off

Stool : +3

Car : +4

Glove : 5,Gun : 6,Craps: 7, Pool:8 Cat:9,Bowling:10, Football:11.Eggs:12,Witch:13, Ring:14, Paycheck:15, Sweet:16, Magazine:17, Voting both:18…

These are cleverly worked into dialogues like –

“This stool is killing my ass:

“I’d rather be bowling”

“My room upstairs is the size of a voting booth”

“Its colder than a witch’s tit in here, Al.  Don’t you guys pay for heat?”

“I have already blown through half of last months paycheck”

“Getting crushed like a carton of eggs.”

And the signage –

The deck’s warm  – Arms folded in front of the chest

The deck’s turned hot – Arms folded behind the back

Even hotter – hands in the pockets

I need to talk – touch the eye

Get over here – head lowered to folded arms

Whats the count? – scratch the ear

I’m too tired to play anymore – rub the neck

I’m getting heat from the pit boss – move hands accross forehead

Something’s wrong, get out now! – run hands through hair.

And not to leave out the count … if low cards remain to be drawn then it is favorable to the casino. and when high cards remain to be drawn it is favorable to the player.  The Hi-lo system assigns a value of +1 to all cards 2 thru 6, -1 for all 10’s and face cards and aces and cards 7 thru 9 are valued at 0.  A count of all the cards drawn from the shoe is the running count … it can be made easy by cancelling sets of cards …  This is then divided by the number of decks not seen.

Some other important factors – minimum betting unit and having a large (min 100) basic units.  For example if one is offered a game where a coin is flipped and you get 2 dollars for head and 1 dollar for tail – then of course the gamble has to be taken.  But if you have only 3 dollars then it is possible to lose all the money in 3-5 tries.  However if you have a 100 dollars then you have a serious chance of making a good profit.

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DON’T READ Revolution 2020 by Chetan Bhagat

10 Dec

This is the same rehashed story … grey human beings … some red thoughts … money … sleaze … love triangle … well suited for  a B-grade bollywood movie or for newbie readers, adolescents.

[Spoiler Alert]

The story is about Gopal, the boy who is intelligent but not a wizard and hence fails to crack the exams that are designed to eliminate everybody except a miniscule.  His problems are compounded by having only a poor sick father with court cases for a family and ofcourse a scheming uncle to complete the owes.  Father dies (donkey cries … sorry!) and Gopal is free of all accountability and opens an Engineering college (la grocery shop) after out-scheming his scheming-uncle with the help of an MLA.  Somewhere in between he finds the time to love the prettiest girl in school, lose her to his intelligent and entrance-exam-cracking best buddy Raghav, learn all the vices booze / smoke / drugs and the works … but NO girls!  Turn to adulthood our man has all the riches, an engineering college while the girl-friend-stealing-best-buddy is busy busting the big daddies of the city in a haze of red-journalism inspired by none less that Che Guevara.  The girl now comes back to Gopal.  However the good-man Gopal realizes that the red-journalist Raghav will do the country good by marrying the beautiful girl, especially since the marriage will lead to the son-in-law becoming the MLA; thanks to the girls lineage … and gives up the girl via a pseudo and staged orgy!!

I have some news Mr. Bhagat – no one will give up ones love for the sake of Vasudaiva Kutumbakam.  One’s life – maybe; one’s love  – never!

I wonder why the man-changing / sleeping-with-multiple-lovers girl is painted as a catch.  Do today’s youngsters really sleep around?  Even in small towns like Varanasi?

Grown-up adults please avoid!!!  DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY OR YOUR TIME ON THIS TRASH.

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