Brad Feld

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I Could Have Been A Card Counter

Mar 29, 2008

Amy and I went to see 21: The Movie today.  It’s based on the phenomenal book Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions by Ben Mezrich.  I met Ben and had sushi with him a few months ago – he was really psyched about the upcoming movie and the relaunch of the book as 21.  Ben – congrats!

Amy and I had a blast.  One of Amy’s ex-boyfriends had been part of the MIT Blackjack Team (1989-1990) so I’ve heard plenty of stories about it over the years (and vaguely remember it when it was going down.)  MIT is a remarkable place and a fantastic backdrop for a "smart people" morality tale (similar to another one of my favorite movies – Good Will Hunting.)

There were a lot of "MIT inaccuracies" during the movie that resulted in nudges and whispers between me and Amy.  Following are the ones I can remember.

  • Ben’s "4.0" average.  MIT is on a 5 point scale – so his 4.0 average is a solid B rather than "perfect."
  • The 2.09 competition.  This is really the 2.70 competition.
  • Building 4 Hallway.  The door frames are black, not blue (i.e. this isn’t building 4.)
  • Pre-Med.  There is no "pre-med" at MIT.
  • "A’s".  In the movie, people talked about getting A’s. MIT-ers don’t talk about letter grades – they focus on getting "above class average" which would translate into an A or B.
  • MIT Scenes.  With the exception of a few scenes outside the great dome, all of the MIT scenes were somewhere other than MIT (apparently MIT didn’t allow filming on campus.)

One of the treats was seeing Colin Angle (a frat brother and co-founder / CEO of iRobot) in a cameo role give the award at the 2.09 contest near the end of the movie (presumably modeled after Professor Woodie Flowers.)

I’d love to hear any other MIT inaccuracies that anyone notices in the movie.  MIT grads – comment freely.