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Blackjack Pro Mike Aponte Speaks at University of Massachusetts

Nov 10, 2010

Mike Aponte
Mike Aponte

“During the week, I was a normal college student,” said Mike Aponte. “On the weekend I was a VIP.”

Aponte was one of the key members of the infamous MIT Blackjack Team, the card counting group made famous by the book “Bringing Down the House” and, more recently, by the Hollywood blockbuster “21”.

Earlier this week, he spoke to students at the University of Massachusetts about his days winning millions playing blackjack card games.

The MIT Blackjack Team took Las Vegas casinos for nearly $10 million using a sophisticated blackjack card counting system. The team kept up their winning streak for months, but eventually had to take to wearing disguises to avoid detection. Aponte recalled using wigs, colored contact lenses, false facial hair and even “a fat man suit” to change his appearance.

Eventually the casinos started to catch on, and the team had to disband. Aponte went on to pursue a professional blackjack career, and even won the 2004 World Series of Blackjack tournament.

Aponte’s final advice to the students at the end of his talk was this: “First, it’s okay to be unsure of what you want to do. Always keep an open mind and be willing to take chances. Live a life of conscious intent. Set goals and make a plan. Change is a part of life, so be willing to adapt.”

Aponte also had a few blackjack tips to offer. “Never take insurance, it will end up costing you,” he said. “And always remember to split eights and aces.”

Aponte now lives in Los Angeles, tutoring high school students and giving private blackjack lessons.

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