MIT Blackjack Team

In the 1980s, I was discovering a few things about myself.

During that decade, I was forced to take a good, hard look in the mirror and admit to two very different kinds of deep – rooted loves. That’s right, my heart was equally divided between both Brooke Shields (hey, you try sitting through Pretty Baby, The Blue Lagoon and Endless Love in one sitting and see what happens) and blackjack.

Sadly, only one of my obsessions ever came to fruition. Blackjack was the first game that I ever learned how to play, and my love for the game began in the 80s, when I heard about the infamous MIT Team and how they tackled Atlantic City casinos holding what was purported to be the very key to systematically winning at blackjack and unlocking the casinos’ coffers. Apparently, they broke those coffers open to the tune of millions of dollars ultimately.

It all started with an MIT mini course called “How to Gamble if You Must”. A group of MIT students attended the course to learn about blackjack card counting methods, and they eventually decided to put their theories into practice in Atlantic City. Nothing came of that initial little trip, but in late November of the same year, a gambler known as “Dave” contacted one of the original organizers of the initial Atlantic City trip, and proposed to give it another go. Recruiting a rag – tag team of other MIT students, a total of four players and an investor put in a collective $5,000 in capital, and tried again, brazenly attempting to take advantage of a recent ruling by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission that made it illegal for Atlantic City casinos to bar card counters.

Results still weren’t nearly as spectacular as anyone would have like.

The shift began in the 80s. With an expanded 10 – member team and investors (not to mention a much larger bankroll), the MIT Team managed to make headway in 1980, then really hit their stride by the mid 80s. By then, the casinos caught wind of the motley crew’s activities, and they were systematically banned from playing.

This seems unfair but who’s to say what is fair and unfair. You see, maybe it was unfair to the gamblers but what they were doing, was it far to the casinos? These casinos do have an advantage against the people who come to play but the people who choose to play do so with that knowledge. They accept responsibility and accept it as part of doing business there. Don’t you think that the casinos themselves should be afforded the same courtesy? There is a moral dilemma there but the fact remains that when you are gambling against the house both parties must accept the terms of the bet. The casinos just stopped allowing the bet to be made in that instance…