MIT Blackjack Team

Blackjack is one of the only casino games that a skilled player can actually beat the house and be guaranteed a profit. The way that people go about this is to count cards, that is use a mathematical formula to keep track of what cards remain in the deck of cards and then alter their bets accordingly.

In the early 1980s a group of students and ex-students from the elite universities in America, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Havard Business School and Harvard University successfully operated an elaborate card counting team that netted them millions of dollars over a twenty year period.

In May 1980 a man by the name of J.P. Massar overheard a conversation about professional blackjack whilst out for a meal in a Chinese restaurant and introduced himself to the speaker, Bill Kaplan, a Harvard MBA Graduate who it turns out had run a blackjack team for three years which had returned 35 times his initial investment in just nine months.

Over the coming months Massar and Kaplan assembled a team of mathematical genius’, trained them to play eight six-deck shoes almost perfectly and let them loose in a casino environment. On August 1, 1980 they all contributed towards the $89,000 bankroll and ten weeks later they were earning an average of $162.50 per hour!

By 1984, Kaplan could not walk into any casino in the USA without the floor staff immediately searching for his team of players and he eventually quit to return to his day job of real estate investment and development. However, many of the team stayed together and continued to net millions of dollars until they were completely disbanded in the early 21st Century.

A movie released in 2008 called simply “21,” starring Kevin Spacey depicted, albeit loosely, the MIT Blackjack Team’s actions in Las Vegas. The film is based on a book by Ben Mizrich called “Bringing Down The House” which was written with the help of some of the team’s members.

Card counting is a relatively easy skill to learn but almost impossible to implement properly in a casino due to facial recognition technology and the fact the floor staff quickly realise when someone is counting cards, meaning the player is usually ejected from the premises. It is impossible to do online due to the continuous shuffling of the cards for security reasons however.

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