During the 1990's a group of scientists from the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) managed to cause great embarrassment to casinos in Las Vegas, this group, known as the MIT blackjack team, managed to scoop millions of dollars in few years. Though the exact figure is not known to the public, experts from the casinos industry tell that the MIT Team made more than $4,000,000.
The MIT blackjack team was consisted of bright mathematicians and engineers who at first had no real interest in blackjack card counting systems. Before they ever dared of making thousands of dollars in blackjack tables in Las Vegas' casinos they were enjoying playing blackjack as an after school activity related to probabilities science. They studied it by simulating blackjack games.
But not for long did they remain pure old fashioned MIT students. In the early years of the 1990's they have made blackjack into a business. The Team assembled on empty class rooms every week, they practiced their blackjack basic strategy and soon they mastered card counting techniques. The MIT blackjack team practiced real-life casinos simulations at apartments and warehouses in different locations at Boston.
Just like Ken Uston and his team during the 80's, the MIT blackjack Team built fake-casinos and simulated different scenarios. They learn to count cards while being harassed by the typical Pit bosses that can be found in Las Vegas casinos. All of the MIT Blackjack Team gone excessive training and tests to make sure that they got what it takes to beat casinos.
The MIT Blackjack Team learnt all the blackjack variants and the rules of blackjack, but they didn't stop here. They perfected their systems and moved on to take over Las Vegas casinos and blackjack tables.
The team used card counting systems and perfected them along the way. They were the first team to use "Shuffle Tracking" and "Ace Tracking" methods to boost their odds. Shuffle tracking is a theory that claims that dealers at live casinos do not have the time to properly shuffle the decks, so it is not fully "randomized" after every shuffle. And so, small "packets" of cards stay together. The MIT Team for blackjack was able to predict certain "strings" of high value and low value cards inside the deck.
When they were able to do so they could also predict when a certain "plus" of Aces would appear, a condition that boost their odds by 35%. Such card counting techniques were firstly used by the blackjack card counting geniuses from MIT. But not only did they have better card counting techniques, their profiles escaped casinos' "counters profile", which made it possible for them to gain profits without being detected.
From the days of Ken Uston casinos have built a certain "profile" of blackjack card counters. They were used to white-middle-age men. What they didn't know is that the MIT Blackjack Team was consisted of people that weren't all white. Many of the MIT Team had dark skin, and surprisingly (to the casinos) they even had women players.
The MIT Team made sure that its members had Asian and foreign face characters, which made it possible for them to slip into fake identities. Many times members of the MIT Team pretended to be the sons of rich foreigner business men: They simply walked into the casinos with thousands of dollars, pretending to be spoiled brats from rich families.
All of the casinos were more than eager to grab their share from these young and rich blackjack members, they haven't suspected a thing and this lead the way for the MIT card counting masters of blackjack to scoop thousands of dollars.
During a single trip to Las Vegas the MIT Team earned about $400,000, a huge amount of cash that should have tilted casinos, but no, the casinos' profile was working against them – they simply didn't see it coming.
The brilliant blackjack players from MIT played as a team it was harder for casinos to spot them. It is much easier to spot a single card counter that's working alone than a team of card counting blackjack players. The Team was consisted of three types of players – Spotters, Gorillas and Big Players (BP).
The spotter was a member of the MIT Team that didn't bet beyond the minimum limit of the table. His job was simply to count cards, it was a job assigned to new members of the team before moving up in the ranks. When he was assured that the decks were into his favor his signaled other members of the teams – and then they entered the game with their big bankroll.
The Gorilla was a player that only played; such players were not responsible to count cards. When they saw a Spotter signaling them they entered the table with large amounts of money and they gambled till they got a second signal that told them that the odds are not in their favor. The gorilla was half a player half a performer – he pretended to be a high roller and dressed and acted accordingly. Sometimes they pretended to be drunk. This scheme did nicely since the casinos did not 'count' them as card counters.
The Big Player was actually an improved "Gorilla" type player: he could bet and count at the same time. The MIT Team's Big Players were elegant card counters in disguise of stylish high rollers. Not only did they count cards while playing they were also smart enough to adjust their techniques to use Doubling Down, Splitting pairs and Doubling after Splitting blackjack options, which weren't much in use by card counters. These boost their bankroll tremendously.
Since the MIT Team had oriental appearance their Big Players and Gorilla could play hands of $1,000 each without being suspected by pit bosses throughout Las Vegas. They were Asian, Greek or attractive women. What pit boss would suspect a lovely young lady that wears too much make-up that she had gone severe training at fake blackjack tables in Boston?
The huge success caused the MIT Team of blackjack counters to many troubles. They had to transport their wins over the state border without being detected. Many times they simply stuck packs of $100 bills in inner pockets or they taped the packs to their body underneath their clothes.
The MIT Team scooped millions of dollars of blackjack tables across Las Vegas and soon enough the Griffin Investigation Company, which works for casinos all over the world, was onto them. Soon, one by one, all members of the MIT Blackjack Team was barred from casinos. In 1997 the MIT Team split and the members continued to scoop money off blackjack tables across the US. Ben Mezrich, one of the members of the MIT Team wrote a book about this episode in the history of blackjack. His book, "Bringing Down the House", is now being filmed and during 2006 it would reach the screens. The movie is being directed by Kevin Spacey and surprisingly enough MGM finance it, maybe they are trying to gain their lost money that Ben Mezrich and his team took from them.
Dan kingston Editorial Staff 1st of January - 2006.