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Through the years, a group of math students at the world-famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology has focused their considerable brain power backroom blackjack a very extracurricular activity: gambling — specifically blackjack.
The students realized that blackjack was the only beatable game in casino gambling — and beat it they did.
By the 1990s, the team — whose membership rotated over the years — was making regular trips to Las Vegas and winning big.
The team used a method known as card-counting, which helps players predict when the cards being dealt will be favorable to them.
By knowing backroom blackjack cards blackjack 21 pokerist been spent and which ones remain in the shoe, savvy players can keep a running "count" which works as a rough predictor of how many high cards are left.
High cards work to a player's benefit because they boost the odds that they will beat the dealer.
The MIT players were not the first to count cards.
But they used their math expertise — and advanced computer models — to hone their skills to a devastatingly effective science.
They wrote computer programs to devise the best strategy for specific situations, then updated their data with real-life experience.
New members of the team were "trained" for weeks or months, starting on MIT's Cambridge, Mass.
Then they would be sent to Vegas, where they would start out as a "mule" carrying cash, then work their way up in the team's hierarchy.
The team visited Las Vegas regularly, peaking in the 1990s with trips nearly every weekend.
When they hit a casino, they would first deploy a counter to sit in on a table and track the cards.
When the counter calculated that the high cards were coming up, he or she would secretly signal the team's designated "big backroom blackjack to the table, using code words to signal how "positive" the shoe was.
The big bettor would then start wagering large amounts of money until the counter would signal that the shoe was no longer "hot.
But casinos, being private establishments, can eject and ban anyone they feel is a threat to their bankroll — whether they're cheating illegally or counting cards legally.
The casinos employ specialized security agencies to spot potential cheats and card counters.
Knowing backroom blackjack work was verboten in the casinos, the MIT team assumed different aliases to avoid detection.
The identities they chose were "high rollers," regular gamblers whose heavy betting makes the casinos court them vigorously.
Dukach used his Eastern European heritage as inspiration for his cover.
They were given tickets to all the shows and soldout fights.
They would party all night with strippers.
And I stayed in rooms with their own butlers.
My own butler, and I didn't know what to do with him.
The Party's Over It was not long, however, before the agencies started spotting the kids from MIT and tracking them.
We'll see them there.
Look, this same guy is on the table," recalls Beverly Griffin, owner of a firm that tracked unwanted players for many of the Vegas casinos and published their photographs in an index known as The Griffin Book.
Griffin's investigators began to put Cambridge addresses to the faces they kept seeing at the tables.
And then they thought to look one step further — at MIT yearbooks.
Soon, the team began to be recognized by security guards at casinos all across town and asked to leave, thrown out of the nice suites and denied learn more here luxury perks.
For "Lewis" and the other members of the team, the game was up.
They had won millions of dollars, but their playing days were effectively over.
Mezrich's book is being turned into a movie produced by Kevin Spacey.
One is tempted to say that the old adage is true after all — the house always wins.
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