When Mathematics Attacks! AUG 15 2002
Hacking Las Vegas is "the inside story of the MIT Blackjack Team's conquest of the casinos". The article is excerpted from Ben Mezrich's Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions, due out in October. Math, money, and discipline made them millions:
"The team worked at the mathematics -- the expected advantages, the proper Spotter payouts, the appropriate BP betting scheme -- in rigorous detail, with the aid of computers and countless hours of simulated play. Average profit percentages ranged from between 10 and 20 percent per gambling foray, but could go much higher depending on the number of open tables and the number of possible player hours. 'The first year I played, we returned 154 percent to our investors,' brags Lewis. 'That's after paying off expenses. You try and do that on Wall Street.' The real genius of the MIT scheme was how it turned the casinos' own profiling techniques against them, using stereotypes to camouflage the big money bets."
When I was in my teens, my dad was working on devising his own system for blackjack. He had a book outlining basic counting strategies and the odds for various hand combinations and played with various betting systems with the aid of Lotus 123 spreadsheets. We played blackjack for hours with both one-deck & two-deck shoes and his sizable spare change collection, just noodling around with different approaches. I had the odds for all the hand combinations memorized so that even without counting, I could play nearly break-even blackjack for as long as I wanted.