Many people are vaguely familiar with the MIT Blackjack Team. The team’s story was made popular by the movie 21 as well as several documentaries by the BBC, HBO, and the History Channel. While many people thought that 21 depicted actual events, interviews and documentaries about the MIT Blackjack Team reveal that the movie was highly fictionalized.
History of Blackjack at MIT
The MIT Blackjack Team in 21 is seen using cell phones and playing at casinos that opened in 2006 and 2007. The team that is represented in the movie actually played during the early 1990s. The history of blackjack at MIT goes back much further though. A group of students interested in gambling got their introduction to card counting through a class. The group contained some of the core elements that would later comprise the MIT Blackjack Team.
Leading the MIT Blackjack Team
One of the biggest inconsistencies between reality and the movie is the character Micky Rosa, who is played by Kevin Spacey. In reality, no professors were involved in the MIT Blackjack Team. In fact, many of the players on the team were not even associated with MIT. Rosa is a composite character of three leading figures in the team. Spacey’s character was composed of J.P. Massar, who organized an early outing to Atlantic City and formed the first MIT Blackjack Team; Bill Kaplan, an experienced Harvard grad who had managed a team in Las Vegas; and John Chang, who still plays cards. The MIT Blackjack Team used their technical prowess and developed card-counting techniques to become topnotch players. A similar tool is provided here:
Organizing a Successful MIT Blackjack Team
The MIT Blackjack Team was actually much more organized than the movie indicates. Under the direction of Kaplan the team even started its own company so it could legally raise capital from investors. The company not only had investors, but also a training program that would teach prospective players how to use their system to win in casinos.
Disbanding the MIT Blackjack Team
Eventually it became too difficult to manage the MIT Blackjack Team. Casinos discovered who the players were, the group suffered losing streaks that drained capital and the key organizers of the group found that they could make more money through investments in real estate. The team split into two groups, the Reptiles and the Amphibians, with several players who went on to earn further accolades on card-playing circuits.