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Film loosely based on MIT blackjack team opens Friday

The movie "21," a fictional work loosely based on the story of the MIT blackjack team that won millions of dollars from casinos across the country, opens in theaters Friday.

Throughout the 1990s, several MIT students were part of a team that used advanced card-counting techniques to improve their chances of winning at blackjack. Their story became Ben Mezrich's book "Bringing Down the House," which served as the basis for the fictional "21."

Most notably, the character played by Kevin Spacey, portrayed as an MIT professor, is entirely fictional. While his irresponsible acts may enliven the Hollywood script, they are entirely unrepresentative of the Institute.

Those familiar with MIT should not be surprised that its students are capable of the calculations and observations necessary to outsmart casinos. In addition to its global leadership in science and engineering, MIT remains a mathematics powerhouse. As just one example, the MIT math team recently finished third at the prestigious William Lowell Putnam intercollegiate mathematics competition, garnering 21 out of the top 74 scores.

And while shots of Killian Court and other MIT exteriors dot "21," the movie was actually filmed at Boston University, at the Christian Science Center in Boston and in Las Vegas.

The careful MIT observer will notice several alumni also have small credited roles in the film, including iRobot co-founder Colin Angle '89, SM '91, who provided the movie robot; Jeffrey Ma '94; and Henry Houh '89, '90, SM '91, PhD '98.

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