Gambling scenes in films have always been a clever way of conveying the underlying tensions of the wider arc of a movie to an audience. It is not necessarily about breaking the fifth wall. The most intriguing subplots are often communicated through the construction of a gambling backstory as a way to dive deeper into the nuance of the character’s emotional state.

Ocean’s Eleven

On the face of it, Ocean’s Eleven is a movie that is entwined with casinos and gambling. In fact, the moviemakers had hours of access to the casino floors of Nevada to simulate the vibe of the room. You can see this same commitment being made across the iGaming industry. A lot of attention to detail is applied to capture the authentic aesthetic of the real-life casino or even the friendly atmosphere of the familiar bingo hall in free bingo online where a whole host of tickets are at play.

There’s a lot at stake in each instalment of the Ocean’s franchise, but maybe none quite as gripping as the first, with George Clooney (Danny) raiding three reputable Las Vegas venues with his motley crew of fixers and thinkers, including Matt Damon and Brad Pitt.

Danny has just been released from a period of incarceration for previous misdemeanours but he’s also playing fire with his ex, Tess (Julia Roberts), prepared to stake freedom again to win it all back. Ocean’s Eleven may not take itself too seriously but there’s always the sense that Danny’s surface-level charm will be lasered by life’s game of chance.


The cinematic use of gambling was woven into stories as a precursor to something more dramatic. Take the high-stakes game played between James Bond (Daniel Craig) and Le Chiffre (Michael Madsen) in the 2006 version of Casino Royale. There’s a visceral thrill to the proceedings that underlie the poker ‘face-off’ between the two protagonists. Their eyes speak of a whole amount of internal and external pressures that envelop both characters. The perfect storm of the film erupts after the sedentary scenes of bluff and counter bluff at the table.

Witness the later act when foreign liaison agent Vesper (Eva Green) “plays” a Q and A interrogation on the train with 007. The gambling scenes are much more effective as a viewfinder into the working of Bond’s inner mind. Since Craig’s debut, the character was played with far more openness and vulnerability which draws the audience in.


Indeed, gambling terminology has often crossed into the world of the big screen to portray characters who are hiding something or struggling internally. In Rainman, Tom Cruise is trying to look after his autistic brother played by Dustin Hoffman. When Charlie (Cruise) discovers that Ray’s (Hoffman) particular neurological wiring has a unique capacity to number crunch, he takes him to the casino to try and win big.

The casino operators eventually ban the Babbits from playing after too many wins at the table, but the scene invokes Cruise’s desperation to win money that he never got from his father’s passing. This is something that jars against the growing challenge of caring for an afflicted sibling he never knew and a belated love for his brother.

If life is a game of chance, then movies are the perfect window to often show the gambling metaphor when fortune and friction are about to enter the room.

Author: Edward Jones

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