The College Geeks Who Beat the System

The MIT Blackjack Team started out quietly in 1977, when Bill Kaplan decided to be a high roller for a year before he went to college. The Straight-A high school student had a card-counting theory he wanted to test.

But first, he had to convince his stepfather his idea would work in practice. “I wiped him out at Blackjack for two weeks every night”, he recalled years later. “So he told my mother ‘Bill really can win, just let him go'”. And win he did!

In less than a year, the ro17604693449_e34afcec51_bokie player turned his $1,000 kitty into $35,000 playing Blackjack at Vegas casinos. His method was simple. He noted the cards as the dealer dealt them. Each time a high one came up, he increased his stake.

Card Counting and How It Works

There are only so many high and low cards in a pack. Card counters increase their advantage by helping them predict the next deal. So if more low cards have been coming the chances are the next few will be higher value ones. Croupiers try to counter the legitimate strategy with frequent shuffles.

The Day Bill Kaplan Went into Overdrive

After Bill Kaplan graduated to satisfy his mother, a bunch of MIT students heard of his ongoing successes, and asked him to train and manage a Blackjack team. After a few false starts, the new pals adopted a simple strategy.

Some members would break even while counting to avoid suspicion, while giving the lead players the heads ups they needed to make large profits. They had to adopt numerous disguises to avoid security asking them to leave. By 1993 over 80 MIT students were making money and having fun this way.

How the Casinos Fought Back… To an Extent

The gig fell apart after casino security figured the participants were all MIT students with addresses in or near Cambridge, Massachusetts, and circulated their yearbook photos. Card counting is still a legal and successful blackjack strategy, though. Other gamblers will only tolerate so much shuffling. That is the gap.