The city of Las Vegas has long been a big inspiration for Hollywood writers and directors. That is why we see so many popular films based on the grand tourist location. A common theme that is seen in a majority of the movies set in Vegas is, of course, the inclusion of various table games.
Presently, there are more than 200 major motion pictures where some form of classic card games is vital to the plot. Many of these films feature a main character that is known for their poker or blackjack playing skills such as the 1965 American film The Cincinnati Kid starring Steve McQueen and Ann-Margret. The plot of the movie focuses on a poker player in New Orleans named Eric Stoner (McQueen), aptly nicknamed for his appearance. Stoner felt that he was the best at playing five-card stud until he plays against “The Man,” Lancey Howard, who is a master of the game.
Card playing has also made an appearance in several major franchise films including the original and remake of the James Bond movie Casino Royale as well as the Ocean’s Eleven remakes and sequels. Hollywood also focuses on the technique of gameplay as seen in the 1998 comedy-drama Rain Man starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise. This classic tells the story of a man and his autistic relative who travel to Las Vegas and win an impressive amount of money by counting cards at the blackjack table, the movie focuses on the estranged relationship between the two men, yet the card counting scene is one of the most memorable from the Academy Award-winning movie.
While card games is an exciting aspect to feature in everything from comedies to action movies, many card playing experts will point out that Hollywood has a tendency to get the aspects of playing cards wrong. Writers and directors don’t always have a good understanding of what really happens when real-life advantage play occurs. They want to romanticize the idea of an individual being a master card player and show that anyone can have success as a professional card player. The idea of card counting has been portrayed multiple times showing tactics that a professional would never use such as memorizing all the cards (as seen in the aforementioned film Rain Man) and the splitting of 5s in the 2009 comedy The Hangover.
One reason card playing has always been a go-to plot focus in Hollywood is that many filmmakers create the world of playing poker or blackjack as an exciting and highly rewarding way of life. These are unrealistic outcomes for the main character that can provide the audience with a false hope if they attempt the same moves during their own trip to Vegas. While it may not always be portrayed realistically, the overall idea of playing cards will always be a consistent theme in major motion pictures. And just like with playing cards, there are some winners out there that you must-see in action, and while you’re at it, take note of the not-so-great players too. You might learn something.