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MIT Blackjack Team

Many casino specialists suggest that blackjack would have never been as popular as it is today, if not for a group of students that managed to find a way to increase their odds in the game tremendously, through card counting. The group, called the MIT Blackjack Team (since most of the students and ex-students from the team were from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or MIT) started out around 1979, practicing their card counting strategies for almost 3 decades.

Origins of the MIT Blackjack Team

Until 1979, card counting was illegal in casinos and players caught counting would be excluded from the game and banned from the casino on most occasions. In early 1979 however, the New Jersey Casino Commission gave out a ruling that made it illegal for state casinos to take any actions against card counters, as it was considered a viable strategy for blackjack. It was in Atlantic City, under the cover of this rule that the MIT Blackjack Team started out.

A team of four, started by a person known only as “Dave”, together with 3 MIT graduates formed a travel team with a $5000 capital that would go to Atlantic City and try out their card counting techniques. With the team having little success and frustration gathering up, “Dave” was pushed out of the team and one of the MIT students known only as “Mr. M” went on to meet Bill Kaplan, a famous blackjack team leader that had great success with the game. Kaplan agreed to help the MIT Blackjack Team out and observe them over a weekend in Las Vegas, pointing out exactly what they were doing wrong and what card counting strategies should have been used in a particular situation. With Kaplan being a “mentor” for the team, they soon started having success.

The team, under Kaplan’s management and supervision went professional and started earning their investment back, at the same time looking to recruit more players in their ranks. The new players, mostly recruited from the MIT, had to go thorough “trial by fire”, being tested in several games they would have to pass perfectly, as well as real casino conditions. By 1986, the team already had 25 players with a capital of $300,000.

However, the huge success of the MIT Blackjack Team was short-lived, as other casinos maintained the barring rule and eventually almost all members of the team were spotted and banned throughout the country. The secretive nature of the MIT Blackjack Team was uncovered in the early 21st century and most of the group’s components were either banned or they retired, but the amount earned during their activity period is considered to be around $4-$10 million.

Despite the relatively short life of the MIT Blackjack Team, it helped popularize the game a great deal and economists believe that they actually helped casinos, instead of lowering their profits. The notoriety of the team made many wannabe count carders to start up playing blackjack and losing, which more than made up over a few years to the $4-$10 millions that casinos lost to the original MIT Blackjack Team.

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