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Their reign spanned a good part of 1990s when they traveled casino circuit with total abandon. Their $400,000 winning weekend in Las Vegas is legendary. Casino technology was not yet at a stage where it could match wits with MIT genius. At least, it had not made its way to practical application in Las Vegas, Ironically, it would be low-tech sloppiness that brought team down in end.
The casinos had learned to deal with card counters long before MIT pikers hit scene. When they identified a card counter, they would ensure that his play at tables was a living nightmare, and should card counter take house for a large sum, they would immediately ban him. Technology in 1990s had matured to a point where bad news traveled fast. When card counter was detected at one casino, it became nearly impossible to escape detection at any other casino.
Profiled MIT Blackjack Team
Las Vegas casino bosses relied on a long-established profile of Blackjack card counter, but since MIT team ran counter to profile, that also worked in their favor, helping them to escape detection. The profile assumed one lone card counter. The team's nonchalant, seemingly random style of play also ran counter to profile. But they were crazy like foxes—until they were no more.
Finally, sloppiness brought them to their knees. Eventually, they lost their discipline and their cool; well-oiled machine built with precision of a Swiss watch began to fall apart. They began to fraternize, and not just with usual Las Vegas temptations, but with each other—in public. A total chance spotting of teams relaxing and playing at a Las Vegas pool blew their cover. The tale of their unraveling wound its way back to back streets of Boston before they finally disbanded. The odds had finally turned against them, and stakes were far too high for even geniuses from MIT.
The last remaining team player was escorted from table with parting words, "You can't play here. You're too good for us."
Blackjack Team in News
The tale of MIT Blackjack Team doesn't end with its demise. ABC, CNN, History Channel, and CBS's 60 Minutes all picked up story. Bringing Down House : The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions (Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group, 2002), by Ben Mezrich, chronicles escapades of team from its inception to end of line through eyes of team member, Kevin Lewis (not his real name). One enterprising former member currently offers seminars based on system.
The final irony has yet to play itself out. Kevin Spacey is producing movie version of book, due to be released by MGM sometime in 2006. One has to wonder if movie will help MGM recover its losses to MIT Blackjack Team.
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