Mike Aponte

a.k.a. MIT Mike; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; MIT Blackjack Team, Strategic Investments

Mike Aponte is a former member of the MIT Blackjack Team, and the co-founder of the Blackjack Institute, which provides instructional information for blackjack players. After first hitting the casinos in 1992, he soon became one of the MIT Team’s most successful Big Players. He also began training and recruiting new players, coordinating trips, and taking on further managerial tasks. Before the decade was over Aponte had already risen to the top of the casino blacklists and could no longer bet meaningful stakes anywhere, so he was effectively forced to retire from professional card counting as a BP. However, he is still as involved with blackjack as ever. Through the Blackjack Institute he speaks professionally about blackjack and provides coaching to blackjack players and up and coming teams. He has competed in various televised blackjack tournaments and won the very first World Series of Blackjack in 2004. He also spends his time organizing a non-profit educational program, tutoring and mentoring underrepresented youth to help them gain access to higher education.

Joining the MIT Team

Mike Aponte came to MIT to study economics and played on the football team. His career took an unexpected turn when he was introduced, in his senior year, to the MIT Blackjack Team. After the first team meeting he was hooked, and in 1992 he was recruited to play for the team as a Big Player after passing the team’s “BP checkout”, the big player test. This was during the time of the Strategic Investments incarnation of the MIT Team, which was set up as a million dollar company. However, the team had to keep recruiting a great many new players to replace those that were being identified as card counters. After the disbandment of SI in 1993, one former manager decided to set up a hand-picked team, and invited Aponte.

After SI

This team decided to improve on certain shortcomings of SI. The selection procedures were made more rigorous, higher quality control was enforced, recruitment tests were no longer cookie-cutter models, and the focus was kept close to card counting rather than more advanced but riskier techniques such as shuffle tracking and card steering. Subsequently, accoring to Aponte, the team never had a bad year. The biggest win the team ever made was close to half a million during the weekend of Superbowl XXIX in 1995. Because the event attracted many celebrities and other high rollers, the team’s BPs did not stand out so much among the other players and could afford to bet more crudely without attracting too much attention. However, as Griffin Investigations closed in on MIT players and MIT Mike came to top the blacklist (you can view Aponte’s first entry into the Griffin Investigations black book here), he retired from counting cards in casinos in the year 2000.

The Blackjack Institute

After Bringing Down the House came out, the popularity of Blackjack received a great boost. One day, Aponte was on the phone, talking to Dave Irvine about an idea he had discussed with a former team mate, about bringing out an instructional video to cover the skills that are most difficult to learn from books alone. Irvine was enthusiastic about the idea, and they founded a company for which they wanted to patent the name MITBlackjack. The MIT, however, was not in favour of this idea. Averse to the idea of beginning a legal battle against the MIT, they changed the name to Blackjack Institute. The Blackjack Institute first brought out a home training course, which includes the video 60 Minutes to Winning Blackjack. Since then they have extended their offer to include more merchandise, books, instructional seminars and private mentoring.

After 2000, Mike Aponte competed in various televised blackjack tournaments, including the World Series of Blackjack and the Ultimate Blackjack Tour. He does volunteer work, and maintains a blog at MikeAponte.com where he posts articles about about blackjack as well as entertaining related topics such as comparisons between Bringing Down the House and what really happened.