What makes a successful casino movie scene
Casinos have such an important role in our culture that they feature heavily in a number of the world’s most famous films. Some just need a backdrop where people can let loose and have a good time, whereas others delve into the inner workings of the business, the maths associated with the games, or the history of some of the world’s most famous casino gamers.
Even since the advent of online gaming, and the number of players choosing to play from home on games such as 9 Pots of Gold, there are still new films featuring casino scenes where people are enjoying games in their traditional forms. While there are numerous depictions of casinos on film, the variety is still impressive, not least because of the many facets of casino culture, including:
You cannot expect spies and international criminals to do their business in less-than-opulent surroundings, and movies often feature beautiful buildings packed with well-heeled casino gamers staking diamonds, watches, and luxury cars on the roll of a dice. While this may not be representative of the majority of casinos, those who want the VIP experience can travel to one of the more impressive establishments for a taste of the high life.
Players’ lives may not be at stake, but it would be disingenuous to pretend that things don’t all feel that bit more serious when you’re at the kind of gaming table where 007 took on Le Chiffre in Casino Royale. However, players can enter the casino for just a few Euros and explore some of the most impressive gaming spaces around.
While it’s possible to ramp up the tension during a high-stakes poker match played in the back room of a spit and sawdust bar, James Bond’s steely nerves are always at their most impressive set against a backdrop of diamond-studded punters. The stakes are never higher than when there’s money in the air, and although it may not be a typical casino experience, it certainly represents one way of enjoying the high life.
Films such as 21 showcase some of the less glamorous, but far more important aspects of casino gaming: maths. While there’s definitely something to be said for being able to bluff your way to victory with just a pair of twos in your hand, understanding the maths is a much more reliable strategy in the long term.
Although you might expect a film based on a true story to be relatively realistic, the importance of understanding the maths of casino games really cannot be understated. This story focussed on a group of MIT students who learned how to improve their odds of winning by counting cards and working together to beat the casino’s odds.
While this was a risky strategy that ultimately resulted in a number of bans for those involved, the basis of the film was an accurate representation of the role that maths plays in casino gaming relative to the more oft-cited luck.
Of course, a casino’s raison d’etre is fun and films that focus on this are some of the most entertaining and unexpected. The idea of a road trip to Las Vegas or a weekend in Atlantic City has become synonymous with good times among friends and there have been plenty of films that focussed on the social side of the casino experience such as the popular Hangover franchise.
Whether the protagonists are trying to get backstatge to meet their favourite band, organise a stag party that will never be forgotten, or intervene in a late night, Elvis-themed wedding, the potential for adventure, and misadventure, is thrilling. Casinos represent the ultimate in unbridled fun, combining everything that you need to have a great night out with the chance to win a life-changing sum of money.
There’s no doubt that bluffing and reading your opponents can be incredibly useful skills to have when it comes to casino gaming, and films that focus on the psychology of the players can provide an interesting perspective into their thought processes. Leaving Las Vegas epitomises the emotions associated with a desire to escape into the bright lights of casino life.
There are many tropes associated with casino gamers, so there’s a rich seam of material to choose from. From down-on-their-luck individuals who just need one big win to save the day, to hardened gamers who are out to settle some years-old scores, the motivation behind the game makes a massive difference to the empathy viewers might feel for the players.
When it comes to the most popular casino scenes in movies, most will contain a least some of the elements that make a casino movie scene great, and the best can make an audience laugh, cry, and question their understanding of probability. While some casino stereotypes are based on myths, the sheer wealth of different casinos and players means that there are plenty of fascinating stories to be told about what happens in casinos.