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The Best Gambling Scenes in Movies

There are dozens of Hollywood movies about casinos and gambling that have thrilled audiences over the years. Films like The Cincinnati Kid, starring Steve McQueen, or The Hustler with Paul Newman, gambling has long been fodder for movies, documentaries, and books. Today’s gambling movies include gems like Martin Scorsese’s Casino and Goodfellas or Ocean’s Eleven and Casino Royale. Poker is an influential game for Hollywood, while blackjack, baccarat, craps, roulette, and slot machines have all surfaced in some movie or other.

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Croupier is an underrated 1998 film starring Clive Owen as Jack Manfred, a budding writer with no choice but to return to handling chips when his career flounders. We get to see the diverse effects of gambling on players and dealers alike. Croupier doesn’t receive much acclaim as a gambling movie; however, it holds its own among the others on the list due to its unconventional style and rarely seen effects gambling has on some individuals.



Maverick is a comedy western with a high-stakes poker game as its central theme. Loosely based on the TV series, Maverick stars Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, and James Garner. The movie is a thrilling stagecoach ride with gunfights and a spellbinding poker game where the winner takes all! Maverick’s charm lies in its ability to blend comedy with gambling and the Wild West. It’s not hard to see why Poker is so prevalent in the USA to this day after watching Maverick!


The Cincinnati Kid

The Cincinnati Kid stars superstar king of cool Steve McQueen as an ambitious outsider who takes on the current poker champion, Edward G Robinson. The cinematic masterpiece by Norman Jewison was released in 1965 and perfectly captured the excitement of Poker and the ultimate game strategy to beat the best. The Cincinnati kid sees Steve McQueen in one of his most iconic roles as ‘The Kid.’


The Hustler

The Hustler is a black and white 1961 film directed by Robert Rosen. The game stars Paul Newman as Fast Eddie Felson as he faces off against real-life champion Minnesota fats. The game is full of gambling scenes, and George C Scott’s crooked and cold-hearted agent makes and breaks Fast Eddie, as he loses everything on one game of pool. Nevertheless, the game provides a less glamorous insight into gambling, and The Hustler is a compelling story about paying the price and its actual value.


Casino Royale

Casino Royale sees James Bond in return to top form. The centrepiece of the storyline is a high-stakes poker tournament where Daniel Craig’s James Bond attempts to bankrupt terrorist banker Le Chiffre, played by Mads Mikkelson. Casino Royale is undoubtedly a high-point for James Bond and the first in the series featuring Daniel Craig. It’s hard to beat the tension at the poker table, along with the jaw-dropping action scenes.



Martín Scorsese’s legendary gangster movie Casino appeared in 1995 with Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, and Sharon Stone as the main protagonists. Casino deserves its spot in the limelight, as it tells a real-life story and focuses more on the players who try to beat the odds. Talented bookmaker Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein, played by Robert DeNiro, is a tough character who sets his odds. The mob recruits him to oversee running one of their Vegas casinos, and the smooth arrangement runs until Rothstein marries Sharon Stone’s Ginger. Then, the vicious Mafia underboss, Joe Pesci’s Santoro, leads them to a dramatic downfall.


Let It Ride

The 1989 comedy Let It Ride, Joe Pytka’s directorial debut has a true story and screenplay by Nancy Dowd. The film stars Richard Dreyfuss as Trotter, a city taxi driver who receives a hot horse betting tip and wins. Trotter spends his time gambling on the horses, which irritates his ex-wife, Pam. However, after he promises to quit gambling, he plays the next day again, winning a $700 prize with his first bet. That’s the beginning of his unbelievable winning streak, as the unlikely hero becomes a ladies’ man with a newfound fortune.


Ocean’s Eleven

One of the entertaining opening scenes of Ocean’s Eleven showcases the superstar talents of Brad Pitt and George Clooney in a friendly game of cards. Brad Pitt is teaching a group of fellow actors how to play the game of Poker, and proving a point, he calls out George Clooney’s bluff. It’s a relatively brief and straightforward gambling scene; however, it does pack an enormous punch for those interested in the game of Poker. We get a few wise teachings from Brad Pitt and a hint at the mental aspect of Poker as he spars with George Clooney’s character. But, more than anything, it’s a sense of how cool playing Poker is.



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