MIT - The True Story of Blackjack Team

The story which grew very popular nowadays thanks to the release of "21" movie really took place in the past. MIT is an abbreviation for Massachusetts Institute of Technologies, a world-over famous establishment, famous for its specialists in IT and hackers who have graduated this institute.

The real story begins with a mini-course called "How to gamble if you must", which was taught in January 1979 in MIT. It was taught by J.P.Massar. On that time a group of students who attended this course and liked to play poker appreciated the card counting in blackjack which they were taught and decided to try practicing it in Atlantic City. In November 1979 a professional blackjack player joined Massar and Jonathan, the only two players who left in contact and proceeded to perfect their card counting skills. He saw a notice that a course in card counting was going to be taught at MIT in January 1980. He proposed to make a new group and making a travel to New Jersey casinos, because of the freshly approved law that forbid the casinos to bar card counters. The team of 4 players went to Atlantic City in December 1979 having 5000$ bankroll. They played until May 1980 but then the team broke due to different causes.

The Team

In May Massar got acquainted to Bill Kaplan, a man who had his own blackjack-playing team in Las Vegas. They had their own system of card counting based on statistical and mathematical research. Massar asked Kaplan to go with them to a trip over casinos and make out what they were doing wrong.

A crushing defeat in Atlantic City was seen by Kaplan, and he found out that each player was using a completely different from others way of counting, which resulted in negative effect of the game. After the occasion Kaplan decided to make a team of those people, an absolute business project, and trained players hardly before getting them to real play. The perfection of their techniques was growing slowly and everyone came through a tight examination before being let into the team.

The first success came to them after investment of 89, 000 $ and after ten weeks of the game the team mostly doubled the sum, earning 162$ per hour.

In the basis of their system they laid card counting, one of the traditional and legal methods of increasing the odds of winning in Blackjack-based games. But card counting was not the only strategy used by young geniuses. They used a set of secret signs by means of which they communicated while the game and gave each other definite information.

Transporting huge sums of money is also been known as a genius and plain maneuver of MIT: they just put them in such places where no one would start looking for them - like jeans pockets, bars of money tied to the body etc.

Through 1980-1890 the team had about 70 people who played in it from one time to another. They earned serious money and had a highly developed system of conspiracy - each member had a well-crafted false document identifying their personality. Each member had a number of such fakes.


The team grew and became more and more populous, recruiting the most talented students and training them hard. Through 80s and 90s it was a few times transformed and won already a huge amount of money. Their 500.000 $ - winning weekend in Las Vegas is legendary. After it the casinos put a lot of funds into getting the information of who they are and their photos, which were stored in the database of the casinos.

And after splitting into two teams it made a competition of "who wins more money" between the teams. They were called "Reptiles" and "Amphibians". It was not the end of the team and it's known that they won more than a million of dollars each.


The famous film "21" tells about the story and is considered to be one of the best in the genre. For more information see Best Blackjack games and Movies section.


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