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21’s card-counting m.i.t. prodigy based on this guy?

April 3rd, 2008 · 2 Comments


The house was on Inman Street, near Cambridge’s Central Square. Peter Woit recalls the morning he came downstairs and found his roommate obviously upset.

“John, what’s wrong?,” he asked.

Have you seen a dirty pink laundry bag?” came the response.

“No, why?”

“There was $80,000 in it.”

According to an Xcomony write-up, those are the words of John Chang, a one-time leader of the infamous “MIT team” of card-counting student prodigies that raked in the dough at blackjack tables in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. The team was the subject of Bringing Down the House, a 2002 best-selling book, which in turn was adapted for the big screen as 21, Hollywood’s latest smash hit. More from Xconomy:

He didn’t really care that much about the money—it was beating the casinos that turned him on. “I just found it very fun, and once I got the money I was like, ‘Well it’s a trophy,’” Chang says. “I wasn’t going to use it for anything. And so when people gave it back to me, I really had no idea what to do with it…It was just like lying around in my apartment…I didn’t even know how much it was.” When Laurie, his fiancée at the time, came out to help him move west, she began cleaning his filthy Cambridge digs and discovered more than $150,000, mainly in chips, tucked into various nooks and crannies, bags and jars. Chang was mortified. Each time she found something, he says, “I’m like, ‘Oops…Please, please don’t tell anybody. I swear, there’s nothing more.’ But of course there was.”

This may not be for real, but Chang apparently has a blog set up at www.mickeyrosa.com, a site named after the movie character that portrays him. He apparently hasn’t received any royalties or even recognition for his role in inspiring the movie and book.

Via Slashdot.
Photo from 20/20 Filmsight.

Tags: books · fun and games · movies/tv/video · neato

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 David David // Apr 5, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    Mickey Rosa is a fictionalized character, at best partially based on a number of people, including the founder and manager of the team and later co-managers. According to an article in the Boston Globe that debunks the nonfiction status of Mezrich’s book, “Mezrich, by contrast, simply did not speak with some of the people on whom he based central characters of the book. Rosa, for example, he says is based on three men, including Bill Kaplan, who in the 1980s was the leader of the first MIT blackjack team, and Chang. But both Chang and Kaplan say Mezrich never interviewed them for the book. (Mezrich says he can’t remember if he interviewed any of the three.)

  • 2 mark // Apr 7, 2008 at 12:35 am

    Thanks, David!

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