Secrets of the MIT Blackjack Team and Their Card Counting Tricks

MIT team must not be described as a small group of gamblers gambling to earn by cheating. Rather, they are the greatest cheaters of all times who learnt the excellent cheating technique due to card-counter Edward Thorp. He used a skill instead of breaking the law to exploit the whole casino system. The Team’s operative goals and constant turnover made new players join it frequently while the players made hefty profits from the whole set-up.

About MIT team

The MIT Blackjack Team was comprised of students and ex-students from Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and other top college students who knew how to count cards to beat other players. The team along with its successors operated from 1979 to the early 21st century. The MIT blackjack team became a business organization with time where new players joined after a strict selection process that included card counting sessions under extreme conditions. The new players were then provided with extensive training for free with which they made huge profits in casinos.

After the MIT team was caught, many casinos employed rules regarding card counting and even banned it so the MIT team could not use the trick anymore. With the help of flashcards, the MIT team learned to associate with specific cards and numbers. If the spotter used these words in a sentence, it means the person was signalling the big player to modify the bet.

Card counting is, however, not a flawless way in the long term. The teams lost many times but their confidence in the system and faith kept gamblers moving forward and the team spirit actually paid off. While many businesses fail because of team issues, the MIT team flourished in the late 1990s because of the teams’ joint efforts and trust in one another. The team looked out for casinos that could not detect card counters and kept the track of security personnel that were aware of the technique.

Strategy and techniques used by the MIT team

The MIT team recruited students through players friends and flyers from colleges across the globe. The team tested every potential player to verify if they were capable to count the cards. If found, they were further trained for free and appointed under specific team members. The trained teams had to pass ‘trial by fire’ rounds which comprised 8-six deck shoe play which had to be played perfectly. Thereafter, they were sent for further training and supervision alongside check-out procedures in real-life casinos until they proved themselves as full-stake players.

The MIT team combined players with card counting knowledge and big players who could maximize the opportunity besides disguising the betting pattern produced by card counting.  The MIT team card counting techniques gave every player an edge of nearly 2 per cent, but some tricks used by strong players gave about a 4 per cent edge. The MIT team faced many issues attaining such edges in live tables and their results always depended on the straight card counting method.

Who developed the MIT team card counting technique?

The MIT team’s card counting trick was originally developed by a professional gambler named Al Francesco. He was one of the seven inductees into the Blackjack Hall of Fame. The team play was first written by Ken Uston who was a member of Al Francesco’s team along with Blair Hull and Bill Erb.

Before the first MIT team was established, Uston’s handbook on blackjack team play, Million Dollar Blackjack, was released. Kaplan improved Francesco’s teamwork techniques and applied them to the MIT group. The team idea made it possible for gamblers and capitalists to pool their resources, lowering their “risk of ruin” and making it more challenging for casinos to identify card counters at their tables.

MIT team and media

MIT’s early 21st century team has now become a source of entertainment with numerous movies and books based on its story. The Last Casino movie released in 2004 is about the professor and his 3 students who counted cards in various casinos in Canada. The story was highly inspired by the MIT blackjack team like a 2008 release 21 which stars Jim Sturges, Kevin Spacey and Kate Bosworth. Some of the MIT team-inspired books include the Blackjack Life by Nathaniel Tilton, Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich, and The House Advantage: Playing the Odds to Win Big in Business by Jeffrey Ma.

How does blackjack card count work?

The basic card counting in blackjack works on a simple rule. All the cards dealt are kept in three categories:

  • Small cards comprising 2 to 6
  • Medium cards 7, 8, and 9
  • Big cards 10 to A

The card counter needs to monitor every card dealt to the player and to the dealer. Each time a small card is dealt, the count is increased by 1. When the big card is dealt, it is decreased by 1 and in medium cards, the count does not change at all.

When the card counting is done appropriately in blackjack, the count may become very large or small at some times. If playing with a shoe, the gambler needs to wait for at least half of the shoe to be dealt. The role of card counting is important as it determines big cards which favour the players and small cards that favour the dealer.

Since the dealer has to play in a specific order and the player must have an optimal strategy, many large cards offer players a significant advantage. The higher the count is, the better will be for the players. The moment counts change for good, you can start increasing your bets. But it is always good to wait for the count to get high enough for the best results. This process requires a lot of patience but can be rewarding in the long run. In blackjack, if you know how to count the cards well, you may come across hot-shoes to make the best out of it.

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