The MIT Blackjack Team Story
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The MIT Blackjack Team was created by a group of students and former students who attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). This small group of people used advanced methods of card-counting and defeated several large casinos. They were able to expand their private bank accounts and continued to attack the gambling industry from the mid 90's until the early 21st century.
The team initially began as a simple after school club that was held on campus where students went to unwind and play card games. After some time, the concept of counting cards was revealed and students began to use the system to their advantage. For the mathematically advanced, the allure of winning large amounts of cash off of a statistics-based game was too much.
Soon after the idea took place, recruiting began. Flyers were posted around the campus to see if there were any potential candidates. As the numbers began to wane, the remaining applicants were given a test and then went through rigorous training on learning the system. The students then created an elaborate mock-up of casinos, which included apartments, warehouses, and classrooms in the Boston area. This enabled the team to accurately play to each individual's strengths while creating team-based tactics in order to mask certain patterns that appeared during card-counting. While this may sound simple in theory, it took hours of drills and practice before the techniques could be implemented.
Even after these drills, the team still had much to practice before they would be able to perform their strategy on a live poker table. Before they set foot in a real casino, players had to go through several tests and know the job of each person on the team. After that, they were forced to undergo simulated scenarios such as harassment and distractions to ensure they could still perform. After hours of rehearsals, the team determined that their system gave them a margin over the house of 10% to 20%, sometimes even higher. To give you a comparison, one of the authors of the most definitive card counting books could only give players an advantage of 2% over the house.
Still, after all the practice and drill, the MIT Team was not ready to take on Vegas. They started by going to Boston's Chinatown to see how well their system would hold up. The end result was that they were extremely successful.
After receiving financial aid from anonymous investors, the team created a corporation titled Strategic Investments. By creating this corporation, the team was able to use their techniques with a bankroll of hundreds of thousands of dollars, significantly more than an average player would be able to use. Of course, the investors profited significantly from the team and their winnings. One investor earned a 154% increase after just one investment when the team racked up a $400,000 winning weekend in Vegas. The team was able to turn a $5 million dollar profit in less than a decade.
Because the team was to strategic and rehearsed so much, casinos were not able to figure out how the MIT team was winning. Eventually, certain players were identified and barred from the game, but they were quickly replaced with other people. Private investigators were eventually hired by the casinos which finally lead to a connection to MIT. Yearbook pictures were downloaded onto a database, making identifying team player much easier.
With most of the team barred from the games, they eventually retired and began to follow other passions. Some used their success to become public speakers or start a business in giving blackjack seminars. Eventually, network executives took note of the story and turned it into several projects. A book, documentary, and game show were all created based off of the MIT Blackjack Team. There is the 2007 film 21, produced by Kevin Spacey.
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