Who Was Mr M In Blackjack?

J.P. Massar was featured in a documentary made by the History Channel in which he was nicknamed as Mr M. He was one of the members of the original six-member club of the MIT who induced the method of counting cards and won their fortune in casinos of the Atlantic City in 1979.

He overheard a conversation about a professional and unbeatable blackjack player in a Chinese restaurant in Cambridge in May of 1980. The speaker was none other than Bill Kaplan who had earned a degree in MBA from the coveted Harvard Business School in 1980. He was running a blackjack team in Las Vegas since 1977.


Kaplan completed his graduation in arts in 1977 and dropped one year after 1977. He delayed getting admission into MBA and moved to Las Vegas. He formed a team of blackjack players, but his techniques were not limited to counting cards. He had devised new and subtle ways of statistics to increase his winning odds. He was a decorated athlete and used funds received from Harvard’s outstanding scholar-athlete to play blackjack. He was able to generate a 35 fold return on his investment when he played for nine months.

Kaplan continued to run his group of members side by side when he was doing MBA at Harvard Business School. At the time of his graduation, the players got bored of playing in the Nevada area. They wanted to try out the international circuit. He could not manage the team outside while they are travelling around the world playing blackjack at casinos. It made his statistics go haywire as different places had different rules. Kaplan was forced to conclude his journey as a member of the team.

The Kaplan team got disintegrated into small teams. They splintered into playing small teams to try their luck in challenging environments and devising new ways to face different rules throughout the world.

The Meeting of Kaplan and Massar

After meeting Kaplan and getting to know about his successful ventures. Massan asked Kaplan to join him to try their luck at Atlantic city and see them in action.  Kaplan was looking forward to any other opportunity and Massar wanted to put the new local team that could be managed.

card counting

Kaplan agreed to join the Massar and his teammates at a casino in Atlantic City for a weekend. He noticed that the group was into playing blackjack with a new version of card counting which was overly complicated and each player had a different strategy to make their play subtle.

The result was ensuing error rates which balanced the increasing odds against a small game. When Kaplan returned to Cambridge, he discussed every problem he encountered with the methods used by the team with Massar. They eventually agreed to continue their trysts together.