From MIT to Card Counting With Jesus: 4 of the Best Blackjack Documentaries
Mar 3, 2014
As one of the most popular casino games, Blackjack has not only become a household name, but a game many have tried to crack. From Christian high rollers through to MIT students, so let’s have a look at the best documentaries on the game.
Casino games have been immortalized in the movies, from James Bond through to Robert De Niro’s Casino, but documentaries on gambling might be thin on the ground, even though real life is often more interesting than fiction.
In the world of Blackjack and card counting, there have been those out there who have beaten the system.
Derren Brown might have had his own snippet at beating the Blackjack system in a five-minute slot, but now we’re going to look at the top four blackjack documentaries.
A group of students and ex-students from MIT and Harvard set up a team to develop a card counting system to beat casinos at Blackjack in the 1990s.
The documentary “Breaking Vegas” traces the attempts of the MIT team in their get-rich-quick scheme by playing throughout the US casinos and the attempt of the casino managers to try to stop them from winning at blackjack.
The book by team member Ben Mizrich became a national scandal when casinos read of his account to scam them at card counting, which also got made into the documentary Breaking Vegas, along with the movie 21.
Breaking Vegas is a candid documentary by the History Channel is an insight into the cheat-fest by the MIT students, covering their elaborate schemes and collective genius to rob the Las Vegas casinos.
Holy Rollers: The True Story of Card Counting Christians
Bibles, cash and card counting – the Holy Rollers chronicles the largest and best funded blackjack team in the US made entirely of devout Christians.
Holy Rollers began life as Kickstarter to cover the Christian group of Blackjack players who went from casino to casino card counting blackjack cards and walking away with thousands.
Despite the general religious consensus of right-wing Christian views on gambling, the group says “to be a true disciple of Jesus, you should learn to play blackjack”.
The team became blacklisted in a number of casinos for their advantage play, causing them to assume a number of disguises to fool the Las Vegas casinos into letting them in.
The documentary was screened at a number of successful festivals and became one of the biggest documentaries on Blackjack out there.
Since who can resist a documentary on Blackjack and Jesus?
The Hot Shoe
For those looking for an accessible documentary on the legal aspects and the general history of card counting, The Hot Shoe is a good one to watch.
The documentary features interviews with a number of blackjack players and those who have authored books on the topic of card counting, as well as featuring casino executives, detectives an lawyers.
There is a natural throwback to the MIT Blackjack group, since the detective group who put an end to the team’s winning streak was also interviewed.
The Hot Shoe goes into detail on what card counting means, where well known players discuss their techniques and how to proceed into the casinos. Not to mention footage scenes of the MIT Team in the pit.
While the other documentaries cover specific teams, The Hot Shoe is a more generalized account of how card counting works and what the legal repercussions might take place.
The documentary is focused on those new to card counting, so those who are deep into advantage play might find it rather superficial and one that simply lies on the surface.
But definitely a good one that serves an introduction.
Horizon: Making Millions the Easy Way
Horizon’s documentary also looks at the MIT players, from their transition from engineering students to high-rolling gamblers in their bid to prove that the house doesn’t always win.
The group builds up from the work by Edward Thorp, who was one of the first to deduce that blackjack was possible to beat.
The secret to beating blackjack is that most other games are unaffected by events in the past, whereas in blackjack, you can deduce the future outcome.
Since the cards are put to one side once dealt, the proportion of an ace being played goes down, so a smaller proportion of aces mean that the odds move in favor of the house.
Some gamblers noted this effect in the past, but no one had come up with a blackjack strategy to overcome this.
Piggy-backing on Thorpe’s system to play to his advantage, who wrote “Beat the Dealer – A Winning Strategy for the Game of Twenty One”, the MIT counters split up into teams and hit the casinos.
The documentary went into great detail on how the MIT card counters function, where they split into strategic roles to beat the casinos.
In order not to get pegged as advantage players, the MIT team went to a great length to conceal their identities and team play, taking their skills to casinos the world over.
Contrary to first impressions, blackjack is a game of skill and strategy, as seen from the teams shown in the above documentaries.
There are a number of documentaries out there showing a variety of gambling themes, but there is something very compelling about elaborate card counting schemes.
Maybe we can learn a thing or two from the MIT guys and the Christian blackjack collective.
Tags: Ben Mizrich, blackjack cards, Breaking Vegas, card counting system, Edward Thorpe, Holy Rollers: The True Story of Card Counting Christians, Horizon: Making Millions the Easy Way, MIT, The Hot Shoe, winning at blackjack