Encore Boston Harbor Casino is only 14 minutes from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, home of the famous MIT blackjack team. The team has not been active for almost 20 years, but this location raises the question: what would the world’s most famous card counter syndicate have done with a new casino in the immediate vicinity? “We would have played until we were kicked out and no longer allowed in,” Andy Bloch told 888, Bloch, an experienced member of the MIT Blackjack team and later a successful poker professional, added: “I don’t know what the rules at Encore are, but I’m sure we could have found a way to beat the game.” We’ve done it in many other casinos – including Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, both of which opened near the MIT. “
Even though nobody knows what the most recent generation of math prodigies will come up with at MIT with the new casino in New England, the opening is a good time to throw a look at the groundbreaking blackjack team that d ie casinos au f caused a stir in the whole world and revolutionized the concept of competitive gaming .
The team was founded by Bill Kaplan (unrelated to the author), who was just the head of a group of card counters in Las Vegas. After the infamous player burnout there, he moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts to attend Harvard Business School. He told Boston Magazine that he mentioned this in a restaurant and a group of students from MIT approached him and asked about the subject. They said, ‘Are you talking about blackjack ? We’ve been playing for a few months now and trying to make money. “
Just like that, a new group was formed. The MIT Blackjack Team was founded in 1980. As Kaplan explained, the team’s success was largely based on intent and organization. He said that it was exactly like an actual company, “Training, extensive training, checkout process, two hours of perfect playing, leaving the table properly. It was really tighter than most companies. ”
Maybe so, but it can be argued that people who work for most companies don’t accidentally leave six-figure corporate money in a public area. This was the case when one of the MIT players accidentally forgot a paper bag filled with $ 125,000 in blackjack earnings. It was left behind in a classroom in MIT. A caretaker discovered the sack of cash and kept it safe. With the help of Alan Dershowitz (who helped defend OJ Simpson and recently worked on the Epstein scandal), the money (which was originally considered drug money) was returned.
It sounds almost unbelievable, but just forgetting about $ 125,000 is relatively easy if you do a lot more. According to Mike Aponte, a former MIT player, MIT has won over 10 million in six years. “It’s not like everyone became a multi-millionaire, but it was a relatively small group of people. I invested $ 1,500 in the summer. By November, my investment was worth $ 100,000. Then of course I just kept going. “
Another essential reason of success for the MIT team was that the players were at their best at the time. “There were people who played better in casinos than during training sessions,” said Jon Hirschtick, who was part of MIT from 1984 to 1993. Many blackjack players had ADS; So you can concentrate more [than people without disorder], but you can’t really control it. These people should just focus on the cards that came out of the card slot.
With all the focus that for n blackjack success erfo is conducive – Deer Tick, remembers that he sat with a teammate in Atlantic City and talked about the high-end cars that they can afford – are over the years many entertaining anecdotes surfaced. One of the best was John Chang, an MIT blackjack wizard on whom Kevin Spacey’s ” 21 ” character was based in part.
Chang was often recognized as a card counter and consequently attracted the attention of his teammates. He said that his classmates absolutely refused to play with him and would only consent to it if he was in disguise so he dressed up as a woman. “Her shoes were my size and she had everything I needed. I did it three times: in Illinois, in the Bahamas and in Atlantic City. ”
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The first two trips went smoothly. However, Atlantic City was a different story. Chang recounted how he saw the hands of a delicate Chinese woman next to him, and how he hid his hands afterwards. The security detail took one look at his hands and laughed. Then an Asian employee came and whispered in his ear: “We know who you are.” I got up to go and a security guard said to me, “Lose the pearls, Esmeralda.” It was embarrasing. I walked through the entire casino to make sure I wasn’t followed when I left. “
There was a time when Chang and his team left before the situation out of hand. He remembers another night in AC when they counted cards again when his partner got a 19 on one hand and an 11 on the other. He knew the next two cards would be a 2 and a 10. The guy of course doubled and got blackjack twice. Chang recalls saying that they have to leave before they were arrested.
They were able to successfully escape from the casino, but MIT couldn’t keep up with the changing levels of tolerance within the gambling halls they visited. In 1997 the MGM Grand in Las Vegas was the best place to play. The casino had the biggest promotion and no real disguise was necessary.
It looked particularly promising this year, on June 28, 1997, the night of the fight between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield. “I was sitting at an MGM table with yellow chips in front of me, worth $ 1,000 each, for a total of $ 70,000. The fight had started and there was tremendous action at the tables; nobody noticed, ”said Chang. As the blackjack games raged at the tables, the third round at MGM Grand Garden Arena was drawing to a close, and a frustrated Mike Tyson bit off Holyfield’s ear. “Then, after the fight ended prematurely, there was an uproar. Tables were knocked over, chips stolen from racks, people arrested. This coincided with Kerry Packer’s $ 26 million profit. ”
It wasn’t the end of the MIT team. But it was the end of an era for high stakes benefit players. The actual end came three years later, in 2000, at least in part by the annoyed friend of an MIT player who identified team members in the now disbanded Griffin Detective Agency. Griffin had a database of scammers and benefit players without mistakenly distinguishing between the two. Since most of the team members were now in this database, playing in the casinos became almost impossible for them.
Some MIT members switched to other types of gambling. Others have started businesses to succeed and there are those who continue to deal with blackjack. Chang falls into the latter camp. As he more or less remembers MIT’s biggest win – “As a team, it was $ 400,000 or $ 500,000 on a Super Bowl weekend,” – Chang tries to prevent himself from indulging too much in the past. “I don’t think about what I can buy with money,” he said casually. “I’m just playing a game.”