Film entertains us but it also educates. Perhaps the most important lessons are those that teach us how to avoid losing in the casino. After all, we’re all after that big win – aren’t we?
21 (Luketic, 2008)
Our journey to the casino begins with Micky Rosa as depicted by Kevin Spacey in Robert Luketic’s 21, a film about MIT’s finest beating the casino through the practice of counting cards. The casinos don’t like it as it limits the house’s advantage, reducing chance and putting the power in the player’s hands. But you need a cool head and a quick brain to make this work meaning Rosa’s plan can only work with a bunch of mathematics geniuses with the courage t put their minds – and bodies on the line – to win big.
The Cooler (Kramer, 2003)
Over the “cooler” at all costs! Depicted in Wayne Kramer’s 2003 movie by William H. Macy, the Cooler’s job is to target those players winning huge amounts of cash. Instead of letting the player get away with his winnings, the house retaliates with its secret weapon – a player, confidante or dealer who is tasked with interrupting a player’s hot streak and turn the tables back in favour of the casino.
The Cincinnati Kid (Jewison, 1965)
When all seems lost, don’t give up. That’s the advice of Norman Jewison’s The Cincinnati Kid. It’s about staying power; have you got what it takes to not only outsmart your opponent but also out-do him in willpower as well. Stamina in all sport can be the key to winning, it’s no different in cards – whether that’s poker or Blackjack. Let your opponents beat themselves while you enjoy the fruits of your labour having had the courage to stay in the game.
Hard Eight (Anderson, 1996)
It doesn’t matter if you’re not a great player if you find the right person to latch on to. Paul Thomas Anderson’s Hard Eight is about finding the winning partner and staying close to them. Learn from them, copy them, win with them. If you can’t do it on your own, do it with someone who can.
Showgirls (Verhoeven, 1995)
Showgirls shows us that distractions don’t help anyone. The moral of the story is: don’t let the glitz and the glamour get in the way of winning. Whether you’re staying in Las Vegas or playing online, it’s easy to take your eye of the game or your opponent. The house will try to distract you, other players will try to distract you, just don’t let them. Paul Verhoeven’s 1995 film provides the perfect example of what not to do when a big win is the real goal.