While flipping through my Netflix the other day, I came across something very interesting – something I’d never heard of before – an independent documentary film by the name of Holy Rollers: The True Story of Card Counting Christians. Any event that involves throwing religious fanatics and gamblers into a co-ed pit is high on my to-do list! Though I’ll admit, it isn’t exactly what I was expecting.
Holy Rollers is a documentary by director Bryan Storkel that portrays a group of Christians who use card counting skills to play blackjack. These aren’t just Sunday church goers, but pastors as well. Considered to be the best funded blackjack team in the world, these guys (and gal) mean business, and they don’t mind doing God’s handiwork within the sullied walls of a den of inequity when the outcome glorifies of the Lord Almighty.
Based in Seattle, this dutiful squad of blackjack specialists call themselves the Church Team. They stuff their pockets with tens of thousands of dollars before each blackjack session, no worries that another member of the group may take a stack of cash and run. They trust one another. They are on a mission for God. And they are ostensibly good at what they do.
For those of you who have seen the similarly themed Blockbuster film ‘21’, there isn’t much these movies have in common outside of blackjack card counting. The MIT members of the 21 team were all absurdly intelligent college students. The Church Team pulls off the same card counting tactics, while the majority of its members have yet to finish, if even start, college.
Star of the film Ben Crawford is co-founder of the Christian blackjack team. He started learning to count cards after reading an eye-opening novel entitled “How to Make $100,000 a Year Gambling for a Living”. For Crawford, it was never meant to be anything more than “a fun summer. I never thought it would become a business,” he said.
The most intriguing factor about the team is that there was never any sign of greed involved. They could win or lose as much as $40,000 in a single day without batting an eyelash. No one got to keep their individual winnings. The money would be continuously pooled between the group until they had earned $100,000, at which time it was divvied up among them and the whole process started over.
The Church Team disbanded last year – likely the reason they agreed to make a documentary, revealing their identities and intentions to Las Vegas. They had collectively pocketed $3.2 million from their blackjack play and decided it was time to go their separate ways, peruse new righteous paths.
For Ben Crawford and Colin Jones, leader of the Church Team, their path didn’t waver by much. They continue to play blackjack for money and have established another source of income by way of a website called Blackjack Apprenticeship. On the website, visitors can watch free educational blackjack videos, purchase their new e-book “The 29-Minute Card Counting Book” for $9.99 or go so far as to join their card counting boot camp for an enrollment fee of $1,499.
After the film’s release in 2011, director Bryan Storkel has found himself working on another documentary of spiritual nature, ‘Fight Church’. This time, ministries train pew-warmers in the violent sport of mixed martial arts.