The Real Story of MIT’s Blackjack Team

Sep 20, 2023 | Articles, Gambling

In gambling circles, very few don’t know the story of the famous (or infamous) MIT blackjack team. Even those not involved with gambling have likely heard the story of the MIT students and alumni who wanted to use mathematics to “bring the house down.” Films have been made, books are written, and stories told and retold. However, what is the real story behind the MIT blackjack team?


What is the MIT Blackjack Team?

The MIT Blackjack Team was a group of students, alumni, and former students of MIT who got together and came up with a brilliant idea: use their mathematics savvy to count cards in blackjack and bring down the house. Though they began playing in the United States, their operation extended worldwide.

Card counting is still an incredibly popular way to boost one’s odds at blackjack. Though admittedly, online casinos have made the practice a lot harder. Still, with the advent of live dealer casinos, card counting is very much back in action. Many live dealer online casinos do their best to combat card counting. However, savvy players can still bypass these defenses and beat the game.

Who Were Primary Members of the Team?

The team formed in 1979 and successfully operated well into the 21st century. Over 20+ years, members left the team, and new players joined. Which means it is tough to say who the members were. However, we do have some information on notable members of the team, as well as the team’s founders.

  • Bill Kaplan: Bill Kaplan was one of the two co-founders of the MIT Blackjack Team. Mr. Kaplan had run a very successful blackjack team in Las Vegas years prior. Of course, Las Vegas is known to many as Sin City, with many fabulous stories within its borders. Bill Kaplan is one of America’s most well-known and successful gamblers, so his involvement with the MIT team was already a good start for the group.
  • J.P. Massar: Mr. M, as he is better known in the gambling world, was the other co-founder of the team and the one who originally came up with the idea. He approached Kaplan with the concept, and the blackjack player was eager to try it.
  • Ben Mezrich: Possibly the most popular member of the Blackjack Team, Ben Mezrich wrote “Bringing the House Down,” a book detailing the team’s exploits. The book was later adapted into a film titled Simply 21.
  • John Chang: A key team member, John Chang played an important role during games and planning. He is one of the most notable members of the team.
  • Semyon Dukach: Also known as Mr. X, Dukach was not among the initial members of the team. However, once he joined, he became a key player, especially regarding card counting.


The Team History

The MIT Blackjack Team was formed in 1979 when J.P. Massar approached Bill Kaplan with the idea. They then found the best possible members and started the first iteration of the MIT Blackjack Team. The team operated for over two decades and played in casinos worldwide. By 2000, the team had undergone several changes and eventually disbanded as the members went their separate ways.

Around this time, online casinos first hit it big. However, at the time, online gambling was nothing like it is today. Nowadays, you can find top-quality live dealer blackjack websites that perfectly simulate the land-based casino experience. Could there be potential for a newly formed, online casino-based blackjack team? Only time will tell.


Pop Culture Depiction of the MIT Team?

Several books and documentaries talk about the MIT Blackjack Team. However, most people know about the group thanks to “Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions.” The book, by Ben Mezrich, played a crucial role in popularizing the team and spreading awareness of their achievements.

“Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions” is a semi-fictionalized telling of the MIT Team’s exploits, as told by a man who experienced it all first-hand. Its massive success ensured the book would be picked up for a film adaptation.

The film, simply titled 21, is a popular, though relatively poor adaptation of the book. Many have criticized the movie for its poor representation of the events and the portrayal of most characters. Still, it served a key role in popularizing the story of the MIT Blackjack Team.



What is the MIT Blackjack team?

The MIT Blackjack Team is a group of students, alumni, and former students of MIT who decided to use card counting to win at Blackjack.

When did the MIT Blackjack Team operate?

Between 1979 and 2000.

Who formed the team?

The idea for the team was proposed by J.P. Massar, who formed it with Bill Kaplan.

Can you use card counting to win at blackjack online?

Card counting is impossible at web blackjack. However, live dealer casinos are a popular trend, and some savvy gamblers could employ card-counting techniques to win at those games.

What are good books to read if I want to know more about the MIT Blackjack Team?

The most popular book on the topic was written by Ben Mezrich, a person who was a member of the team. The book is called “Bringing Down the House.”

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Thomas B.