In some Christian circles, gambling is viewed as a negative -- something that should be avoided at all costs. After all, the risk that's involved in placing bets generally means that people will lose hard-earned money rather than allocating it for more viable purposes (charity, their churches -- even to feed their families).
Enter "Holly Rollers," a film that challenges preconceived notions about faith and gambling, while following around what may be the nation's most well-funded and largest blackjack team. Most of its members, oddly, are evangelical Christians -- something that will probably surprise the movie's viewers. A portion of the film's official description of the film reads:
It all started as a hobby for two friends, Ben and Colin, who wanted to do something interesting with their math skills and investment money. After making a living off blackjack for a several years, friends and family started asking to be trained as card counters under their professional blackjack expertise. Before long, word spread through church circles and an uncommon fellowship began to form. Led by team managers Ben & Colin, the team quickly grew to include more than 25 players based all over the United States.
In their first year, the Church Team acquired a bankroll of $1.5 million from outside investors, and the team was winning $100,000 a month.
The documentary, which premiered at this year's Seattle International Film Festival, shows how the card-counting team members place bets, win tons of cash and rectify their actions with their evangelical Christian beliefs.
Business Insider has more:
The players describe balancing Christian values with their high-stakes gambling and evading casino surveillance who are on to the card-counting -- which includes dressing in disguise.
One subject explains it like this: "Blackjack makes people reassess what Christianity is, in a good way," while another reasons, "At least we can liberate the money from the clutches of those who would use it for ill purposes. I mean, that's a start."
In the film's trailer, yet another subject says, "Anyone who seriously wants to be a disciple of Jesus should learn blackjack."
In a review of the film, Variety's Dennis Harvey writes that the subjects are "convincingly idealistic" and that, rather than attempting to get rich quickly, they use their skills to support their loved ones and ministries. Still, Harvey says that viewers learn much more about the game than they do the faith that purportedly drives the team's members.
Below, watch the film's trailer, which will surely ignite some conversation both inside and outside of evangelical circles: