How the MIT team used card counting to beat casinos

Ever since the Blackjack casino game gained popularity, players have been using innovative methods and effective Blackjack strategy to gain an edge over the house. It is with this aim that card counting became a sought-after technique to win big at online Blackjack games.

However, to make money using card counting the players are expected to be excellent at making decisions. This is because Blackjack rules require that as a player you make decisions such as to hit or stand constantly.


MIT team

A group of bright students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) formed a blackjack team which became famous around the world due to their success in the 1990s, using their skills in card counting having perfected them along the way.

Each player in the group had to pass a rigorous battery of tests encompassing all of the roles under simulated casino conditions before advancing to live play in the casino.

The team was headed by Harvard graduate Bill Kaplan and consisted of Jeff Ma and Mike Aponte as the most significant and successful members in the team. The students used their mathematical knowledge and card counting techniques as their Blackjack strategy to predict when favourable cards were being dealt.

The team practices before actual gameplay

The group of students would practice and train for months beforehand and once they were ready, they were let to take on real casinos in Las Vegas. The MIT team members took months together to practice before they were ready to take on the casinos. The team with their perfected card counting technique managed to take home over $400,000 in Vegas in just one weekend.

These members would use their experience at casinos to create computer programs which taught them which moves to make in which situation during Live Blackjack, ensuring that they continued to win.

Driving the house edge down

The famed blackjack players from MIT played as a team, unlike most card counters, making it harder for casinos to spot them. The Team consisted of three types of players – Spotters, Gorillas and Big Players (BP). The spotter was a member of the MIT Team whose job was simply to count cards and didn’t bet beyond the minimum limit of the table.

The Gorilla was a player that only played and were not responsible to count cards. The Big Player was actually an improved “Gorilla” type player who could bet and count at the same time.

The Blackjack gameplay by the MIT team

The card counters would play extremely conservatively, betting very low and making no sudden movements thereby not letting the pit bosses or dealers know that anything untoward was happening.

The MIT spotters and big players used code phrases to talk about the running count. All members of the group learned to associate specific words with numbers with the aid of some flash cards.

The MIT team persevered and prospered due to the long-term vision and the complete faith in their methods that kept them moving forward, while team spirit also helped in a big way.

A high-low system based on the statistical probability of receiving high or low cards was added to the traditional card counting along with an additional technique for cutting the cards by the group that further skewed the odds in their favour.

The MIT team bankroll

The biggest weapon the MIT team was a team bankroll that kept it going. Each player would put up a sum of money, and many investors had invested in the team. There was one large combined team bank, which every player on the team used as if it were his or her individual bankroll.

This factor allowed the team players to bet large amounts compared to playing individually. As a team, they were able to play more hands per hour in comparison to individual players thereby getting into the long run quickly.

The later part

The team’s huge success was also responsible for its downfall as a private investigation ordered by Las Vegas casinos were able to track down the members of the team. During this process, many members were caught and stopped from playing. As the team became unviable and too risky it was dissolved although card counting is still technically legal in some countries.


Name: How the MIT team used card counting to beat casinos
Author: Helen Stratford
Published Date: 06/05/2019