The Story of Michael Kent and the Computer Group
Michael Kent is an American computer programmer and former professional gambler who achieved fame and, later, notoriety by developing a computer algorithm to predict the results of college football games.
Together with Dr Ivan Mindlin, Michael Kent founded the Computer Group, a company which he expanded his gambling operations and generated millions of dollars in winnings for himself and others, season after season.
How It All Got Started
In 1972, at the age of 27, Michael Kent began work as a computer programmer for Westinghouse, a nuclear power industry giant in Pittsburgh.
Michael Kent was also a member of the highly successful Westinghouse company softball team, which won a string of league championships in the 70s. Being a naturally analytical thinker, Kent began to suspect that a computer programme could be devised to evaluate the quality of the team and accurately predict the outcomes of games. The Westinghouse super computers came in very useful when Michael Kent decided to try to develop just such a programme, which turned out to be incredibly accurate.
But Michael Kent wanted more. It was at this point that he shifted his focus to College Football.
Introduction to College Football
Thus, Michael Kent spent most of the 70s gathering statistics and other information about American college football at the time to use as inputs for his programme. All of this data influenced the predicted point spread generated by the programme, although some elements were given greater importance than others. Some of the factors considered most important by Michael Kent were:
- Home field advantage;
- Schedule strength;
- Yards gained per play; and
- The number of first-downs.
From Pittsburgh to Las Vegas
In 1979, Michael Kent resigned from Westinghouse and relocated to Las Vegas to earn his living as a professional gambler.
Despite the fact that he defied everything that the experts thought they knew about sports betting, Kent’s programme kept on making predictions with bulls-eye accuracy, with Kent raking in more and more winnings.
Ivan Mindlin and the Computer Group
Michael Kent was introduced to Dr Ivan Mindlin – an orthopaedic surgeon and avid gambler – by a mutual friend. Largely to help deal with Kent’s, growing paranoia over having to handle and transport very large amounts of cash on his own, he brought Mindlin into the fold and, together, they founded the Computer Group in 1980.
Founding the computer group allowed Michael Kent to focus on the programme and the requisite data while Mindlin dealt with building up a network of bettors and collecting and investing the money they won. Rough estimates have it that the Computer Group generated in the range of US$ 15 million by the end of the 1983/4 football season.
Exit Dr Mindlin and the Computer Group
At the same time as the Computer Group was enjoying this unprecedented success, however, Ivan Mindlin was secretly sowing the seeds of its ultimate downfall. For years, unbeknownst to Michael Kent, Mindlin siphoned money off of Kent’s portion of the winnings and took it for himself. Moreover, Mindlin had convinced Michael Kent that it was not necessary for them to pay tax on their winnings.
The truth ultimately came out in 1985 when a misguided FBI investigation into alleged illegal bookmaking activities by the Computer Group, prompted Michael Kent to question Mindlin’s true motives.
Ultimately, both Michael Kent and the authorities uncovered the truth about Mindlin, who was prosecuted for his crimes. The Computer Group was dissolved and, in exchange for immunity, Michael Kent provided full cooperation with the FBI investigation.