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Holy Rollers: The True Story of Card Counting Christians (2011)

At a Seattle coffee shop, a friend of mine is talking about an intriguing fellow that both of us know.

“Do you know how he pays the bills?” My friend smiles slyly. His half-whisper suggests that our mutual friend is up to something risky.

I’m surprised to say that I don’t know.

“He plays blackjack. And he’s good at it. He’s on a team of Christian blackjack players.”

Yeah, that was unexpected. Immediately I wanted to know more.

The very same hook is drawing attention to a new documentary by Bryan Storkel, which played at the Seattle International Film Festival last week.

<em><a href=”;FID=206″>Holy Rollers: The True Story of Card Counting Christians</a></em> follows a team of churchgoing blackjack players from Seattle — including (full disclosure here) a friend of mine — as they express their loathing for casinos, lament the corruption that infests the gambling world, and then march in through those neon gateways, beat the system, and take millions of dollars from the casinos to feed their families.

These aren’t the rebellious youth who snark from the back row of the church youth group… although they might done so once upon a time. These are pastors and church leaders, “engaging the culture” in ways that, while striking and seemingly scandalous at first, actually bear a strong resemblance to many other vocations. We watch them study numbers and patterns. We watch them navigate complicated workplace dynamics and difficult coworker relationships. We see them thrill as they ride waves of success, and we watch stress plow furrows across their brows as they suffer lapses and slumps.

Does a team of card-counters who are Christians proceed differently than other gambling strategists?

Read all about it: My full review of Holy Rollers: The True Story of Card Counting Christians is up at Filmwell.

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Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet

Novelist and critic Jeffrey Overstreet teaches writing (Seattle Pacific University) and film studies (Northwest University and Houston Baptist University). He's written a memoir of moviegoing and faith (Through a Screen Darkly, Baker, 2007) and a fantasy series that begins with Auralia's Colors (The Auralia Thread, Random House, 2007-11). He's worked since 2001 as a film critic and columnist at Christianity Today, and he's been a regular contributor to Image, Paste, and Christ & Pop Culture. His writing has been recognized by The New Yorker and The Seattle Times. He regularly speaks at universities, conferences, and churches in the U.S. and abroad. Want to invite him to teach or speak? Email