When Card Counting Meets Christianity

I had no idea the director of Fight Church was the same guy who directed Holy Rollers (now streaming on Netflix).

Holy Rollers was featured on This American Life last week — it’s the story of a group of people who count cards while playing Blackjack and make lots of money. Sound familiar? Maybe. But this time, they’re all Christian.

Good luck making sense of that :)

The trailer for that movie is below:



About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • TheAnalogKid

    One for bad, two for good.

  • http://oddboyout.blogspot.com/ oddboyout

    It’s on Netflix for streaming.

  • http://www.facebook.com/therealkatmandew Daniel Lasris

    I like the part in the trailer where they say, “at least we can liberate the money from the clutches of those who would use it for ill purposes”  Doesn’t that seem ironic?

  • Renshia

    Ha ha, I love it. You can rationalize anything in the name of jebus.

  • alt+3

    Wouldn’t “Holy Rollers” imply they play some kind of dice based game like craps?

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    I get that downright deceit isn’t a Christian value, but I’ve always been confused by the theological argument against gambling.  Or drinking for that matter.  I can’t recall the Bible referencing gambling, and obviously at least wine must be ok if Jesus sees fit to make it.

    Anyone know how some fundamentalist Christians manage to spin prohibitions on gambling and alcohol?

    • Thin-ice

      It is strange. The disciples drew straws to decide who should replace Judas, like throwing dice or flipping coins. Paul said drink wine for your stomach’s sake. Mormons don’t drink coffee, tea or coke, but boy do they like to go to Vegas and gamble. And I think the evangelical community is growing more and more tolerant of beer and wine than they used to be, and several I know go to Vegas every year.

    • Deven Kale

       Back then, drinking water wasn’t recommended. It could very likely be contaminated by any number of deadly pathogens. Keep in mind, this was a time when people regularly washed themselves, washed their clothes, and watered their animals in the same water that they would be drinking from. Wine back then was much weaker than now and, due to the processes it went through, much more drinkable than water. When Jesus turned the water into wine, it wasn’t for people to get drunk, it was so they would have something to drink that wouldn’t make them ill.

    • Pureone

      One  biblical “argument” I’ve heard against gambling is that the soldiers cast lots for Jesus’s clothes, therefore gambling bad.

      I am confused on what a poor wandering preacher who espoused poverty was wearing, in that there were minimum 5 pieces of clothing worthy enough for a roman soldiers to want. (4 plus his undergarment)

      Also, why did they divide the clothes up at the crucifixion? If he had been whipped and beaten and the like, putting the clothes back on would have made them bloody and undesirable. That means someone was lugging his clothes around, which seems highly unlikely.

    • TiltedHorizon

       It’s a biblical grey area. There are no scriptures explicitly referring to gambling but there are several which cast a negative light on the pursuit of money, taking shortcuts, and coveting. 

      Ecclesiastes 5:10, Luke 16:13, 1 Timothy 6:10, Proverbs 10:4, Exodus 20:17

      Depending on how these are interpreted one can easily rationalize away the guilt by saying its not done for money but the challenge. 

  • Isilzha

    I have no idea if this is serious or just a serious Poe!

  • Isilzha

    Also, I’ve never understood how casinos can legally kick out people for winning!   “He’s an advantage player.  I don’t want him in my casino.”  Yes, well, I only want people on starvation diets at my all-you-can-eat buffet, but sometimes life’s a wanker!

    • David Ashton

      Casinos are private businesses, and kick anyone out as long as it isn’t discriminatory based on federally protected classes (race, religion, disability, etc.).

      Casinos want some people to win. They want a few people to win big. This gives the casino the appearance of being fair, or perhaps even generous to their patrons.

      If someone can use a system, even a legal one, to put the odds in their favor in the long run, casinos can and will kick them out as soon as they spot them. It is their legal right, and in the benefit of their business to come out ahead in the long run.

      • Isilzha

         Well, it’s only their legal right because they’ve made it such!  It seems just another example of how corporations have given themselves power and authority over individuals.

        • Deven Kale

           So you’re saying that businesses should not have the right to choose whether or not people should be able to use their services based on whatever standards they choose (as long as they’re not being discriminatory)? And if so, where do you draw the line?

          Bottom line is, even a casino has to make money in order to stay in business. They give some money away, but they keep more. Part of running a casino is keeping those numbers in proper balance. When people come along that have a way of cheating the system, the casino kicks them out. If they weren’t able to do so, more and more people would come along and cheat the system. Eventually there would be so many people cheating the casinos that they would all have to close down, and hundreds of thousands of people would be out of a job.

          • Isilzha

            Well, according to these Casinos, anyone who wins more than they lose is “cheating” the system.  I’m not advocating that people be allowed to bring in devices or what-nots to cheat, but if they’re smart enough to count cards by just using their own native intelligence then casinos should NOT be able to unilaterally ban them from playing.  I find it funny that you’d call the ability to win like that CHEATING.  You must be in the rip-off business of gambling in some form, Deven.

            You do understand exactly why the odds are in the casino’s favor, don’t you??  They’ve rigged the system from the beginning. 

            I understand why casinos want to ban anyone who wins, I just don’t understand why we’ve allowed them the power.  Well, except for the fact that in the US the corporations are the ones with most of the money and therefore most of the means to BUY that power.

            • Deven Kale

               Of course they set the rules for their own games! Wouldn’t you if part of your business model was giving away money? Even arcades that give away tickets rig the games so they don’t give away too much!

              The rules set for these games are based on chance. Chance dictates that some people are going to win money, sometimes a lot of money. Winning by itself is not a problem. It becomes a problem when people learn to take advantage of the rules and game mechanics and win far more often than they could be realistically expected to. Then it’s up to the floor bosses to determine whether or not that person is either very lucky, or somehow taking advantage of the system. If they believe they’re being taken advantage of, then the people involved are asked to leave, just like in any other business.

              Casino’s have no more power over their customers than any other business does. What amazes me is that you seem to think that just because a company’s business model is occasionally giving money away, you seem to think that anybody who enters is entitled to take their money, even by exploitation of the system, when doing so could potentially run them out of business.

  • http://oddboyout.blogspot.com/ oddboyout

    I just watched it. You might be interested to know that when they hit a rough patch two team members blame the one non-christian on their team of stealing. And they ultimately fire him because “he didn’t fit the profile of the team.” Not because they had any evidence of him stealing–finding that evidence would’ve been difficult since everyone is responsible for recording their own games. The one time they tell us how much money he made compared to a few of the others it was well in the black.

    I was most amused when they say that card counting is their “calling.” And that their god created the order in the universe that made card counting possible.

  • Ryan Booth

    I actually watched this last week, one interesting note, is that at one point they do have a ‘non-believer’ on the team.  However once the team hits a rough patch….God tells one of them that the ‘non-believer’ is stealing so they fire him.   

  • Pmr

    I didn’t realize that card counting was a deceit (like marking cards). I thought it was merely evidence of a superior memory, like racing winners might have superior muscles. 


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