In the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, a team of students, primarily from the MIT, formed a group known as the MIT Blackjack Team. The team’s main strategy was card counting, which involves keeping track of the cards dealt during a game to gain an advantage over the casino. By using card counting techniques, they were able to determine when the remaining cards were favorable to the players or the dealer, and adjust their bets accordingly.
The team’s approach was based on the work of mathematician Edward O. Thorp, who published a book called “Beat the Dealer” in 1962. Thorp’s book described basic card counting techniques and the concept of the “Basic Strategy,” which is a mathematically derived strategy for playing blackjack that minimizes the house edge.
The MIT Blackjack Team took these principles to another level by refining the card counting techniques, developing sophisticated signaling systems, and utilizing a team-based approach. They divided tasks among team members, with some acting as “spotters” who counted cards and signaled to the “big players” when the deck became favorable, allowing them to make larger bets.
The team operated with strict discipline, adhering to strict rules and guidelines to avoid detection by casino surveillance. They would travel to different casinos across the United States and internationally, accumulating winnings over time.
Their success attracted the attention of casino security and surveillance personnel, who became increasingly vigilant in detecting card counters. Casinos started employing countermeasures, such as shuffling the decks more frequently, banning suspected card counters, or using facial recognition technology.
Despite the countermeasures, the MIT Blackjack Team managed to amass significant profits estimated to be in the millions of dollars. However, their success was not without risks and challenges. Several team members were caught, and some faced legal consequences for their activities, including being banned from casinos.
The MIT Blackjack Team’s story gained considerable attention, and it has been the subject of books, documentaries, and even a feature film called “21” released in 2008, loosely based on their exploits.
It’s worth noting that while card counting is not illegal, casinos have the right to ban players they suspect of using such techniques. Additionally, casinos have taken measures to make it more difficult for card counters to succeed, such as using automatic shuffling machines and multiple decks in blackjack games.
Featured image courtesy of MGM