From Counting Cards to Rolling Dice: Gambling in TV & Film
If there’s one thing we love as much as gaming itself, it’s seeing our favourite games on the big and small screens. In TV and film, the poker chips are hot, the actors are hotter, and the drama is juicier than a prime steak at the Bellagio buffet.
Our Favourite gambling series and movies
From high-stakes poker games gone wrong to human lie detectors who can smell a bluff from a mile away, TV series and films have always known how to give us a good time.
Wondering what the best gaming series and movies are? We’ve rounded them up for you. Grab your popcorn, get ready to roll the dice, and join us as we explore the action-packed world of gambling and risk-taking on screen.
1.Poker Face – 2022 Film
Starring Aussie legends Russell Crowe and Liam Hemsworth, the Poker Face movie tells the story of a tech billionaire, Jake Foley, who invites his childhood mates over to his mansion for a friendly game of high-stakes poker.
But it’s soon revealed that Jake’s intentions are more malicious than they seem. He tries to seek revenge on them for past betrayals by getting them to hand over their most treasured possessions…their secrets.
Things take a turn for the worse when robbers break into Jake’s house, and the group must work together to survive the night.
Crowe plays Jake while Hemsworth plays one of the competitors vying for the prize pot and his life. Other members of the cast of Poker Face include American rapper RZA and Elsa Pataky, who is Liam Hemsworth’s real-life sister-in-law.
2.Poker Face – 2023 Series
Imagine being able to tell without a shadow of a doubt when someone is lying to you. In the world of traditional and online poker, such a skill would be life-changing. Not one tell would go unnoticed, not one bluff would be missed. You would have the upper hand no matter what cards you hold.
That’s exactly what the protagonist of Poker Face, a Peacock original series, can do. Charlie Cale – played by Natasha Lyonne – is a waitress at a casino who flees after a mysterious death while the head of security at the casino, Cliff LeGrand (Benjamin Bratt), is hot on her tail. Given that the series is from the writer and director of Knives Out, it’s no surprise that it’s the perfect blend of wit, drama, humour and nail-biting action.
The cast of the Poker Face series also includes Adrien Brody and Dascha Polanco. They play the casino manager and Charlie’s best friend, respectively. Fun fact: Natasha Lyonne and Dascha Polanco previously co-starred alongside each other in Orange is the New Black.
3.The Card Counter – 2021 Film
During an eight-year stint in military prison, William Tell (Oscar Isaac) taught himself how to count cards. Once he’s out, he uses this skill set to support his nomadic lifestyle, betting modestly and collecting small prizes to keep himself afloat. In Atlantic City, he meets Cirk Baufort, a young man with past traumas hauntingly similar to William’s – and a plan for exacting his revenge on those who have wronged him.
On the surface, it may seem like The Card Counter is all about gambling, grit, and getting even. But give it a watch and you’ll soon discover that the film explores much deeper themes like guilt and redemption.
In addition to its plot, the film is renowned for its incredible acting performances and director Paul Schrader’s compelling storytelling.
4.The Big Short – 2015 Film
Set in the mid-2000s, The Big Short follows four external investors who bet against the American housing market after uncovering its deep-rooted corruption. When it comes to bets, that’s one of the biggest you’ll ever find. The plot features three concurrent but connected storylines and depicts how each one impacted the 2007 housing market crash.
The cast features some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, including stars Brad Pitt, Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, and Steve Carrell. It even features some breaking-the-fourth-wall cameos from Anthony Bourdain, Margot Robbie, and Selena Gomez. It doesn’t get more star-studded than that!
The Big Short touches on a variety of themes, from financial greed to risk and rebellion, incorporating a unique blend of dark humour and social commentary.
5.Uncut Gems – 2019 Film
When you think of Adam Sandler, odds are that you think of him in a goofy comedic role. Grown-Ups, Big Daddy, Billy Madison – the list goes on and on. But Uncut Gems sees Sandler take on a dramatic role – a rarity in his career.
And spoiler alert: it paid off.
Uncut Gems follows Howard Ratner (played by Sandler), a charming but self-destructive jewellery dealer in New York City. Ratner is on the run from countless ghosts, including his failing marriage, debts to dangerous loan sharks, and a gambling addiction. As his circumstances and desperation deepen, you’re taken on a relentless rollercoaster ride through the highs and lows.
The film received a huge amount of critical praise. Sandler in particular got a lot of acclaim for his work in a dramatic role, along with the Safdie brothers who co-wrote and co-directed the movie.
6.Ocean’s Eight – 2018 Film
8 bold women. $150 million for the taking. One epic heist.
These are the central components of Ocean’s Eight, which centres around Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock). Having just gotten out of prison, Ocean decides it’s the perfect time to organise the heist of her career: robbing a $150-million necklace at the Met Gala. To make it happen, she assembles a group of 8 women (herself included), each one with a unique set of skills needed for the robbery.
The other robbers in question include some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, including Cate Blanchett, Rihanna, Sarah Paulson, Helena Bonham-Carter, and Mindy Kaling. And the target of the heist is none other than American sweetheart, Anne Hathaway.
Although the movie doesn’t focus on poker games or feature nail-biting rounds of Roulette, the stakes couldn’t be higher. Plus, its themes – which include bluffing, strategic thinking, and risking it all – are more than relevant to the world of online gaming.
7.Molly’s Game – 2017 Film
Welcome to the true story of Molly Bloom, played by Jessica Chastain. She was an Olympic-skier-turned-high-stakes-poker-game-coordinator. When we meet her, Bloom is the host of one of the world’s most exclusive underground poker rings in New York City.
That is, until the FBI takes an interest in her business endeavours, causing her life to take an unexpected turn. When it does, Molly’s only supporter is her attorney, Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba), who learns that there’s more to Molly than meets the eye.
A clever story of determination, luck, and an unbridled desire to be the best of the best. There’s a lesson in this film for poker players of all levels.
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