City Journal: The Gonz Show: David Irvine

As an MIT-bred blackjack stud, he took casinos for millions in the ’90s. John Gonzalez learns about his new game: teaching average stiffs.

When the casinos caught on to the so-called MIT Blackjack Team, you guys were blacklisted for being card counters. How upset were you? It was a long time coming. At the end of the road, it just wasn’t an easy lifestyle. It was a job for us. We were working all night and it was stressful and mentally exhausting. We weren’t college kids anymore, either. Most of us had a good six-year run.

You ever think about going back with a fake mustache and a hat? I could lend you the hat. Yes, I think about it. If we sit and play low stakes, we can still play and not draw too much attention. Casino security is looking for thieves and purse snatchers and a million other things. To look at the face of every single player is probably pretty far down on their list.

Whose idea was your new business, the Blackjack Institute? Kind of ballsy to throw it in the casinos’ faces, no? This is a profession where the better you are, the more problems arise with the casinos. There’s nothing illegal about what we did. So we might as well get people to do what we can’t do anymore.

Your website says your system is easy to learn. How easy? ’Cause, you know, not everyone went to MIT. The math is simple. The hardest thing is division, and we have formulas that make it easier for people to do. You can learn everything you need to know in a day. It’s just practice, that’s all it is.

So you guys will go to someone’s house for $5,000 and teach them. What time are you coming over? [Laughs.] By the way, I’m a little short on the five Gs, but I’m good for it. You guys do installment plans, right? Exactly. Sure.