The M.I.T. Blackjack Team

blackjack_table2Teams come and go. Some leave a lasting legacy while others are forgotten pretty fast. The legacy of M.I.T. Blackjack Team endures and bestuklivecasinos.co.uk decided to write a brief article about the story of the MIT blackjack team.  This team was comprised of a group of students and former students of, among others, Harvard School of Business, Harvard University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The team is known to have used card counting techniques and more complex methods to beat land based casinos at blackjack worldwide. This team enjoyed tremendous success from 1979 through the initial years of the 21st century.

It is a fact that blackjack can be beaten, hands down, by a skilful player. Outside the basic strategy of when to hit and when to stand, players can use shuffle tracking, card counting, and hole carding to tilt the odds in their favour. From the early 1960s, a good number of card counting schemes have been developed, and casinos have altered gaming rules to counter the most effective strategies. The overriding theme of card counting is that as a low card is generally bad and a high card is normally good and as cards that have already been used since the previous shuffle can never be drawn, the player can keep track of the low and high cards that have already been played and know the possibility of getting a high as contrasted to low.

The story of the M.I.T. team

It is well documented that 6 MIT students trained themselves card counting in 1979. Strong-minded to put their newly discovered expertise to work, the group of 6 travelled to Atlantic City during the spring of 1979 to win their riches. After working together as one team in spring, the group members went their separate ways when most of them graduated from college in May. After this, some of the original group members never gambled again. Two members, Jonathan and Massar, nonetheless, maintained an enthusiastic interest in card counting and chose to make Cambridge, MA, home to MIT, their permanent residence.

In November 1979, a proficient blackjack player contacted Massar. His intention was to convince Massar to form a new group to travel to Atlantic City. The mission of the new team was to take advantage of the New Jersey Casino Control Commission’s ruling. The commission had held that it was illegal for Casinos in New Jersey to ban card counters in general. According to the commission, casinos could only ban individual players. The new group (consisting of four players and an investor who invested $5000) traveled to Atlantic City in December 1979. The group played continuously through May 1980 and multiplied the $5000 capital four folds.

The M.I.T. Blackjack Team played on and off after 1980, but interest faded as casino regulations, weakened management focus, and player fatigue, caused the group to lose key players and eventually stop playing.

In its entire course, The M.I.T. Blackjack Team ran more than 20 partnerships for a decade, 1979 to 1989. At least 70 players played on the team on certain capacity (either as key players, card counters, or as support staff) over the team’s course. Surprisingly, every partnership was profitable during the entire course. With all expenses paid, the partnerships enjoyed returns ranging from 4 to over 300 percent per annum.