Step into the World of Blackjack Card Counting Experts Colin Jones and Ben Crawford of Blackjackapprenticeship and the Holy Rollers
Jul 24, 2014
Jones and Crawford have one of the best blackjack stories ever told. After five years of running a million-dollar blackjack team according to Christian principles, they’ve turned to teaching the game full-time.
Blackjack is the world’s most popular casino game for several reasons. Basic strategy is relatively simple, meaning that someone can pick it up and start playing without tons of practice. It’s also a great social game, and is offered at land-based and online casinos worldwide at different betting minimums.
But the best thing about blackjack is almost what makes playing it difficult. Using smart strategies like advantage play and card counting allows the player to gain a house edge over the casino, thus consistently winning money over time. Any professional blackjack player sticks closely to these strategies.
However, they aren’t easy to perfect. Mastering advantage play or card counting systems requires endless time and dedication. Once a player becomes good enough to take their game to a casino, they then have to contend with intimidating pit bosses, endless distractions and the stress of playing every hand perfectly throughout an entire evening.
Colin Jones and Ben Crawford to the rescue
Given the complexity of advanced strategy and card counting systems, there is a large market for expert advice and training tools. In the internet age we are drowning with blackjack information and analysis. While that should be a good thing, it’s difficult to dig through all of the useless crap in order to find something that is actually helpful.
That’s where Colin Jones and Ben Crawford of Blackjackapprenticeship can help. From 2006 to 2011 the dynamic duo ran one of the most successful professional blackjack teams in the US, taking close to $4 million off of casinos in the US.
They called themselves Advantage Play LLC, but are better known by the nickname of “Holy Rollers,” the title of a documentary made about them in 2011. While their blackjack games were impeccable, what made them famous was that they applied Christian principles to blackjack.
Jones, Crawford and most of the team members were devout Christians who viewed gambling and the casino industry negatively but saw card counting as something completely different, at least “morally neutral.” Gambling means relying on luck in seeking a quick, easy payday; card counting means training yourself to gain an inherent advantage over the casino. In effect, counting is genuine labor whereas gambling isn’t.
The team was disbanded in 2011, but Jones and Crawford retained their passion for blackjack. These days the two run a Blackjackapprenticeship, a training site which offers both free and paid services, including tips and advice, a social community where players can share insights and experiences, and useful training programs backed by top-notch software.
Given the impressive success of Blackjackapprenticeship we were delighted when Jones contacted us to express interest in doing an interview. The two of us sat down and he shared thoughts and experiences on a variety of topics concerning his inspiration to become a pro blackjack player, the most memorable experiences he had playing, how faith and blackjack came together in his life, and the advice which he would give to aspiring card counters.
Here are some memorable sound bites from the interview:
Me: How do family members and other members of your church community feel about your involvement with blackjack and card counting?
Jones: My family initially freaked out. It was pretty brutal. But as I continued to engage in the conversation and they saw that I hadn’t gotten into anything that was hurting myself or my family, they came around. As far as church community, it’s a pretty wide range of responses. Some people are really uncomfortable with it, but most people see card counting as morally neutral.
Me: How do things like gambling and card counting relate to Christian ideology?
Jones: My opinion is that gambling is an attempt to shortcut creating value (what we’d call “doing good work”). And it doesn’t work, is unsustainable, and a poor use of time or money. Card counting, on the other hand, is sustainable, does work, and takes money out of casinos. It’s debatable how “noble” that is, but we felt a sense of reward to take nearly $4M out of casinos.
Me: Can you share a story about a memorable experience getting the brush-off at a casino?
Jones: I had a casino manager tell me I needed to follow him into a backroom (which I politely turned down), then tell me I needed to give them their money back, (which I politely turned down), then tell me he needed me to sign papers (which I politely turned down). He had no leverage because I have rights as a citizen, I hadn’t done anything unlawful, and I stayed in public view of other patrons, so he couldn’t “strong-arm” me. He eventually realized he had no leverage so he had me cash out and leave.
Using Jones’ responses to our questions we’ve put together a small series on topics related to the Holy Rollers, Christianity and card counting, and what Blackjackapprentice brings to the blackjack training industry. We hope you find the articles both helpful and entertaining, and remember that special thanks goes to Colin Jones for contributing:
Colin Jones, Ben Crawford and the Holy Rollers, the Most Unforgettable Card Counting Team in Blackjack History
Card counting teams have come and gone since Al Francesco and Ken Uston pioneered the concept during the 1970s. The MIT card counting team is the best known, chronicled by best sellers and Hollywood blockbusters.
But Advantage Play LLC, better known as the “Holy Rollers,” has a better story than any of the others. For five years these blackjack wizards won millions of dollars applying a Christian, faith-based approach to card counting.
There are too many blackjack forums and training sites to count, most of which aren’t worth the time of day. But after disbanding Advantage Play LLC Jones and Crawford founded Blackjackapprenticeship, a state-of-the-art training program which also incorporates their trademark Christian values.
I asked Jones what makes his site different; why someone should go to them over the too-many-to-count alternatives available. His answers were clear, confident and convincing.
Colin Jones first learned the art of blackjack in 2003. Since then he has spent six years as a professional card counter and three years teaching the game full-time, something that has improved his knowledge immensely, “when you train someone else to play, you will get way better.”
There few people out there with the depth of knowledge and experience that Jones has. He shared some of it with me, with advice on how to get started as a blackjack player, how to respond when faced with the dreaded back-off, and why prospective pros need to be fully informed about what they are getting themselves into.