Holy Rollers, which documents several years of our blackjack team, was just released. It’s apparently one of the top 5 documentaries and independent films on iTunes right now and we’ve been doing interviews for the past several weeks for media sources from CNN and New York Times to the Christian Broadcasting Network. I’m pretty sure I’m going to murder the next person who asks me, “Isn’t card counting illegal?” It’s been interesting to see this whole project come to fruition, so we thought we’d share a few of our thoughts about the film. Below are my (Colin’s) thoughts. Ben’s will be forthcoming.
There are tons of things I’m proud of when I think about this film. In general, I am glad to be a part of this whole experience, and my desire is that the card counting community and general population really enjoy the story. Here are some of the things I love about the movie:
- Stylistically, it’s way more impressive than I could have ever imagined. The film maker did a great job filming, editing, and doing the graphics for the movie. The music fits well and everything is super slick.
- It tells a compelling story. I think the film stands on its own as a documentary about a large scale blackjack team OR a documentary about Christians doing something some people believe Christians shouldn’t do. The overwhelming response is that it’s a compelling movie.
- It accurately portrays the life of a professional Blackjack player. This has been one of the coolest parts for me. Having spent nearly a decade of my life making money from card counting, it is difficult how few people actually get what we do or what it’s like. I remember watching “The Hot Shoe” with Ben and a few friends early on, and it was so awesome to see real card counters talking about the job. I think anyone who has played blackjack professionally or just wants to know more about what it’s really like will really enjoy watching those parts of the film.
- It creates conversation. Our main goal with letting people create a film about our Blackjack team was that it would cause people to question and discuss things that are taboo in society, whether it’s card counting or what it means to be a Christian.
- Someone was able to document (what will probably be the most interesting and exciting) chapter of my life. Many of my best friends were a part of the team and I seriously doubt I’ll ever be a part of something as interesting as our Blackjack team. Yeah, there are a few scenes in it that make me cringe, wishing I could explain better, or even because I’ve changed as a person over the past 5 years. But I’m okay with that. And it really is an honor to have this piece of history to show my friends, kids and grandkids for years to come.
There are a couple things that are either misinterpreted, misrepresented, or not fully explained. It’s important to me that people get an accurate understanding of what we care about and how we operate, so let’s get those couple things out of the way:
- We didn’t start the team with the primary goal of freeing money from the clutches of casinos. We enjoy taking money from casinos. It’s been well documented that casinos destroy communities. But, unfortunately, some people get the impression we started a blackjack team with the noble goal of taking money from casinos. That wasn’t the case.Taking money from destructive corporations is just an awesome byproduct! We ran the team because it was incredibly fun and it was a way to provide for our families, giving us the freedom to spend more time and energy on the things we care about. We used the money the same way we would have if we had started a carpet cleaning business (whether it was to buy groceries, property, or give it to charity).
- It wasn’t a “Christian blackjack team.” My faith is the most important thing to me. But we’ve gotten some flack because one of the sequences in the film has led people to think that there was a conspiracy against one particular non-christian on the team, which isn’t true. First off, he wasn’t the only non-christian on the team. And we didn’t go on some sort of a witch hunt because of losing streaks. Deciding who to work with in a business like this, or any small business for that matter, is really tricky and can have huge implications. We parted ways with many people over the years if we believed they weren’t a good fit for the team. A lot of those decisions were difficult, and we never knew if we were making the right decision (we may never know if some of the decisions we made were the right decision). But it’s important to me that people realize the decisions to part ways with any players on the team were based on what we believed to be best for the business as well as all people involved. And for what it’s worth, the guy who gets “questionably fired” is still a friend and he has expressed to me that there are no hard feelings about the decision.
- There were lots of ups and downs over the years. It’s easy to get the impression that we were winning a ton, then something went wrong and we stopped winning. But over the years, with the amount we were betting, we experienced things all over the place. When filming started, we were in the middle of the largest positive swing we have ever experienced. Less than a year before, we lost over half our bankroll in a month. With the size of the team, we were always battling keeping playing standards high, but it was much more of a roller-coaster experience than a simple up-then-down graph. I don’t think we were doing anything particularly “right” when we were winning, nor were we doing anything particularly “wrong” during any given losing streak. Anyone who’s done this job for long can relate to the swings. Those (of us) who continue to play still experience success, but it is a marathon, not a sprint!
by Colin Jones