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September 28, 2020

Historical Gambling Movies you Must Watch

You can trust Hollywood to turn a casino game into an exciting affair. It’s not that playing blackjack or poker isn’t exciting in real life; it’s just that there is an added flair when a gambling scene is translated for the screen.

In a movie, audiences can sense the tension in the room thanks to some acting, carefully selected shots, and well-designed sets. In some cases, gambling scenes even contain interesting dialogue (case in point: that mahjong scene in Crazy Rich Asians). And in others, gambling or the attempt to can be a source for laughs. Here’s a brief journey through movies that feature gambling:

Swingers (1996)

Before Jon Favreau directed big-budget movies, he wrote his own (and directed some of them). Swingers is one that he wrote based on his own experience, and it was a hit with movie-goers. One of the most interesting scenes in the film involves gambling (of course).

Swingers (1996) film scene
Swingers (1996) - The scene at the blackjack table

In the movie, Favreau’s character Mike is heartbroken. His friend Trent (played by Vince Vaughn) suggests a trip to Last Vegas will help him recover. So what does one do in the city? Hit the casinos, obviously.

The blackjack scene in this movie is memorable for the phrase “always double down.” It’s also a great example of listening to your gut vs the devil on your side (in this case, a friend). Trent suggests that Mike double his $100 bet after being dealt an 11. Mike was clearly reluctant, even arguing with his friend before finally caving in. The dealer won in the end and the two friends move to a table with lower stakes.

The lesson there was: you don’t always double down on 11.

Rounders (1998)

Before Matt Damon starred in Ocean’s 11, he played the protagonist in this film. Like the young Hollywood stars in the first Clooney-led Ocean’s movie, Damon too had to go through a similar “tutorial” about poker playing in preparation for his role.

Unlike the other movies in this list, Rounders features quite a few poker games. Of all, the most interesting was the final showdown between Damon’s character, Michael McDermott, and the character played by John Malkovich, Teddy “KGB”. It was definitely a thrilling scene with a lot on the line for McDermott.

The film also highlights the allure of high-stakes poker and its associated dangers.

Casino Royale (2006)

A list of gambling in films will never be complete without mentioning this gem. The gambling scene also delivers in terms of drama and excitement. Can you imagine your opponent coming back from an initial mess up as well as an intentional poisoning? This is what happen in one of the most legendary poker match, where the main character (Daniel Craig) as James Bond, have to win a stratospheric sum to counter terrorists financing.

21 (2008)

Based on the best-selling book Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich, 21 follows a group of MIT students who are taught by their math professor to count cards, which is illegal. Although the film was controversial for its choice of cast, it was nonetheless a success at the box office. While entertaining, the movie also serves as a cautionary tale: the combination of cheating and gambling can cause a lot of problems.

The events Mezrich writes about in his book are based on real-life events that involved the MIT Blackjack Team, a group that used card counting in order to beat casinos at blackjack. Card counting can be best described as memorizing the cards that have been handed out.

Doing so helps you decide whether to bet big or small thereby increasing your chances of winning. While this sounds appealing, it’s tough to carry this out on the best online casinos since cards are almost always shuffled after each round. Your best bet in testing this out is at an actual casino (it’s not illegal but it is frowned upon) or you can play a few rounds of your own at home. At the same time, practicing can give you the confidence needed when you finally play blackjack online. Just remember to bet wisely and know when to quit.

Ocean’s 11 (2001)

This movie is about robbing three casinos - all owned by one individual - and it isn’t surprising to have it mostly set in such an environment. One of the movie’s best scenes comes at the early stages: when George Clooney’s character Danny Ocean gets out of prison then heads to recruit his longtime collaborator Rusty (played by Brad Pitt).

Pitt’s character is teaching young Hollywood actors how to play poker but they can’t seem to grasp the idea. Clooney’s character comes in to join them and he and Rusty end up conning the young celebrities.

The Man with the Golden Arm (1955)

The Man with the Golden Arm
Frank Sinatra, the main charachter of 'The Man with the Golden Arm'

A film directed by Otto Preminger and brought to the screen by Walter Newman, Lews Meltzer and Ben Hecht, is based on novel of Nelson Algren. The main cast include Frank Sinatra, Eleanor Parker, Kim Novak, Arnold Stang and Darren McGavin.

This is the story of a heroin addict person who gets rid of this deadly habit while in prison and leads a clean life there. The film and story both gets interesting when he comes out of the prison only to know that it is very tough to lead a clean life in outer world. Sinatra was nominated for the best actor award for his role in the film, by New York Film Critics and BAFTA.

Frankie Machine (Sinatra) gets released from the prison only to live a clean life outside. But, he comes across people in outer world. Frankie was also an accomplice of Schwiefka (Robert Strauss) in his illegal card game. Schwiefka greets him back to this side with ill intentions to engage him again in the trade.

The story moves with twists and turns and Frankie once again finds himself in jail. Schwiefka bails him out on condition that he would rejoin him in his card game business. Frankie, succumbed to the situation, spends 24 hours straight on poker table. The film ends with the death of Zosh and a new association of Frankie and Molly for a clean life ahead. More details about the novel by Nelson Algren (1949) are available on Wikipedia® at the page: The Man With the Golden Arm.

Casino (1995)

Casino is another movie based on a novel by Larry Shandling and Nicholas Pileggi in 1995. The Casino film was directed by Martin Scorsese. The star cast include Robert De Niro as Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein who plays Frank Rosenthal character from the book. The story depicts 70’s Las Vegas, where Sam owned a casino namely Stardust. Rothstein is not a mob member but secretly runs this casino with support from Mafia as a moneymaker for them. He is the best sports handicapper in the country. Rothstein ran this casino behind a false front as his gambling charged back East. The mob deputes Nicky Santoro, played by Joe Pesci, as a protector for Rothstein but he, in stead, starts his own operations there. Sharon Stone has played a role of psychotic Ginger. The supporting cast includes James Woods, Don Rickles and others with convincing action. The film has been successful in presenting a true picture of Casino world in Las Vegas. More details on Wikipedia®: Casino.

Bet Your Rocks Off

Bet Your Rocks Off is a novel by Peter Burden. This is a story of real riches and thrills of aristocratic world, the upper crust. They have initially been presented in a friendly association with racing’s ruling elite. The story is worth reading and presents a exciting story about the battle of bad and good. The novel presents good scenes of the Jockey Club, American Annie, Tenbury a beautiful lady struggling her way through unashamedly man’s world. Other important scenes which you would remember even years after its reading are Al Hassan’s chronic condition and her desire to see her horse past the post, first. The novel gives a humorous reading experience and information about betting coups work; legal and criminal both.

It’s My Party

It’s My Party is a fiction by Cindy Blake, a fantastic and fascinating story of business, gambling and love. Everyone plays their cards close to their chest here. This is a story of a successful business women Isabel who does business in day time and plays Poker at night. But she doesn’t put her cards open in love affair. This is a perfect rueful comedy of errors. Isabel has been in love with David since teenage who is a business partner of Isabel but is married to someone else. David’s brother involves with Stryker, Isabel and David’s business rival, but gets hit by Eros’s arrow. Stryker also falls in love with a beautiful girl who frequents a local casino at nights. Stryker attempts to swipe Isabel and David’s clients. Isabel, in turn, determines to beat Stryker in his own game. The novel thus revolves through interesting episodes of love and gambling.

The Crust on Its Upper

The Crust on Its Upper is a novel by Derek Raymond in 1962, is a story of three men who attempt to distribute counterfeit currency in England which they had got printed in Russia. Two of these three lads were from rich British families and had their education from the best public schools there. But they believe that they are way much smarter than their fellows and deserve a much higher life for them. They try to make their way through bent gambling and end up in international crime. This is a gripping tale of betrayal, ruthless precision and good deal of humor. It presents a vivid picture of life of Spivs, crooked and bent coppers in London, during the period.

Nine Mil

Nine Mil is a story by Robert Ryan, published in 2000. This exhibits Atlantic, a dream city for gamblers and fun-seekers. The story is about Ed Behr, a taxi driver who drives on the roads of Atlantic City in search of his lost girl friend Honey; the girl who promised him all. He comes to know of an old gang which had helped him settle all things down earlier. One of the ex-member Billy Moon had reached all highs in life during these years of split. Ed decides to reunite the gang and the story continues to be interesting and engrossing. A bag of money, washed-up lovesick cabbie, photo-obsessed hitman, bad internet porn sites, and the Atlantic city.

Aiding and Abetting

Aiding and Abetting is a novel by Muriel Spark. The story begins with a scene of Dr Hildegard Wold, a well known psychiatrist, being approached by two strangers in her Paris clinic. They both claim to be Lord Lucan who had disappeared 25 years back when his children’s nanny was murdered. Those who were borne in England about forty or so years ago may recall the name. Lucan was unhappily married army man. In 1974 he was member of idle rich and spent his time gambling. He had been deep in debt by this time though. This was the time when Lucan’s children and his wife were attached in their family home, and she could somehow managed to escape. You letter discover that this was all Lucan’s plot and he had killed a different lady in an attempt to kill his own wife in that attack. Police investigates the matter with his gambling friends who would certainly have helped Lucas in all these affairs.

Author: Jeff Grant (info)


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