The human mind never ceases to amaze especially when it concentrates all its power on a single task. And ‘amazing’ is the only word that can describe what students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology did to Las Vegas casinos.
How They Did It
This is a story of straight-A students who decided to put their bright minds to very unconventional use. Somehow, the idea occurred to them that they could use science to beat the casinos at blackjack. So they got a trainer and even went as far as forming a company that would finance their escapades.
What they wanted to do is known as ‘card counting’ a process that involves keeping tabs on the value of cards as they are dealt with the intention of cashing in on the most valuable ones. The trick was not new at the time and it wasn’t illegal either however the infamous MIT Blackjack Team was about to take ‘card counting’ to the next level.
Armed with brilliant minds that could conjure intricate computer programs that increased their ‘card counting’ accuracy tremendously; the team embarked on rigorous practice sessions. They started out with low-key tournaments and when their game was finally on point they look Las Vegas by storm.
Their strategy (in its simplest form) was to have a member of the team count the cards and figure out which ones were to be played next. If they were lucrative then they would use non-verbal signs to relay the information to another team member who would promptly cash in.
Moreover, the team did not just learn the game they also learnt the gamers and transformed into the type of players that casinos love to pamper. They assumed fictitious identities that saw them begin to be regarded as high-rollers in the gaming community.
The MIT Blackjack Team was living large; their sophisticated methods ensured that they were winning as much $400,000 in just one weekend of casino-hopping in Vegas. They also got all the preferential treatment that casinos bestow on their most valued customers from lavish suites to tickets to sold-out shows and wild parties.
We all know how much casinos hate to lose money and it was only a matter of time before Vegas began to notice the young high-rollers. The aggrieved parties brought in Beverly Griffin, a renowned investigator to get to the bottom of the scam.
The findings were rather obvious: the suspected cheats shared an address- the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Suddenly, the students were not allowed into most casinos and on the few instances when they made it through the doors they were not to be seen anywhere near the blackjack tables. Their curtains had fallen but they had managed to win millions of dollars and live a life that many can only dream of.
Unlike many of their cheating counterparts who had ended up in jail the MIT Blackjack Team was actually immortalized in the 2008 film 21 starring Kevin Spacey - the group of which you can see in our image at the top.