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The Bookworm Gambler’s Digest: Busting Vegas

Ben Mezrich Busting Vegas covers

Anothernovel by Ben Mezrich: similar to Bringing Down The House, but with more excess in everything: money, women and bling.

This story takes us back to MIT again. The sequel to the popular Bringing Down The House, Busting Vegas is another book of Ben Mezrich that is definitely worth mentioning. It tells the story of one Semyon Dukach, who was born in Russia and studied at MIT and become one of the most famous blackjack players Las Vegas has ever seen. He also appears in Burning Down the House and is the only character willing to give his actual name to the story.


• Dukach was the Darling of Vegas
• Real events in the book
• A story of cards, money and women

He became the Darling of Vegas at the young age of 21 and his story is one that will keep you cooped up in your house until you’ve read the last sentence.
Before getting down to the business of discussing the book, let’s talk about this ballsy guy who took Vegas like a hurricane. Dubbed the Darling of Vegas in gambling news, the Russian-born kid quickly became one of the top players of the blackjack group Strategic Investments. In an interview with ThePOGG, Dukach said the following, “I did learn counting first, but right away I started doing card steering and later some ace sequencing,and minimal shuffle tracking. I was very dedicated to the idea of professional blackjack, worked veryhard, and did in fact become one of the strongest players early on.”

Playing PacMan cost a quarter, so he got better at it

As he recounts in his interview with ThePOGG, Dukach arrived in the US at the age of 11 and started playing PacMan. Each game, however, cost exactly one quarter. He didn’t have too many quarters at his disposal, so he could only play a couple of times each week. He soon realized that in order to be able to play more, he had to become better at the game. So he went to the library and learnt about it. This little anecdote shows that even from very early on, if he wanted to achieve something, he would do everything and anything. From Strategic Investments, he went on to creating Amphibian Investments with the same goals: to make as much money as humanly possible.

From the interview with ThePOGG, it also becomes clear that although it is insinuated in the book that casinos caught on very quickly, Dukach once spent three months in Caesars: “My longest stint was at Caesars in 93 as Nikolai Nogov, I think I went about 3 months with almost every weekend doing cuts mostly before finally getting kicked out. Generally though we did get heatfast.” They are lucky that US gambling laws aren’t that strict in this area… Seems like the luxury casinos usually caught on because of known card counting associates.

The Monte Carlo happenings in the book were “pretty accurate”

Semyon Dukach

When it comes to the events in the book and the threats players received, it soon becomes obvious that this is a true story. According to Dukach, the Monte Carlo incident depicted in the book was very close to reality: “The story about Monte Carlo was prettyaccurate (except it happened with Katie and Andy [Bloch], not some fictional blended characters). People Iknew have been threatened more explicitly. People they knew have been hurt, but before my time,and generally outside the US.” There are some instances in the book where Mezrich uses some other happening in Dukach’s life and weaves it into the actual story. This is something that has caused a bit of a stir within the protagonist.

In any case, Ben Mezrich managed to pull off another extremely compelling story with almost the same topic. Once you’ve read it, you’ll be happy that you decided to do so because the pages are bursting with action and suspense. What makes it more interesting is the fact that it is based on true events and that the main character is still alive and breathing, leading an Angel investor organization up to this day. This is a great read between two sessions of mobile betting and will definitely get you in the mood to improve your Blackjack skills.

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