Who is Bill Kaplan (The Man Who Took on Las Vegas)

Bill Kaplan Wiki

There has always been the famous phrase, “The house always wins” when it comes to most – if not all – casino games, and so people around the world were fascinated by the stories that emanated from one of America’s best universities, where it was reported that a group of students had found a way to beat the house on a regular basis.

Casino managers and owners were thrown into a spin, paranoid about players everywhere learning the techniques used by the infamous MIT Blackjack Team. The team had been formed long before Bill Kaplan became its leader but had failed to make much headway in its efforts to beat the house. Kaplan changed all that, transforming the team into a slick operation that turned a serious profit at the expense of casino owners up and down the US.

Here we take a closer look at who this man was, and how his team of crack Blackjack players, while unlikely to win any Nobel prizes for their work, did manage to write themselves into the cultural zeitgeist of the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s.

Some of the brightest minds in the world head to MIT to hone their respective genius, and Kaplan used that rich talent pool to create the best card counting team the world has ever seen

From Harvard to MIT

While he had always been into card games, Kaplan’s main preoccupation was academia, with him earning a Harvard MBA in 1980 and a BA three years earlier at the same revered institute. He was brought to MIT after a chance encounter with one of the MIT Blackjack Team’s founding fathers, J. P. Massar, who also had the rather spooky moniker of “Mr. M”.

It was together that the two men would form the most effective card counting team ever seen. They did this thanks to the success Kaplan had already garnered running a card counting team based in Las Vegas. It was only once the team was finding it hard to keep beating Nevada casinos that Kaplan’s original Blackjack team splintered and left him searching for a new project to pour his energy into. That meant he was ultimately the perfect fit for what Massar had cooking at MIT. The rest, as they say, is history.

Las Vegas casinos were always on red alert any time Kaplan and Co. were roaming the strip, although that often did not stop the MIT Blackjack Team from winning all the same

Online Casinos and Increased Security

Part of the reason for Kaplan leaving the team he helped turn into a success was probably due to him having ruffled every casino owner on the planet, but also because much of the game is now played online, where the card counting techniques taught by Kaplan simply do not apply. Added to this was the fact that land-based casinos were upping their security protocols to such a degree that not even the best disguises could get his teammates past the beady eyes of CCTV cameras and newly installed croupier body cameras. With more and more online casinos opening every year there will no doubt be some card counters attempting to find ways to flip the house edge and rules of a range of different variants, but for now that seems like a distant possibility.

Where is He Now?

Since he stepped away from running card counting teams, Kaplan has been the subject of a multitude of popular books and movies. The most famous of these were the novel called Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich, which was then turned into a smash hit movie entitled 21.

Away from his life’s work being adapted for print and screen, Kaplan is the Cofounder & CEO of FreshAddress, a company that specializes in providing database services. Certainly, he knows a thing or two about how to keep data secure, especially if it pertains to the winning of casino table games. No doubt his solid grounding in mathematics and probabilities is still paying dividends to this day.