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MIT Blackjack King Takes SMTP Public 108

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the connection-refused dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Semyon Dukach is at it again. Thumbing his nose at the establishment, that is. Dukach, a former leader of the MIT blackjack team, has taken his small company, SMTP, public today in the hopes of overturning the field of e-mail delivery and management. SMTP might sound boring, but it's the latest vehicle in Dukach's quest to 'make a couple billion and then try to help the world' (without the aid of venture capitalists or investment bankers). Given his track record, people might not want to bet against him."
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MIT Blackjack King Takes SMTP Public

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  • by rossdee (243626)

    Do they go around casinos with concealed computers counting the cards and winning more than the house would like?

    • by matunos (1587263)

      I hope not, because that could land them in prison.

      • by Dahamma (304068)

        Everything except the concealed computers - it was just a highly organized team of cart counters. So it wasn't illegal (but that doesn't mean most of them aren't banned for life from most casinos by now...)

    • Re:Blackjack team? (Score:4, Informative)

      by slodan (1134883) on Monday May 02, 2011 @12:29PM (#36001326)
      Yes. [wikipedia.org]
    • Re:Blackjack team? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Archangel Michael (180766) on Monday May 02, 2011 @12:29PM (#36001328) Journal

      The computers were concealed in their heads. They counted cards, and did the math in their heads. It is fairly easy if you have the discipline.

      • Re:Blackjack team? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Splab (574204) on Monday May 02, 2011 @01:08PM (#36001748)

        You have obviously never tried.

        It is extremely difficult to get right, which is why a lot of casinos actually encourage you to do it - provided you aren't good at it. The local casinos even gives you a booklet which explains the perfect game; it's good business since most players (as you write) will tend to bias their play on how much money is at stake and their gut feeling.

      • Re:Blackjack team? (Score:4, Informative)

        by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Monday May 02, 2011 @01:15PM (#36001840) Homepage

        The computers were concealed in their heads. They counted cards, and did the math in their heads. It is fairly easy if you have the discipline.

        The MIT card-counting team was the book Bringing Down the House (the one they made the movie of). Semyon Dukach was not in that book, but in the following Ben Mezrich book, Breaking Vegas, which had a more sophisticated (and harder to accomplish) set of techniques.

        • Re:Blackjack team? (Score:5, Informative)

          by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Monday May 02, 2011 @01:22PM (#36001930)

          Wired had a nice bit on it: Hacking Las Vegas [wired.com] (Written by Ben Mezrich, I think it may be an excerpt from his book).

          Or if you want a Hollywood Bastardization (Based on the True Story) there's 21 [wikipedia.org]

          At the time, the casinos made it easy to stay liquid. This was before the era of the CTR — the cash transaction report — which obligates the casinos to report any transaction greater than $10,000. "In the old days," Tay explains, "you'd win a quarter-million dollars, and they'd give it to you in cash. On New Year's 1996, I walked from the Mirage to the MGM Grand with a paper New Year's hat filled with $180,000." Back in Boston, Lewis and his friends kept the money in cash, declaring the winnings in the "other" category on their IRS forms. "You'd find $100 bills all over my apartment. Dig in my laundry, there would be $100,000 under my socks."

          • by paiute (550198)

            From what I have heard of Ben Mezrich's liberal reimaging of reality, I would take any account by him with big error bars.

      • My apologies if my understanding of their method is incorrect. My problem with their method (as I understood it) is that a person making low bets counted the cards and then called in a high roller when they knew the deck was stacked in the player's favor. That is not simply counting cards (which I whole-heartedly support), that is counting cards and then relaying that information to an accomplice that has been exposed to zero risk in the accumulation of the data (zero risk because they were not betting).
        • I read the book describing their method (bringing down the house) and I think you've accurately described it, fwiw.

        • by retchdog (1319261)

          so i guess i shouldn't teach my (rhetorical) child about what i've learned in life. i mean, since he didn't take the risks i did, it would be unethical.

          what a bunch of hooey. what's unethical about freedom of association?

        • Would it change your opinion to know that they all shared the same pot of money?

          The reason they had someone else walk up and bet, was to throw off suspicion of card-counting (which you said you support).
        • by bws111 (1216812)

          Why is running a casino any more 'immoral' than any other form of entertainment? I could spend money on movies, going to a club, going to the theater, going skydiving, attending a concert, or going to a casino. Someone is going to make profit off each one of them, and (except for gambling) I am guaranteed to come away from each one of them with nothing but memories.

          Your use of the term 'fools' is just snobbery. I know many people who enjoy gambling (I myself do not), including my wife. I would not cal

          • by Belial6 (794905)
            Exactly, at a casino, you SPEND money. It's just that every once in a while they give you some back to take home.

            I keep track of every dollar I spend in casinos. The amount of money I have spent in casinos is a small fraction of what I have spent in movie theaters, and I have spent a lot less time in theaters.
            • Exactly, at a casino, you SPEND money. It's just that every once in a while they give you some back to take home.

              The thing is, that's all you do - spend money, don't see a movie, don't get a dinner, don't receive anything. It's about as exciting as watching paint dry, generally in the company of people I would not want to meet. Then once in a while you (or somebody) you get some back. I would get more amusement out of passing money out on the street, and keeping bus money. (Actually I've read that about 1/4 people leaves Las Vegas ahead. That bit of hope keeps folks coming back.)

              I used to tell people, "I don't MI

              • by Belial6 (794905)
                Well, being a bad loser would be a good reason that you don't like gambling. You also seem to lack the empathy required to understand that different people find different thing entertaining.

                You are fully aware that when gambling, spending money isn't "all you do". You play a game. That is just as valid as sitting in a dark room watching pictures flicker on a screen. Personally, I find watching professional sports to be mind numbingly boring. Watching someone else play a game is certainly at least an
                • I didn't mean to imply it was boring for everyone - just me! :)

                  I wouldn't say I'm a bad loser - I am a bit competitive but I'm also pretty empathic. And I used to somewhat enjoy nickel-dime-quarter poker with friends (but we would avoid anyone who wasn't drinking - they were there to WIN!) I've been known to lighten up on a chess game to allow the other person a chance at winning. (I haven't played in 30 years - my attention span isn't what it used to be.) But there's something particularly about gambli

          • by AK Marc (707885)

            Why is running a casino any more 'immoral' than any other form of entertainment?

            Because of the tendency of people to become addicted to it.

            • What I want to know is who's gonna save me from people like you who want to save me from myself?

              Not to put too fine a point on it, but fuck right off. The only life you should be running is your own.

              • by AK Marc (707885)
                I never stated anything about trying to save anyone from themselves. Perhaps you need some marijuana to help you chill out. Oh wait, pricks like you keep voting to keep it illegal.
                • by danlip (737336)

                  If I had to guess, I would say the GP poster is definitely not one of the people who votes for it to be illegal. Given the sentiment he expressed, it's strange you would think otherwise.

                  • by AK Marc (707885)
                    He asserted my position to be the opposite of what it is, so I figured I'd do the same to him. If he doesn't like it, he shouldn't do it to others first.
    • no need for the computers if you have the discipline and without the computers card counting is 100% perfectly legal.

      the house can still kick you out and refuse to let you gamble with the if you win too much though.

      • by TheLink (130905)
        That's why some smart and amoral people go into stuff like investment banking instead:
        1) The betting limits are much higher.
        2) You generally don't have to deal with "Guido" and his very persuasive friends...
        3) You are usually playing with other people's money.
        4) When you win big, you win big.
        5) When you lose big, you get a bail out, bonus for past performance. Then you go on a nice holiday and come back and do it all over again.

        And when you bring the house down, you really bring it down :).
  • by OverlordQ (264228)

    The company has grown a lot in the past year and has been making a small profit—just under $400,000 after tax in 2010, on $2.7 million in revenue.

    Good luck with making that billion?

    • Depends on their business model. A company I helped start a while back went from that level of revenue to *netting* $60M/year in about 6 years, and then went public at a $500M valuation. If they are growing fast, then their business model may be a good one and it'll just be a matter of time. One hard part (of many) is hanging onto enough of the equity while you are trying to grow fast enough (ie raising capital) to get a good valuation on future investments and eventually an IPO.

      • by OverlordQ (264228)

        Yes, but:

        An intriguing Boston-area tech company is going public after more than 10 years

        They've already been going a decade.

        • Took us 6 years to make our first dollar, and then we had the six years I was referring to above.

  • Slashvertisement (Score:4, Insightful)

    by oldhack (1037484) on Monday May 02, 2011 @12:28PM (#36001310)
    See subject.
  • by papasui (567265) on Monday May 02, 2011 @12:35PM (#36001384) Homepage
    for these articles that nothing more than paid publicity.
    • for these articles that nothing more than paid publicity.

      Well, it seems to be working. The stock price has increased from 0.25 to 7.50 [yahoo.com] in the last 5 hours. So already the company is worth 30 times more than it was earlier today. At that rate, they will be billionaires in no time.

      Speaking of publicity, how is www.xipher.net working out for ya?

      • by Yvanhoe (564877)
        Now smart people start selling
        • Now smart people start selling

          You may be right. The company has 13.4 million shares outstanding, making the current market capitalization $106 million (at the $7.90 per share current price), vs. $3.3 million this morning (at $0.25 per share, which I think was quite reasonable). A little pricey for a company with $2.7 million sales and $400k income. The investor has to gamble on significant future growth to justify the price/sales ratio of 40. By comparison, AAPL p/s is 3.7 and GOOG is 5.6.

  • Some of those "10 boring Boston area" companies sound pretty interesting to me, with a revenue model based on creating services valuable enough for people to pay for them. Facebook? Now there's boring for you, yet another company luring eyeballs, selling adspace, and fencing data to marketeers. They just happened to be the right thing at the right time to get those eyeballs.
    • by vlm (69642)

      Some of those "10 boring Boston area" companies sound pretty interesting to me, with a revenue model based on creating services valuable enough for people to pay for them.

      From the article:

      SMTP currently employs 31 people, most of them in Ukraine; four are based in Cambridge.

      If the only American is the CEO, and maybe his secretary, the janitor, and a fourth person, I'm not thinking it's a "Boston area" company. Toyota has a better argument at being a local company, as they surely employee more locals at the dealership. My local McDonalds employs probably 30 people, admittedly all illegal aliens, does that make them a local area company?

  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Monday May 02, 2011 @12:39PM (#36001430)

    The public has been using Simple Mail Transfer Protocol a long time already.

    • The guy seems well-meaning, I guess, but does anybody else object to the trademarking of a common acronym?

      Same with FTP Software.

      The fact is corps have a mind of their own. Are we going to see suits demanding people stop calling their email servers "SMTP servers"?

      • by pspahn (1175617)
        Well what if your name was Frank Tanner Parsons and you wanted to use your initials for your company name? I know I'd be pretty pissed off if someone told me I couldn't trademark a logo of my initials.
        • by retchdog (1319261)

          too bad. you want a government-enforced monopoly, you have to play by the quite reasonable rules, and it's just a sad coincidence about your name. what's with corporate entitlement these days?

        • by Xtifr (1323)

          I know I'd be pretty pissed off if someone told me I couldn't trademark a logo of my initials.

          Really? Even if your name was Ian Bradley Moore or Allan Thomas Thatcher? Charles Ivan Anderson? Nathaniel Beauregard Correlli? Belinda Bryce Cavendish? Daniel David Tennant? Diana Nancy Alcott? Heck, if your name happened to be P. S. Pahn, I bet Sony might have something to say about you trademarking your initials.

          • by pspahn (1175617)
            Yeah, fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on perspective) my initials are pretty unique. That's what an extra middle name gets you.
      • by pjt33 (739471)

        My initial reaction was that he clearly didn't care about people being able to Google for his company.

  • Too bad there are already entrenched, competent SMTP servers - many of them free! Why do we even care about this guy?

    Oh, yeah, that's right - MIT Blackjack team. Yeah that's what I make my business decisions on... whether the company founder knows how to play cards.

  • Not SMTP, but SMTP.com company

    • Not a Simple Mail Transfer Protocol; but a SMTP.com – a shitty little company indeed.
      Good luck with it!

  • A thinly traded OTC stock of a Spam circumvention company from the Ukraine. What could possibly go wrong?
  • It would be nice to have a free, open source, secure email server that could prevent spam, verify senders, validate content, and still not break the existing SMTP network. I know that sounds utopian. Just because I don't know how to do it, it doesn't mean somebody might find not a way. There is certainly a market opportunity.
  • Get it? You might not want to bet against him? Because he was a card shark?

  • I'm not sure SMTP would work all that well over port 21 competing with all that FTP traffic...

  • SMTP is more or less a whitehat spam operation. /. says -"yay spam!" ?

  • The From the TFA:

    About two months ago, SMTP made an initial stock offering to 81 shareholders, who invested a total of $100,000

    Raising $100,000 is news? At least he was smart enough not to get ripped off by investment bankers, not that they would be interested in a $100K placement.

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