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FDL Movie Night: “Holy Rollers: The True Story of Christian Card Counters”

Wow! Holy Rollers: The True Story of Christian Card Counters is a mindblowing documentary following a group of young Christians as they form a blackjack team and take casinos for over $3.2 million by using their math skills. Heads up: While strongly discouraged by casinos, card counting is not technically illegal. And gambling, while frowned upon by some Christian sects, is not specifically banned in the Bible. Take this verse from Deuteronomy:

You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.

Formed by young, cool Christian dudes–tattoos, goatees, Obey clothing–who reach out to fellow church members, pastors and church planters, “The Church Team” works by assigning a binary system to cards and are thus able to beat the casinos. For a time. Team members were paid an hourly wage and when $100,000 is won, team members are paid incentives, and investors–which include team members and their families who have invested their savings and taken out home loans to fund the gambling–make dividends of 35% annually over a three year period. The Church Team members stash money in their closets and freezers, carry huge stack of cash through airports, get mistaken for drug dealers, keep flow charts; and informed by their faith, discuss more than just blackjack, using the free time their steady winnings provide to minister to their churches, do community service, and spend time with their families.

In order to dodge casino security and avoid getting “back-offed” or worse yet “back-roomed,” team members disguise themselves as cowboys, Goths and MIT geeks. Despite their precautions, they are removed from casinos and one member is arrested. But as the team grows in size, they start to loose, and loose big, causing tensions and divisiveness. Trust issues are raised, especially when a non-Christian joins the team, and the Holy Spirit “reveals” an alleged theft, and members begin to question certain aspects of their faith. And the team’s founding members head to Vegas for one last score.

Holy Rollers gives a unique look at two worlds–card counters and young Christians–that, for a time, blend seamlessly.  And makes the point that maybe religion is a slightly safer gamble than blackjack.

God knows all of my needs. He knows exactly what the cards are in the shoe…I think every hand is created by God. He knows when I’m gonna hit or gonna stand…This is my calling.

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Lisa Derrick

Lisa Derrick

Los Angeles native, attended UC Berkeley and Loyola Marymount University before punk rock and logophilia overtook her life. Worked as nightclub columnist, pop culture journalist and was a Hollywood housewife before writing for and editing Sacred History Magazine. Then she discovered the thrill of politics. She also appears frequently on the Dave Fanning Show, one of Ireland's most popular radio broadcasts.