# 21

Hello everybody…..I just finished writing the code for my project and hence have time (??) to write this post.Anyways,yesterday I watched ’21’ with my dad at ESquare(a multiplex near my house).

The aspect of the movie that probably attracted me  was MIT.I assumed that the story would be of J.P.Massar who headed the MIT Blackjack team based on the documentary shown on History Channel some time back.This team used card counting techniques to ‘bring down the house’.But as it turns out the movie is hardly all true (a nice one time watch though).Blackjack as it turns out is a gambling game but also beatable.In most gambling games roulette, dice, slot machines, the lottery the events are independent of each other i.e. events of the past do not determine the future.The probability of every outcome is same on every roll of the dice or spin of wheel.Hence in blackjack if you count correctly you can earn a fortune.Casinos and bookmakers make certain that the probabilities are always stacked slightly in their favor.To know more on the mathematics of blackjack go thorugh The Mathematics of Gambling.

A documentary aired on BBC “Making Millions the easy way” reports the activities of the MIT blackjack team.They comment on the future of card counting in the following way:

“In the early 1990s, however, a new breed of counters emerged. They had a greater level of resources, training and attention to detail than the casinos had ever encountered. Semyon Dukach, Katie Lilienkamp and Andy Bloch were all studying at MIT when they heard of card counting as a way to make extra money. MIT had a history of card counting. Indeed, Ed Thorp himself had developed the original system whilst at MIT, using one of the most powerful computers in the world at that time.

MIT counters played in teams, usually of three or more. Each individual was given a specific role. Some would simply watch tables, and wait for favourable situations to appear (the ‘spotters’). They would call in the expert strategist (the ‘controller’) who would fine-tune exactly when was the optimum moment to play, and how much to bet according to the cards being played. The controller would secretly signal to a ‘big player’ who would then join a table and place a massive bet at exactly the right moment.

The key was that by only betting when the odds were well in the big player’s favour, the big player could maximise potential profit, and also avoid being spotted as a counter. By watching a number of tables at any time, the team could select only those with the greatest promise of a good return. The big player simply looked like a rich, arrogant young gambler who got lucky on a single bet.

The MIT players went to great lengths to conceal both their own identities and their team play. They would work relentlessly to exploit any edge they could find – inexperienced dealers, poor shuffling or lax security. They also recorded exactly how much profit they managed to make from each situation, and honed their skills to be incredibly close to optimum play.

The trio played blackjack all over the world on and off throughout most of the 1990s, making money wherever they played. Their exploits only came to an end when Griffin Investigations, a private agency hired by casinos, identified the members of the MIT teams after months of surveillance. From that point on a team player even entering a casino would be swiftly ejected.

Card counting still occurs wherever blackjack is played, though as casino technology advances it becomes harder and harder to make anything but a small profit. Facial recognition technology, computerised blackjack tables and rule changes are slowly eating away at the small advantage possible through counting. But the lure of easy money makes it unlikely the casinos have seen the last of the counters. For 40 years they have found ways to make profit, and their ingenuity is bound to succeed again.”

So is Winner, winner, chicken(veg for all AOL guys) dinner! enough for you ….