The History and Methods of the Famous MIT Blackjack Team
Following the release of hit Hollywood movie ‘21’, the legendary MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Blackjack team has become world famous for their card counting methods. But, long before the film’s release, the team took on, beat and won millions at casinos in Vegas, Atlantic City and beyond using their mathematical methodology - which was legal and most importantly successful.
To beat the system, the team allocated themselves different roles; the spotter, the signaler, the big player and the gorilla big player. The team had many different guises, formations and strategies between 1979-2000 and this page gives you an insight into the methods that the MIT blackjack team used and how they organized their teams.
MIT Blackjack – Early History
Card counting first became prominent in 1962, Edward Thorpe released a book called 'Beat the Dealer’ while he was a professor at MIT. He detailed to the reader, if you're smart enough, clever enough and able to count cards in an intelligent manner then you can beat the system of Blackjack and win big bucks. Other casino games were virtually impossible to beat in a 'legal way' but here he had found a method to beat the system which didn't involve going to jail.
The first MIT blackjack team was led by JP Massar in 1979, which yielded mediocre success. The following year a small team was formed with a budget of $5,000 and they were able to quadruple their investment in just a few months. The next step came when Massar met Bill Kaplan in 1980, who at the time had his own Blackjack team, which generated an amazing 35x return on their investment. He watched the MIT team and decided to overhaul their counting methods in order to enable them greater success.
The MIT team averaged between $10-20,000 a weekend and their best ever collect was $500,000. It's not a guarantee that they would win each time but with the amount of investment, size of teams and input into the counts they knew they would average a good win each weekend.
MIT Blackjack – Card Counting
Blackjack is the last casino game that can be beaten legally. There's actually a skill, a science and an art behind beating the cards - with enough time and effort anyone can do it if they practice and train. The toughest thing about counting cards is putting your money on the line. It's a risky business which can pay off if you play your cards right.
In Blackjack when the cards are dealt the odds are constantly changing. There are two important things that need to be known about Blackjack; low cards are bad and high cards are good. With high cards, the player is more likely to get Blackjack while the dealer is more likely to go bust. The way you keep track of the difference is known as 'the point count' system. It doesn't matter if you're playing with one deck or between 6-8 decks because there will always be the same amount of high cards as there are low cards.
In the point system, the low cards are worth +1 while the high cards are worth -1 points. The more high cards that hit the table then lower the count which means it's best to leave the table. The more low cards that are dealt the higher the count is, which means it's time to place your bet. The higher the count then the higher you should make your bet.
The way the MIT team operated was to start with a big player at the table then they would bring in spotters. The spotters just kept track of the difference between high cards and low cards and they would sometimes bet the table minimum. Their goal was to signal to the big player whether the table was hot or not. Once they had found the hot table they would give some kind of signal to the big player and signal the count. The big player would then come in and start placing the big bets.
MIT Blackjack – Casino Security
Card counting is completely legal, players are not altering the cards in any way. Players are just using information that is available for all to see, they are just using card counting methods. However, the problem today is more to do with the fact that card counting has taken on a new face, there are now teams and groups of card counters who exchange information so when the big player comes to the table from this group they are privy to information that is not available to the rest of the people on the table.
Casinos don't like this and view it as cheating. They now collate a 'wanted' list of who they call undesirable characters and display this poster all around their venues. It was especially difficult for the MIT team because the casinos trawled their yearbooks to find pictures to use in these posters so it became extremely difficult for them to disguise their identities.
MIT Blackjack – Counting Not Possible Online
Unfortunately, you can’t count cards online. The deal of the cards is controlled by a RNG (random number generator) and not by a traditional deck. There is nothing to stop you practicing keeping track of the dealt cards while enjoying online blackjack games though.