Hollywood’s fascination with gambling continues, with this year’s casino-based movies including Runner Runner, featuring known poker enthusiast Ben Affleck. This one managed to pack in Vegas, heists and magic, which critics felt was over-egging the pudding somewhat – though audiences disagreed.
Casino settings and gambling themes are a perfect fit for the movies, with glamour, thrills, big money, fancy clothes and extreme emotions. Here’s a run-down of some of the best.
Casino Royale (2006), apart from reinvigorating Bond with Daniel Craig’s rebooted version, is packed with poker-based excitement. From Le Chiffre’s blood-weeping pseudo-tell to the insanely high stakes (both financial and otherwise), there’s plenty here to satisfy card players; as long as you remember that you’re supposed to suspend your disbelief.
The Cincinnati Kid
The Cincinnati Kid (1965) stars the deathless Steve McQueen as the ‘Kid’. A great supporting cast includes Edward G. Robinson and Karl “Streets Of San Francisco” Malden. There’s blackmail, cheating and a 30-hour game, and though not all reviewers were positive at the time, the movie retains a cult following today.
Two For The Money
Two For The Money (2005) stars Al Pacino and Matthew McConaughey in a tale set in the big-money world of American football betting. It wasn’t hugely well received on release, but it’s worth watching if you’re specifically into betting on the American game. McConaughey’s ex-player has a knack for calling games, but his downfall comes when he forgets that his skill comes from hard work and research, and starts acting on hunches.
The Sting (1973), a tale of Depression-era con men, appealed to a wider audience with its star duo of Paul Newman and Robert Redford, and its Oscar winning soundtrack. The two grifters get involved in poker cheating as well as illegal horse-race scams; it’s a thoroughly entertaining couple of hours whether you like to play or not. Avoid the half-cocked sequel released in 1983 – it’s dire.
Rounders (1998) is another poker movie that’s grown in popularity since the boom in the online and televised game. Matt Damon is excellent as a poker savant, forced back to law school after a huge loss. He straightens up and makes a go of things with his girlfriend – until his pal Worm, played by Ed Norton, talks him into going back to the tables. The excitement on Damon’s face as he ‘reads’ the players in his law school professor’s game is palpable. If all this big-screen casino action leaves you with an urge to try your hand online, you might want to try a site like www.bgo.com for poker and blackjack amongst other games. But remember the mantra of all good poker players – “I am not James Bond. I am not James Bond…”
(Images courtesy of comicbookresources.com, tqsmagazine.co.uk, thefml.net, liveleak.com, pokergames24.net)