Counting cards MIT

Hacking Las Vegas
October 8, 2020 – 09:57 am
Jeff Ma, at his San Francisco


The Back-Spotter

The Back-Spotter can count cards without even being seated at the blackjack table. When the count gets hot — meaning the house is at a statistical disadvantage — this player will signal for the team’s bettors to swoop in.

The Spotter
The Spotter counts cards while playing at the table. Casinos screen for counters by watching for dramatic rises or drops in bets — a sure sign that a deck has gone hot or cold. A Spotter avoids detection by resolutely sticking to the minimum bet on each hand. When it’s time to start betting big to take advantage of a favorable deck, he tips off his teammates.

The Gorilla
The Gorilla doesn’t count at all: He just bets big, all the time. Typically, he adopts the pose of a drunken millionaire who has green to burn. The Spotters ensure the Gorilla’s ‘luck’ by steering him to tables where he’s got greater than even odds of winning against the house.

F. Scott SchaferThe Big Player
The Big Player appears to be a type well known to the casinos: the high-rolling recreational gambler who’s content to slowly bleed his money away through hours of competent play. In reality, he’s a Spotter with a Gorilla’s bankroll. He’s not only counting cards, he’s tracking the shuffle for the high cards that rob the house of its advantage. A BP always plays a good deck, so he never has to lower his bets by much.

Fifty thousand dollars strapped to each thigh. A hundred thousand dollars, in 10 bricks of hundreds, taped across my upper back. Fifty thousand more Velcroed to my chest.

F. Scott Schafer F. Scott Schafer
From left: The back-spotter (standing); the spotter (in yellow); the gorilla(center); the big player (far right).

I try to control my breathing as I stroll through Logan International Airport. Terminal C is buzzing and chaotic, an over-air-conditioned hive of college students escaping Boston for a long weekend. I am dressed like everyone else: baggy jeans, baseball hat, scuffed sneakers. But in my mind, I have as much chance of blending in as a radioactive circus clown. There's enough money hidden under my clothes to buy a two-bedroom condo. And to top it off, there's $100, 000 worth of yellow plastic casino chips jammed into the backpack slung over my right shoulder.

My anxiety increases as I reach the security checkpoint. I want to turn and run, but the security guard is staring at me, and I have no choice: I show him my ticket. America West, flight 69, Boston to Vegas. The Friday night Neon Express.

He gestures with his head, and I drop my backpack onto the conveyor belt. I know the chips will show up on the X-ray machine, but even if the guard makes me open the backpack, he won't realize how much money the yellow hunks of plastic represent.

The $100 bills are another matter. This is an airport; they can drag me to a windowless room in the basement and handcuff me to a chair. They can confiscate my stash, call in the DEA, FBI, and IRS. It will be up to me to prove that I'm not a drug dealer. To customs agents, $100 bills smell like cocaine.

F. Scott Schafer F. Scott Schafer
Interesting facts

Mike Aponte also known as MIT Mike is a professional blackjack player and a former member of the MIT Blackjack Team. Aponte was one of the leaders of a team of MIT students that legally won millions at blackjack tables around the world by counting cards. He is one of the main characters, "Jason Fisher," in the best selling book, Bringing Down...

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