In professional gambling circles, the ‘Computer Group’ is a name synonymous with big-time betting in Las Vegas. Most associate legendary gambler Billy Walters with the computer group. Behind the scenes, however, it was another man who developed the strategies that ultimately led to their incredible levels of success.
His name is Michael Kent and he is, without doubt, one of the true pioneers of computer-based betting.
From Westinghouse to Las Vegas
Back in 1972, Michael Kent had no idea he was going to revolutionise the gambling industry. By day he worked for Westinghouse, a massive US electrical conglomerate. His role was to use computers to help develop nuclear submarines.
However, on the weekends he was an avid softball enthusiast. He played for the company team and together they had won several championships. Being the analytically minded person that he was, Kent wondered why they were so successful. So he set about trying to analyse the team’s data and use a computer to examine the strengths and weaknesses.
Given the limited data, Kent needed a larger challenge. So he turned his attention to college football. In the US, college football has a huge following and at the time there was plenty of data. However, the catch was that it was all in guides, newspapers and even libraries. So Kent had to first build up a data set before trying to build a computer model that could potentially predict the winner of a football match.
Kent’s first efforts were on beating the point spread. He discovered that there were a number of factors that contributed to a teams spread. They included home vs away, number of first downs and, of course, the strength of the lineup. Once confident in his model he started placing small bets of his own while continuing to develop and improve the model in his spare time.
For the next seven years, he fine-tuned his computer strategy until he finally quit his job at Westinghouse and decided to become a full-time professional gambler. Of course, to do this he had to go to where the action was – Las Vegas.
Enter Doctor Ivan Mindlin
Over the next few years, Kent continued to apply his strategies by himself in Las Vegas. He would compile all the new data on a daily basis and then run his models. He would spend time on a Westinghouse computer that was able to crunch the numbers for him and give him a list of money lines for the upcoming games. The rest of the time was spent locating the weakest lines and placing bets.
As time grew on Kent began to become increasingly anxious about his betting activities. He was forced to place large sums of money on a daily basis and was carrying large amounts of cash around. That made him uncomfortable and, after a while, he felt like he was being followed.
It was around that time that Kent met Doctor Ivan Mindlin through a mutual friend. Mindlin was a surgeon with a propensity for gambling. At the time he owed some bookies $100,000 and was looking for a way to promptly pay off the debt.
So when Kent asked Mindlin to combine forces, it felt like a good fit. Kent was able to handle the numbers, while Mindlin was able to use his gambling network to place bets. It was 1980 and it was the very beginnings of the Computer Group, as it’s known commonly today.
Over the following few years the group started to grow. However, at the time Kent didn’t realise just how large the operations were getting. The men had decided to split the profits 50/50, however Mindlin had free rein to place bets in any way he saw fit. The group quickly expanded and at various times had a network of bettors all across the country. Members included people from Kent’s own family and other famous gamblers such as Billy Walters.
During a famous run in 1983, the Computer Group bet $23 million dollars and made a profit of nearly $3 million.
Over time the group started to become increasingly famous, however Mindlin was beginning to take credit for all their efforts. He also started placing bets with some less than respectable sources, including bookmakers with ties to the mafia.
FBI and IRS Battles
The criminal connections that Mindlin had cultivated had caught the attention of the authorities. Unbeknown to Kent, the FBI started to look into the workings of the Computer Group and this raised some serious red flags.
Kent realised that Mindlin hadn’t been the honest operator that he thought he was and got a lawyer of his own. He ultimately filed a civil lawsuit against Mindlin for half a million dollars. He also cooperated with the FBI and was granted immunity for any wrongdoings.
At the same time, Kent had naively never paid taxes on any of his winnings. Proceeds from gambling are taxable in the US and Kent was also looking at a hefty tax bill from the IRS. He and his wife went to court to fight the IRS but ultimately lost the battle.
The End of the Computer Group
The personal troubles and between Kent and Mindlin ultimately contributed to the end of the Computer Group. The legal battles were really just the final nail in the coffin. Mindlin had never been honest with Kent and that saw them part ways.
Michael Kent went on to found another sports betting group with his brother, however he has since retired from professional gambling.
While certainly not the most famous gambler to come out of the infamous Computer Group, he was, without doubt, the brains of the operation, and one of the pioneers of computer-based gambling.
Brett and his team is the Champion Bets version of the Computer Group, beating the bookies at their own game on the NBA, AFL and NFL.
The team has consistently been able to profit thanks to their computer-based picks, with their custom built models out-performing those used by the bookies themselves.
Their results over a long period of time speak for themselves, and with the NBA season only halfway completed there is still plenty of money to be made in 2018.