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Ropes & Gray Partner Was Blackjack Winner Portrayed in ‘21’

Posted May 1, 2008 8:39 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A litigation partner at Ropes & Gray is admitting she was a member of the winning card-counting blackjack team that is portrayed in the movie 21.

Jane Willis sees some connections between winning at blackjack and being a successful litigator, the Am Law Daily reports. Both endeavors “require perseverance, attention to detail, and in both situations you’re taking calculated risks,” she told the publication.

Willis says the Kate Bosworth character is only “loosely based” on her, and the movie takes some liberties with the facts. For example, Willis was a student at Harvard Law School, rather than MIT, when she was a member of the team, the Boston Globe reports. She didn’t make as much money as portrayed in the movie, and the love scene between her and group leader Jeff Ma is pure fiction.

Willis worked as a spotter for the team, finding “hot” tables where many high cards remained in the deck, improving the chances of winning. She’d signal to Ma when she found a good table, and he would then sit down and begin playing. She was paid a percentage of the winnings.

Willis says she has given up blackjack but she still visits Las Vegas. In 2005, she got married in a church behind the Tropicana and across from Mandalay Bay.

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