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Card-counting evangelism?

Card-counting evangelism?

A group of young Christians from Seattle formed the nucleus of an organization that worked to raise money by winning casino games of blackjack. Using a technique called “card counting” they traveled across the country racking up millions in winnings.

“Group members believed what they were doing was consistent with their faith because they felt they were taking money away from an evil enterprise. Further, they did not believe that counting cards was inherently a bad thing; rather, it was merely using math skills in a game of chance. They treated their winnings as income from a job and used it for all manner of expenses.

[…]After years of their own card-counting exploits, the two established a “church team” in 2006, made up largely of friends from church. The goal: to take money from casinos and earn cash for themselves.

“It was a mathematical system,” Crawford said. “I enjoyed the idea of beating the house. It seemed attainable.”

[…]Christianity was not a requirement to join the team, organizers said, but the players came from their core group of friends. About half a dozen non-Christian members joined, Jones said.

“We were trying to evaluate whether they were honest or not,” Jones said. “It just happened to be our network. But faith was an awesome byproduct we got to share.””

More here.

It doesn’t appear that the group was officially connected to any Christian community other than themselves, and there’s no information in the article about how the Christian’s in the group managed to actually “share their faith” as they claimed they were doing to justify their actions.

So, is this beyond the bounds? Does it make a difference that they were winning against a “corporation” rather than against individuals? If they had been more explicit in their evangelism, would it matter?

Or is this just a group of people trying to justify something that they are a little squeamish about?

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Elisabeth Brauza

Actually, when done as a team, with the various members taking different "jobs" in the game, card counting can be very profitable and effective. An excellent explanation of this can be found in the book "Bringing Down the House" by Ben Mezrich, who profiled the MIT Blackjack team.

I fail to see how counting cards can be a means of sharing faith, but that's a different argument.

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tobias haller

I wouldn't say the casinos "devise" the odds -- they are what they are; but yes, card-counters can beat the odds because they are removing the strictly chance element. I'm not sure any advantage other than that of companionship is gained in the trust group.

My point is only that the money being won is not, generally speaking, hurting the casinos except in that it lowers their income -- but the money itself comes from other gamblers, so I'm questioning the moral righteousness of these card counters, in response to your closing question...

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John B. Chilton

I'll be glad to be corrected, but this was my understanding: Casinos devise the odds of games so they make money off of players. But in black jack a card counter can beat the house on average. That's why casinos don't want card counters.

Casinos ban card counting, and it's within their rights to throw out card counters or throw out anyone who the suspect of card counting because they appear to be beating the odds.

What's of interest to me is that these Christian card counters formed a trust group rather than acting independently. What advantages did that give them?

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Gregory Orloff

Excellent point, Tobias! Few realize that winners at casinos are really just taking other, less lucky gamblers' money -- not the casinos. After all, one rarely (if ever) hears of a casino going broke, at least from people winning too much at one. They seem to do quite well and keep their doors open and their lights on.

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tobias haller

Gamblers who win at casino games aren't taking money from the casino; they are taking it from other gamblers. The casinos normally do quite well in the end; that's why they are in business -- and discourage card counting, which they regard as unfair. I have no opinion on the matter, but do want to remind the winners where the money comes from.

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