Iconic Casino Scenes In Popular Movies

Casino scenes are used in movies and television shows for many different reasons. Some are gritty and realistic, while others show unrealistic windfalls, winning streaks, and impossible bets. The scenes which create the most tension and drama are those which resonate with both gambling fans and people who have never played. These scenes manage to convey the intensity of the game without getting too bogged down in the rules and intricacies which would bore and confuse the casual viewer. Let’s have a look at some of the best movie scenes which feature gambling.

Casino Royale (2006)

With the entire James Bond film focused on a poker tournament in a luxury casino, there was no way we could leave this film off the list. There are numerous scenes in the movie which focus on hands of poked played by Bond and his opponents as he makes his way to the final table. While the director has taken some liberties with the rules and realism of the poker being played, this only heightens the tension felt by the viewer as we see Bond go head-to-head with the notorious Le Chiffre in a million-dollar showdown. In typical Bond fashion there are plenty of henchmen attacks and even a poisoned cocktail to deal with in between the hands he has to play. Casino Royale is a glitzy showcase of poker at its finest, if not its most realistic, and a fun film to boot.

Rounders (1998)

For a more realistic depiction of poker, and not a single glamorous casino in sight, Rounders is the film which is always named by poker afficionados as the closest Hollywood gets to the real deal. It follows an ex-player returning to the game after a bad beat in order to help his friend repay his debts to some shady Russian characters. The tension during the poker games comes from knowing that the stakes are higher than just the chips on the table. The film shows losses as well as wins, and the lead character Mike struggles to find a way past the top boss; someone he has lost to more than once before. Instead of relying on the right cards coming up at the right moment – often unbelievably so – the final game is won because Mike figures out a tell which means his opponent is bluffing. It’s a great way to finish and focuses much more on the skill of the players than an intervention by Lady Luck.

21 (2008)

It’s not just poker that makes for dramatic screen fodder. 21 is based on the true story of a ring of MIT studentswho finessed the art of card counting at blackjack and walked away with millions in prize money over a number of years. There’s some pretty heavy maths involved, which the film does a good job of explaining to the viewer before taking them on a tour of the casino. The viewers are treated as part of the gang, making them feel complicit in all the activities, which heightens the drama as you find yourself watching for the next hot table.

There’s no doubt that 21 glamourised the game of blackjack, giving viewers the inspiration to try their luck at either online or land-based venues. If you are heading online, you’ll want to play at a casino which makes it as special as possible, in our opinion, you should look no further than 888 casino, where you’ll find every type of blackjack experience imaginable.

Casino (1995)

As the title suggests, there are going to be some great casino scenes, but most of the tension arrives from what happens away from the casino floor. The film does an excellent job of juxtaposing the glamourous activities of the casino floor with the brutish mob antics behind the scenes which keeps the money flowing. The most dramatic scene shows what happens to gamblers who get caught cheating, and it’s not a pretty sight.

Of course, that level of physical violence doesn’t happen nowadays. Anyone caught cheating in a casino or on an online site will find themselves evicted pretty quickly, their winnings confiscated, and accounts and privileges revoked. 

The Cincinnati Kid (1965)

This is a classic poker movie, the story of a young, new player on a quest to become top dog on the poker circuit. There are plenty of poker scenes along the way, but it’s the final table where The Kid comes up against The Man, the reigning poker champion which sees the tension reach unbearable levels. The filmmakers use voiceovers from the spectators to show some of the possible hands the players could be holding, and the cocky overconfidence of The Kid perfectly sets up the final hand…where he loses to the more experienced player. There are no Hollywood fairy-tale endings here, instead it’s a realistic ending that almost every poker player will have experienced at sometime in their lives.

In Summary

Casino scenes in movies have also been used to show humour – see Maverick and The Hangover for some prime examples – but it’s in creating tension and drama where they truly shine. Gambling games are great for showing the highs and lows that people feel when winning and losing, and are a fantastic way to show conflict without resorting to dynamic fight scenes

1 comment

  1. Great post! They are so many films out there that include casino sequences, especially if a film includes some Las Vegas scenes, it is as though it is a part of of a usual “American Experience”. “Rain Man” or “Indecent Proposal” have very small casino sequences, but they are memorable anyway. Incidentally, rather than “humour”, these scenes are there to demonstrate the financial despair of the characters.

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