Real MIT Blackjack Team - 21 Movie True Story (2022)

The first year I played, we returned 154 percent to our investors. That's after paying off expenses. You try and do that on Wall Street.

- Jeff Ma (Wired Magazine, September 2002, under the alias Kevin Lewis)



Questioning the Story:

Was an MIT professor really the leader of the Blackjack Team?

Real MIT Blackjack Team - 21 Movie True Story (1)

No. In the movie 21, an unorthodox math professor named Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey) leads the team. The 21 true story reveals that the real MIT Blackjack Team was led by three individuals, none of whom were professors. Arguably, the most notable is Bill Kaplan, a Harvard Business school graduate who had also done his undergraduate studies at Harvard. John Chang and J.P. Massar were also very much the basis for 21's Micky Rosa. "While [author] Ben Mezrich has been quoted as saying that Micky Rosa was a composite of myself, J.P. Massar, and John Chang, the fact is there is little, if anything, that resembles either of us except that he started and ran the team and was focused on running the team as a business," says Bill Kaplan. John Chang graduated from MIT in 1985 with a degree in electrical engineering. An influential member of the original team, Chang would later re-team with Bill Kaplan as a co-manager in the early 1990s. J.P. Massar ("Mr. M" in the History Channel documentary Breaking Vegas) was an MIT alum who had helped Kaplan manage the original team in the early 1980s, shortly after the first casinos opened in Atlantic City. -Bill Kaplan

Did Ben really join the blackjack team to earn money for med school?

No. Jeff Ma, the real life Ben Campbell, came from a well-to-do family. Unlike in the movie 21, his mother never offered him a life savings of over $60,000 for med school. "I actually did want to go to Harvard Medical School," admits Jeff Ma, "but I didn't actually play blackjack necessarily to go to Harvard Medical School. ... One of the reasons I ended up not going to Harvard Medical School is because of blackjack and all the money I could make there." -DoublePlayTV.com

Did the scholarship interview really happen?

No. Former team leader John Chang said that the movie's scholarship interview is a plot device that "never happened" in real life. "It's a clever technique to tell the story, but because of it, it makes the ending too predictable. You know that Campbell never gets to keep what he made — otherwise, why would he be applying?" -MickeyRosa.com

Had the real Ben lost his father?

No. The real Jeff Ma (Ben from the movie) says that his father is very much alive and well, unlike the character's father in the movie. His parents and his sister were his guests at the 2008 21 movie premiere at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. -AICN.com

Was the romance in the movie real?

Real MIT Blackjack Team - 21 Movie True Story (2)

No. In the movie, MIT team members Ben (Jim Sturgess) and Jill (Kate Bosworth) share a brief love scene and end up a couple at the end of the film. Their real life counterparts, Jeff Ma and Jane Willis, were never a couple. In fact, Jane and her boyfriend, who were both "math geeks," were recruited by Jeff Ma in the early 1990s. Jeff knew them and had been friends with both of them. Jane Willis and her boyfriend later married and divorced. In 2005, she got remarried to Rich Davey. Their wedding was held in a Catholic church located behind the Tropicana and across from the Mandalay Bay casinos in Las Vegas. -The Boston Globe

When did the real story take place?

The movie shows the characters talking on cell phones and playing blackjack at the Red Rock and Planet Hollywood casinos, which didn't open until 2006 and 2007, respectively. The 21 true story reveals that the real MIT Blackjack Team, on which the movie was based, played in the early 1990s. The MIT Blackjack Team first came into existence in 1980. It was started by Bill Kaplan (part of the inspiration for Kevin Spacey's character), who founded the team on the same business principles and practices that he had employed in starting and running a Vegas based team for the previous three years. "JP Massar and a couple of his MIT friends were the first players I trained and brought on board," says Kaplan. "I brought JP on to co-manage with me about a year later and we ran the Team through the mid-1980s. One of the players we trained in late 1982 and 1983 was John Chang." (Bill Kaplan)

Real MIT Blackjack Team - 21 Movie True Story (3)Real MIT Blackjack Team - 21 Movie True Story (4)
Buy the Book Used by the Real MIT Blackjack Team

Real MIT Blackjack Team - 21 Movie True Story (5)
This book is featured in the movie 21. In addition to presenting a variety of strategies for success at blackjack, it also includes Thorp's "Basic Strategy" chart. Learn how to use the chart to make decisions when playing blackjack.

Did Fisher really recruit Ben Campbell to play on the team?

Yes. Mike Aponte, the real life Jimmy Fisher, recruited Jeff Ma (Ben Campbell in 21) to play on the MIT team. "When we were good friends in college I brought [Jeff Ma] onto the team, recruited him and taught him how to play," says Mike Aponte. -RawVegas.com

Did everyone on the real MIT Blackjack Team attend MIT?

No. The movie falsely makes the team out to be an MIT only club. In reality, there were members from other schools, including Harvard and Princeton. For example, Jane Willis, the basis for Kate Bosworth's character, attended Harvard not MIT (The Boston Globe). Bill Kaplan, one of the team's leaders, graduated from Harvard University and Harvard Business School (WickedLocal.com).

Who bankrolled the MIT Blackjack Team?

Real MIT Blackjack Team - 21 Movie True Story (6)
The documentary
explores Strategic
Investments LP
and the MIT team.

(Video) Breaking Vegas Documentary: The True Story of The MIT Blackjack Team

In the movie, we're expected to believe that Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey) provided the startup money for the team. In real life, the team leaders (J.P. Masser, John Chang, and Bill Kaplan) formed a Massachusetts Limited Partnership called Strategic Investments in 1992. Creating a company allowed the team to recruit its players and raise venture capital as a legal entity. Strategic Investments LP raised $1,000,000 as seed money for its endeavor. The money came from past players and the team leaders, including Bill Kaplan, who says that he also received investment capital from his former college roommate, a number of his Havard Business School sectionmates, and other friends and family. The company is further explored in the History Channel documentary Breaking Vegas, which also examines the rigorous "checkouts" that the players had to endure. J.P. Masser ("Mr. M" in the documentary) required that players be able to play through 10 shoes, while only making a limited number of counting mistakes. -Breaking Vegas

Real MIT Blackjack Team - 21 Movie True Story (7)
Not chronicled in the
movie 21, Semyon Dukach
ran the most successful
MIT Blackjack team ever.

Strategic Investments LP disbanded on December 31, 1993 as the result of banned players, long losing streaks, and a lack of time due to more profitable business opportunities in the real estate market (Bill Kaplan). Shortly after SI was terminated, one of its former players, Semyon Dukach, created his own team, which employed 60 players in 5 cities. Semyon's team operated under the guise Amphibian Investments. Players invested their own money in the team, which won over $4 million during the course of its existence, making it the most successful MIT Blackjack Team ever. The movie 21 and Ben Mezrich's book, Bringing Down the House, were both based on a smaller team that was an offshoot of Amphibian Investments. -Breaking Vegas

Did the team really use code words to represent the count?

Yes. The movie shows Ben using flash cards to practice the various code words, which were used to represent the count. The Spotter conveys the count to the Big Player by casually using the code word in a sentence. For example, after the Big Player has been signaled that the table is hot, the Spotter might say nonchalantly, "This iced tea is too sweet," letting the Big Player know that the count is 16, because "sweet" = "sweet sixteen" = 16. A list of the code words and their corresponding values is displayed below:

Tree: +1 (a tree looks like a one), Switch: +2 (binary, on or off), Stool: +3 (a stool has three legs), Car: +4 (cars have four tires), Glove: +5 (a glove has five fingers), Gun: +6 (a gun holds six bullets), Craps: +7 (lucky seven), Pool: +8 (eight ball)

Prior to this point, the count isn't high enough in face cards and 10's to warrant extravagant bets. However, after this point, the odds are in your favor. It is okay to bet semi-recklessly.

Cat: +9 (cats have nine lives), Bowling: +10 (strike is ten pins), Football: +11 (eleven players on a football team), Eggs: +12 (twelve eggs in a carton), Witch: +13 (superstition, bad luck number)

If the count is greater than this, Ben Mezrich's book "Bringing Down the House" tells us that we should put it all on the table.

Ring: +14 (fourteen carat gold), Paycheck: +15 (day of the month most people get paid), Sweet: +16 (sweet sixteen), Magazine: +17 (name of the teen magazine), Voting booth: +18 (age you can vote)

What blackjack book is Ben reading on the airplane in the movie 21?

Real MIT Blackjack Team - 21 Movie True Story (8)
Thorp's book
was the team's
blackjack Bible.

In the movie, Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) is reading Beat the Dealer: A Winning Strategy for the Game of Twenty-One by Edward O. Thorp. First published in the 1960s, Thorp's book became the Bible for the MIT team. The book's "Basic Strategy" chart reveals a set of mathematically correct decisions to employ when playing blackjack (view the "Basic Strategy" chart). Thorp, a former UCLA math professor, used a now vintage MIT IBM 704 computer to calculate "Basic Strategy" in blackjack. -Breaking Vegas

Where is the secret underground casino in Chinatown?

Mike Aponte, who the Fisher character is based on, addressed this question by saying, "There are some parts in the book where I just scratch my head because obviously Ben Mezrich, the author, took artistic liberties. ...there was no secret casino in Chinatown, but I do know how Mezrich came up with that idea. Martinez, [Jeff Ma] and I had a friend who was king of the Asian nightclub scene. On Chinese New Year, he invited us to a private party in Chinatown. When we arrived, we saw they had a few blackjack tables set up. It wasn't much, but they were playing for real money." (BlackJackInfo.com)

Were the former MIT team members upset that the movie didn't reflect their mostly Asian ethnicity?

Real MIT Blackjack Team - 21 Movie True Story (9)

Despite various voices on the internet coming out against the movie's mostly white, non-Asian cast (some Facebook users have even called for a boycott of the film), the real MIT Blackjack Team's former members were not offended. The real Jeff Ma (Ben Campbell in the movie) said, "For me it wasn't a big deal, because for about three years people had been asking me who I wanted to play me in a movie and I never was saying like 'John Cho' or 'Chow Yun-Fat' or 'Jackie Chan...' I think people like to look at it at face value like that, the reality is if you ask anyone who they wanted to play you, it wouldn't necessarily be 'Who's the most ethnically tied to me?'" Instead, Jeff believes that most people would want someone who is 'cool' to play them, or rather a talented actor who personifies their personality the best. -AICN.com

John Chang, who is part of the real life composite that makes up Kevin Spacey's Micky Rosa, believes that if Spacey's cold, manipulative, Mephistophelian character had been portrayed by an Asian actor, people would be complaining about that too. "Being played by a 2-time Oscar winner isn't exactly an insult." -MickeyRosa.com

Did team members stuff money down their pants to get past airport security?

Mike Aponte, the basis for the Fisher character, says that they did carry most of the money on their persons when going through airport security. This is because cash was easily recognized by security through the x-ray machine. If they had a lot of chips, they stored them in carry-on bags. Mike says that security usually didn't realize the number of chips that were actually there (BlackJackInfo.com).

Ben Mezrich's book Bringing Down the House describes much more elaborate techniques that the players used to smuggle money. The methods include using fake umbrellas, laptop computers, plaster casts and hollow crutches. The author even quotes the book's main character, Kevin Lewis, whose real life counterpart is Jeff Ma. But Ma said that he never described such techniques to Mezrich, or knew of anyone using them. Jeff Ma said that the first time that he had heard of such cloak-and-dagger tactics was when he read Mezrich's book. -The Boston Globe

How do the former team members feel about the movie's inaccuracies?

In an interview with Quint from Ain't It Cool News, Jeff Ma, the real life individual on whom the movie's main character is based, said the following, "I realized it's not really a movie about me. It's not like an autobiographical documentary about my life. It's a cool movie about stuff that we did and a lot of the stuff that we did is very on point and true in the movie, but the storyline has changed quite a bit." -AICN.com

Mike Aponte, the basis for the Fisher character, addressed the movie's fiction by saying, "Well, the movie is pretty different from the book, but it is a Hollywood version. I think what it does do well though is it captures the excitement of what we pulled off during our playing days." -RawVegas.com

(Video) 21 - Full movie - film story of a guy who wins - Blackjack casino

I heard that much of Ben Mezrich's book is exaggerated and untrue?

Real MIT Blackjack Team - 21 Movie True Story (10)
Mezrich's book
has faced scrutiny.

Ben Mezrich began his literary career writing techno-thriller fiction. His 2002 nonfiction bestseller Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions, on which the movie 21 is based, has faced scrutiny for its embellishment and massaging of the facts that make up the MIT Blackjack Team's true story. "I don't even know if you want to call the things in there exaggerations, because they're so exaggerated they're basically untrue," said John Chang, one of the inspirations for the Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey) character. Mezrich attempted to defend such accusations by saying, "Every word on the page isn't supposed to be fact-checkable." He admitted that only one of the book's main characters, "Kevin Lewis," is based on an actual person (Jeff Ma). "I took literary license to make it readable," admits Mezrich. "The idea that the story is true is more important than being able to prove that it's true." -The Boston Globe

Did Ben really lose control at the Red Rock and cost the team $200,000?

No. In the movie, Ben's weekends as a high roller nearly cause him to lose his two closest friends, who no longer want him to participate with them in a robotics competition. Ben grows frustrated with the person that he is becoming, and he deals with his stress by haphazardly losing $200,000.

Former MIT team leader John Chang responded to this scene in his blog by saying, "Starting from the part where Ben loses control at the Red Rock and loses 200K, the movie takes off on a tangent that has no resemblance to reality. Our players were far too disciplined to even think of doing something like that. As I see it, that entire scene is a plot device to end the movie - create a conflict between Campbell and Rosa that leads up to the switcheroo finale." -MickeyRosa.com

Is the Laurence Fishburne character based on an actual person?

Real MIT Blackjack Team - 21 Movie True Story (11)
Similar to Fishburne's character in
the movie, Andy Anderson (right)
investigated the MIT Blackjack
Team for over four years.

In the movie, Cole Williams (Laurence Fishburne) is a casino security expert who investigates the team. Fishburne's character was not specifically based on any single real life individual. The 21 movie's true story reveals that the real MIT Blackjack Team was investigated by Griffin Investigations, a security agency that had been used by casinos worldwide. Andy Anderson, a tall silver-haired man who worked for Griffin, followed the team for four to five years and played a major role in exposing their strategy (Breaking Vegas). As a result, several of the MIT team members were black-booked by Griffin. Their faces landed in the Griffin Book, a dossier of photos distributed to casinos around the world (Breaking Vegas). These players are usually allowed on the casino floor, but are forbidden to go near the blackjack tables. -Wired.com

Did any of the team members ever get beat up by casino security?

No. In the movie, we see Ben (Jim Sturgess) take a beating from Cole Williams (Laurence Fishburne) after he is caught counting cards. Similarly, in Ben Mezrich's book Breaking Vegas, we find the Fisher character beaten bloody in the bathroom of a Bahamian casino. Mike Aponte, the real life Fisher, says that he was never beaten up in a casino anywhere (The Boston Globe). John Chang, part of the inspiration for Kevin Spacey's character, said, "You might wonder, are the books true? Put yourself in [book writer] Mezrich's place. He wants to sell books. If he makes up a few lurid details, well, who's going to object? So, let's beat up one of the players. In fact, let's make him swallow a chip. Yeah." (MickeyRosa.com)

Did the MIT Blackjack Team ever use strippers to cash out their chips?

No. In the movie 21, Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) impresses professor Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey) by coming up with the idea of using strippers to cash out their MGM Grand chips. In the book, Micky is the one who comes up with the idea. In reality, it never happened at all. "We went to MIT, do you really think we would give strippers $1,000 and $5,000 chips? Who in their right mind would do that?" says Mike Aponte, the basis for the Fisher character (BlackJackInfo.com).

Did team members ever drink, visit strip clubs, or play slots during the trips?

Real MIT Blackjack Team - 21 Movie True Story (12)
John Chang says
players did not
party in the
middle of a trip.

No, at least not like we see in the movie, where characters use such vices to celebrate a big night. John Chang, one of Micky Rosa's real life counterparts, said that, to clarify the MIT Blackjack Team's true story, the players did not "drink, visit brothels or strip clubs, or play slots in the middle of trips. Our time was too valuable, and our focus too intense to bother. You'd be considered such a losing sucker if you did any of that." (MickeyRosa.com) "Drinking, strip clubs, etc. was strictly forbidden and were grounds for immediate dismissal from the team," said Bill Kaplan, also part of the inspiration for the Micky Rosa character. Mike Aponte, the real life Fisher, stated that "in contrast to what the book said, there was only one time that we, as a team, went to a strip joint. That was after our incredible Super Bowl weekend in 1995 when we won almost $500,000. Typically, we were all business in Vegas, but after that record win we had to go out on the town and celebrate." (BlackJackInfo.com)

Did a team leader steal $315k from a player after the player lost $200k by playing carelessly?

No. In the movie, Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey) steals Ben's winnings that he hides in the ceiling of his dorm room. In real life, there is no confirmed report of a team leader ever stealing money from a player. In addition, no such incident is mentioned in the book. -Bringing Down the House

Did Ben really hide his winnings in the ceiling of his dorm room?

No. John Chang, part of the inspiration for Kevin Spacey's Micky Rosa character, has stated that the average yearly take for a player on the team was $25,000, much less than the $300,000+ that Ben earns in the movie (BlackJackForumOnline.com). Even with smaller actual profits than we see in the movie, players left some of the money in Vegas. "We kept a large inventory of chips so that we didn't have to continually cash in and out every trip we played," says Mike Aponte, Fisher's real-life counterpart (BlackJackInfo.com).

The players were smart enough not to hide all of their winnings in a single location. In an interview, John Chang's wife recalled the time she helped him clean out his apartment before a move. She found $6,000 in chips in a jar sitting on a cluttered desk, and she found another $20,000 in traveler's checks in an old fanny pack in a closet. Over the course of two weeks, John and his wife found $165,000 that he didn't know he had.-BlackJackForumOnline.com

What is the most that the team ever won on a single trip?

In an interview, Mike Aponte (the real Fisher) said that the most that the real MIT Blackjack Team ever won was about $500,000. It happened on the weekend of Super Bowl XXIX in 1995. "The most I ever won personally on a trip was about $200,000," Mike said. -BlackJackInfo.com

What is the most that the team ever lost on a single trip?

(Video) Breaking Vegas - The Story of the MIT Blackjack Team

Mike Aponte (the real Fisher) said that concerning the MIT Blackjack Team's true story, the most that the team ever lost was around $130,000. "I think the most I ever lost was about $60,000," Mike said. These totals are somewhat less than the $200,000 that we see Ben lose in the movie. -BlackJackInfo.com

Did the MIT team play at other locations besides Las Vegas?

Yes. Despite what we see in the movie, the real MIT team played at casinos all over the world, including Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Foxwoods (Connecticut), riverboat casinos, the Bahamas, St. Martin, Aruba, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Playing at more locations allowed the team to remain undetected longer. -BlackJackInfo.com

Do any of the former MIT Blackjack Team members have cameos in the movie?

Real MIT Blackjack Team - 21 Movie True Story (13)

Yes. Jeff Ma, the inspiration for the movie's central character, Ben Campbell, and Henry Houh, another former player, appear in the movie as casino dealers. Jeff Ma plays one of the Planet Hollywood blackjack dealers (the one the main character knows from playing so much). "I was on set a bunch of other times," Ma says, "but... It's not like I was sitting in the director's chair making adjustments. I was just there and if Robert [Luketic] had a question or if one of the actors said 'Hey, how do we do this or say this?' That's all I was there for." (AICN.com) Team organizer Bill Kaplan also has a brief cameo in the 21 movie, appearing in the background in the underground Chinese gambling parlor scene.

I heard that one of the players dressed like a woman to fool casino security?

This is true. John Chang, part of the inspiration for Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey), dressed like a woman to fool casino security. He wore a hat, a dress, and pantyhose. His feminine disguise worked in the Bahamas, but it caught the attention of surveillance at the Taj in Atlantic City. "It just happened that an Asian woman sat down next to me. She's all petite, and I look at her hands, and they're just tiny. Then I look at my hands next to hers and I thought, "Ooo, not good." I took my hands off the table. It turned out that when I was noticing this, surveillance was noticing the same thing, and they just busted up laughing." A reporter wrote an article about it and it ended up in The Washington Post. -BlackJackForumOnline.com

Are any of the real life players featured in the History Channel documentary Breaking Vegas represented in the movie?

Real MIT Blackjack Team - 21 Movie True Story (14)
Mezrich's 2nd book about MIT teams chronicles players from the History Channel special.

Released in 2004, the History Channel documentary focuses on a different group of students than we see represented in the 2008 movie 21. This is because throughout the 1990s the MIT Blackjack Team both dissolved and reformed, first operating as part of the company Strategic Investments LP, and then reforming to operate under Amphibian Investments. Also, at its peak, there were over 60 players on the MIT team, not 5 like we see in the movie. Often times, the team was organized into groups, which operated in different cities.

The characters in the movie 21 represent a team that began as a smaller offshoot of the Amphibian Investments team. Ben Mezrich's second MIT blackjack book Busting Vegas chronicles the group of players featured in the History Channel documentary. This includes the MIT computer science graduate Semyon Dukach, a math whiz who is the son of Russian immigrants. -Breaking Vegas

Are there still blackjack teams at MIT?

"No, there aren't any blackjack teams at MIT that I'm aware of," says Mike Aponte, the basis for the Fisher character. Mike unofficially retired from the MIT team in the spring of 2000. By then, it was much tougher for him to play. "By that time our team was so well known, and even feared by casinos, that they had caught on to how we operated and began scrutinizing anyone who came into the middle of a shoe with large bets." Mike says that the team was unable to replace its core group of big players, because the new recruits weren't as "dedicated and gung-ho." -BlackJackInfo.com

Were the campus scenes shot at the real MIT?

No. MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) did not permit the filmmakers to shoot on their campus. Most of the MIT campus scenes were filmed at Boston University. -The Tech (MIT Newspaper)

View the Blackjack "Basic Strategy" Chart

Edward O. Thorp used mathematics to create the blackjack "basic strategy" chart. Since the release of his 1962 book, Beat the Dealer: A Winning Strategy for the Game of Twenty-One, players have memorized the chart in an effort to have an advantage when the cards are dealt. Thorp's table has been described as the next best thing to actually learning how to count cards. Here, you can view the basic strategy table.

Real MIT Blackjack Team - 21 Movie True Story (15) View the Blackjack "Basic Strategy" Chart

21 Videogame: Play Blackjack Online

Play blackjack online for fun (not for money). The first free blackjack videogame listed below is available from WiiPlayable.com. The site hosts hundreds of games that are playable on both your computer and the Nintendo Wii console, including blackjack. The second game is the official 21 blackjack movie game, which lets you play for free with other users from around the world. Have fun practicing blackjack strategy!

Real MIT Blackjack Team - 21 Movie True Story (16)

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Real MIT Blackjack Team - 21 Movie True Story (17)

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(Video) The Inside Story of the MIT Blackjack Team - Part 1 of 4

MIT Blackjack Team - Player Interviews

Meet former players from the real MIT Blackjack Team, who were the inspiration for the 21 movie true story. The videos below include interviews with John Chang, Jeff Ma, and Mike Aponte.


WATCHJohn Chang

An interview with John Chang, theinspiration for Kevin Spacey's characterin the movie 21. Chang talks withFOX Business analyst Neil Cavuto, who askshim about the movie and why he's wearing adisguise.

WATCHMike Aponte Explains How to Use Count Values in Blackjack

Mike Aponte, the basis for the JimmyFisher character in the movie 21,discusses what count values to assign towhich groups of cards in blackjack.

WATCHJeff Ma Answers FAQs about 21

Jeff Ma, the basis for Jim Sturgess'scharacter in 21, responds toquestions that he is frequently askedabout the 21 movie true story.For more videos from Jeff, visit Jeff Ma'sWild World of Gambling.

WATCHJeff Ma Explains How to Count Cards

Jeff Ma explains how to count cards inblackjack. For example, he points out thatwhen there are a lot of low cards left inthe deck, it's in the dealer's favor, andwhen there are a lot of high cards left inthe deck, it's in the player's favor.

WATCHBill Kaplan

Bill Kaplan, who is part of the basis forKevin Spacey's 21 moviecharacter, talks about the origins of theMIT blackjack team.

WATCH21 Movie Trailer

21 Movie Trailer for thefact-based story about six MIT studentswho were trained to become experts in cardcounting and subsequently took Vegascasinos for millions in winnings. The filmstars Jim Sturgess, Kate Bosworth andKevin Spacey. It is based on the bookBringing Down the House by BenMezrich.


Link-to-Learn More:

(Video) MIT Card Counting Team - Masters of the Heist - Mike Aponte


FAQs

Real MIT Blackjack Team - 21 Movie True Story? ›

The film is inspired by the true story of the MIT Blackjack Team as told in Bringing Down the House, the best-selling 2003 book by Ben Mezrich.

Did the MIT Blackjack Team get caught? ›

(CN) - Police properly arrested a former member of the famed MIT Blackjack Team at the Las Vegas casino from which she had been banned, the 9th Circuit ruled Tuesday.

Who is the movie 21 based off? ›

Meet former players from the real MIT Blackjack Team, who were the inspiration for the 21 movie true story. The videos below include interviews with John Chang, Jeff Ma, and Mike Aponte. An interview with John Chang, the inspiration for Kevin Spacey's character in the movie 21.

Is Ben Campbell a real person? ›

Jeffrey Ma '94 is the real-life basis for the character Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess), pictured here, in the upcoming movie 21 about the MIT blackjack team. 21 is based on the book Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich.

Did the guy from 21 get the scholarship? ›

Ben gives the money to Cole who enjoys a nice retirement while Ben gets the scholarship to Harvard. The truth: There was never a sudden twisting end to the blackjack team. It took close to five years for the casino security firm Griffin Investigations to recognize the methods that the team was using.

How much money did the MIT Blackjack Team win? ›

This story is a heist by way of card counting—and since it's technically not illegal, it might be most accurate to just call these winnings.

Is the movie 21 accurate? ›

Blackjack, also known as 21, is the theme of the 2008 hit movie '21'. It's loosely based on the novel, 'Bringing Down the House' by Ben Mezrich, a true story about the activities of The MIT Blackjack Team during the 1980s.

Where is Jeffrey Ma now? ›

In May 2020, Ma became Vice President for Microsoft for Startups, a unit focused on recruiting startups to use Microsoft technologies.

Is it illegal to count cards in Vegas? ›

Counting cards is a legal activity. There are no federal or state laws stating that card counters are committing an offense. Police officers cannot arrest you for counting cards at a casino, nor can they convict you of any crimes.

How many times did Ben go to Vegas? ›

Ben Campbell : [narrating, Ben walks into school to get his scholarship] So my senior year of college, I joined this team. And I learned this new skill. I went to Vegas 17 times to use it. I made hundreds of thousands of dollars counting cards.

Is counting cards in blackjack illegal? ›

Card counting is NOT illegal under federal, state and local laws in the United States as long as players don't use any external card-counting device or people who assist them in counting cards. In their effort to identify card counters, casinos can ban players believed to be counters — sort of.

Is it still possible to count cards at casinos? ›

Yes. If you're able to count cards without getting thrown out of the casino, it still works. The math has not changed. Card counting is still capable of beating the casino and flipping the math in favor of the player.

What do casinos do if you count cards? ›

If a security guard has reason to believe a patron is counting cards, the guard can ask a patron to leave the table, stop playing that particular game, or leave the casino. Most casinos ask card counters to leave the property once discovered.

Did Jeff Ma become a doctor? ›

Ma graduated from Exeter and then the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he received a degree in mechanical engineering in 1994. His father wanted him to become a doctor and he did enroll in pre-med but eventually realized medicine wasn't for him.

How did the MIT students count cards? ›

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 bettor" to the table, using code words to signal how "positive" the shoe was.

Who were the members of the MIT Blackjack Team? ›

MOST FAMOUS MIT MEMBERS (ALPHABETICAL)
  • Mike Aponte. Aponte joined the Strategic Investments team and he eventually formed the The Reptiles Team with Manilo Lopez and Mes Atamian. ...
  • Andy Bloch. ...
  • John Chang. ...
  • Lori Chang (Tsao) ...
  • Semyon Dukach. ...
  • Bill Kaplan. ...
  • J. P. Massar (aka Jeff Ma) ...
  • Jane Willis.
Apr 7, 2021

Who created the MIT Blackjack Team? ›

But for a few years in the 1980s, Bill Kaplan and a few associates figured out a way to clean house and rake in cash, and thus, the legend of the MIT Blackjack Team was born.

Is the movie 21 possible? ›

To be honest, the movie plot was far from the book, but then again even the book wasn't especially true to the original story, and the original MIT team, either. The movie wasn't completely fictional, as there were MIT blackjack teams who went to Vegas, counted cards and won some money.

Is 21 bridges based on a true story? ›

21 Bridges is a 2019 American action thriller film directed by Brian Kirk and written by Adam Mervis and Matthew Michael Carnahan, based on a story by Mervis.
...
21 Bridges
Story byAdam Mervis
Produced byAnthony Russo Joe Russo Mike Larocca Robert Simonds Gigi Pritzker Chadwick Boseman Logan Coles
15 more rows

How much did Jeff Ma make in blackjack? ›

Jeff Ma's story of winning millions at blackjack makes it to big screen. For a guy who pocketed between $3 million and $5 million playing blackjack in Las Vegas and Atlantic City casinos, Jeff Ma cuts a decidedly low-roller figure.

Can a casino kick you out for winning too much? ›

Assuming you only play at legal, licensed casinos that comply with the law, you have no reason to expect to be asked to leave or refused service because you win money. Your wins are the best advertising the casino can get.

Do casinos track your winnings? ›

Answer: Slot player "tracking" systems normally do work this way. The casinos monitor the totals bet and actually paid out, but not the intermediate wins registered on the credit meter. For marketing purposes, casinos care chiefly about how much you bet.

Can a casino refuse to cash you out? ›

Still, casinos are businesses that are interested in earning and making money. Like all businesses, a casino can't continue to operate if it just hands out money all willy-nilly. That's why they know the law, will follow the law, and not pay out millions of dollars when they do not have to.

Was Ben Affleck kicked out of Vegas? ›

The actor is careful to specify that the only crime he committed at the blackjack table that night, back in May, was killing the blackjack game. “I got good,” he admits. And contrary to reports, the actor was not banned full-stop from the casino.

How did Ben Sanderson lose his family? ›

Get to Know him in...

An avowed alcoholic, Ben drinks away his family, friends, and, finally, his job. With deliberate resolve, he burns the remnants of his life and heads for Las Vegas to end it all in the last great binge of his hopeless life.

What math is used in 21? ›

In both movies, card counting is the most prominent way that mathematics is used by the main characters. Card counting is most commonly used in the game Blackjack, which is also known as 21 in some places.

Why do casinos hate card counters? ›

While casinos don't like card counters because they beat the system, all they can do is set bet limits or ban players from blackjack or the casino itself.

Who is the best card counter? ›

World's Most Famous Card Counters – The Initial Hall of Famers
  • Edward Thorp – The Father of Card Counting. ...
  • Thomas Hyland – The Man Who Started it All. ...
  • Al Francesco – The Father of Team Play Concept. ...
  • Ken Uston – The Celebrity. ...
  • Peter A. ...
  • Stanford Wong – The Professional. ...
  • Arnold Snyder – The Pivotal Figure.
Jan 8, 2020

How do casinos catch card counters? ›

They actually employ former card counters and have them sit in the security booths and watch players via the security cameras. If they see a lone card counter raising and lowering his bets, they either send more drinks to slow him down, or they'll eventually send a pit boss or security to ask him to leave.

Do card counters always win? ›

A common misconception is that a card counter always wins. They don't always win. They are expected to win in the long run, but even while counting winning is nearly 50/50. The advantage gained from counting is around 1-2%.

When should you leave a blackjack table? ›

4 Valid Reasons to End a Blackjack Session - YouTube

Do blackjack dealers count cards? ›

These Dealers are usually counting their own cards 8 hours a day; 5 days a week plus they have experience dealing to other card counters. Because of this they are more knowledgeable than the typical card counter and therefore they can easily spot when someone is counting cards.

How do you master in blackjack? ›

How to Master Blackjack in 10 Steps
  1. 1 – Learn the Basics. I've already mentioned the objective of the game. ...
  2. 2 – Set a Budget. ...
  3. 3 – Know the Terminology. ...
  4. 4 – Know the Variations of Blackjack. ...
  5. 5 – Learn Basic Strategy. ...
  6. 6 – Know the Table Rules. ...
  7. 7 – Insurance Is a Sucker Bet. ...
  8. 8 – Learn to Count Cards.
Dec 17, 2018

Why is it forbidden to count cards? ›

Card counting is frowned upon because it violates the UNWRITTEN "law" (that the casino is supposed to have the edge).

What should I hit in blackjack? ›

It is common practice to hit on eight or less, but stand on anything 12 or higher. When the dealer has a three, you should hit on anything eight or below and 12, while standing on anything 13 or over. If the dealer has a two it is best to hit on nine or less and stand on anything 13 or over.

Is Bringing Down the House a true story? ›

Though the book is classified as non-fiction, the Boston Globe alleges that the book contains significant fictional elements, that many of the key events propelling the drama did not occur in real life, and that others were exaggerated greatly. The book was adapted into the movies 21 and The Last Casino.

What is the name of the casino security guy following Ben? ›

Security at the casinos begin to recognize Ben and the team and see that they are losing money. Head security guy Carl (Fishbourne) is mad and is determined to catch him. Back at MIT, Ben has been ignoring his best friends. They confront him and they get into an argument.

Is the movie 21 on Netflix? ›

Watch all you want.

How did the MIT card counters get caught? ›

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 bettor" to the table, using code words to signal how "positive" the shoe was.

How much did the MIT card counters make? ›

The MIT Blackjack Team as a whole, though, was a fruitful pursuit for most involved. They no doubt made millions and quite possibly close to $57.6 million overall.

Is the book Bringing Down the House based on a true story? ›

Though the book is classified as non-fiction, the Boston Globe alleges that the book contains significant fictional elements, that many of the key events propelling the drama did not occur in real life, and that others were exaggerated greatly. The book was adapted into the movies 21 and The Last Casino.

Who caught counting cards? ›

Ben Affleck has admitted that he's been caught counting cards while at casinos, but he doesn't see it as a big deal. In his cover story for the October issue of Details magazine, the "Gone Girl" actor confirmed reports that he had been caught counting cards while playing blackjack. "That is a true story," Affleck said.

Who were the members of the MIT Blackjack Team? ›

MOST FAMOUS MIT MEMBERS (ALPHABETICAL)
  • Mike Aponte. Aponte joined the Strategic Investments team and he eventually formed the The Reptiles Team with Manilo Lopez and Mes Atamian. ...
  • Andy Bloch. ...
  • John Chang. ...
  • Lori Chang (Tsao) ...
  • Semyon Dukach. ...
  • Bill Kaplan. ...
  • J. P. Massar (aka Jeff Ma) ...
  • Jane Willis.
Apr 7, 2021

Can casinos kick you out for counting cards? ›

Card counting is NOT illegal under federal, state and local laws in the United States as long as players don't use any external card-counting device or people who assist them in counting cards. In their effort to identify card counters, casinos can ban players believed to be counters — sort of.

Are you allowed to use math in casinos? ›

All casino game strategies use math to help you accomplish these things. Blackjack strategy is simply using math to determine the single best way to play each hand. Every blackjack hand has exactly 1 right way to play based on the card the dealer shows and the odds of drawing each card left in the shoe or deck.

Who created the MIT Blackjack Team? ›

But for a few years in the 1980s, Bill Kaplan and a few associates figured out a way to clean house and rake in cash, and thus, the legend of the MIT Blackjack Team was born.

Is there a Bringing Down the House 2? ›

Despite trade rumblings a few months back, Queen Latifah has announced that she won't be re-teaming with Steve Martin for a sequel to the interracial smash hit "Bringing Down the House". According to Ms Latifah, the house of the Mouse didn't want too cough up the bank for the powerhouse duo, so it's off.

What is the book Bringing Down the House about? ›

BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE tells the true story of the most successful scam ever, In which teams of brilliant young mathematicians and physicists won millions of dollars from the casinos of Las Vegas, being drawn in the process into the high-life of drugs, high-spending and sex.

When did Bringing Down the House take place? ›

Bringing Down The House ostensibly takes place in 2003, the year it was released. But culturally, it seems to take place sometime between JFK's inauguration and The Beatles' first American show.

How did Ben Affleck cheat blackjack? ›

The film director and movie star Ben Affleck, soon to be featured as Hollywood's next Batman, did the gambling world a favor last week by placing professional blackjack back in the news. He did so by counting cards at the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas and getting ejected from the game.

How much did Jeff Ma make in blackjack? ›

Jeff Ma's story of winning millions at blackjack makes it to big screen. For a guy who pocketed between $3 million and $5 million playing blackjack in Las Vegas and Atlantic City casinos, Jeff Ma cuts a decidedly low-roller figure.

Who is the best card counter? ›

World's Most Famous Card Counters – The Initial Hall of Famers
  • Edward Thorp – The Father of Card Counting. ...
  • Thomas Hyland – The Man Who Started it All. ...
  • Al Francesco – The Father of Team Play Concept. ...
  • Ken Uston – The Celebrity. ...
  • Peter A. ...
  • Stanford Wong – The Professional. ...
  • Arnold Snyder – The Pivotal Figure.
Jan 8, 2020

Videos

1. Top 10 Mistakes in "21" The Movie
(Blackjack Apprenticeship)
2. THIS MIT BLACKJACK TEAM PLAYS BIG IN CASINO WITH SECURITY HEAD TAILING THEM | TRUE STORY
(Movie Digest)
3. Card Counting 101 - Mike Aponte - MIT Blackjack Team
(Mike Aponte)
4. Blackjack Expert Explains How Card Counting Works | WIRED
(WIRED)
5. Jeff Ma: Member of MIT Blackjack Team and Subject of The Movie '21'
(EaglesTalent)
6. MIT Blackjack- discrepancies w/ 21 movie
(hb)

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