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Big Phil ponders the top 10 gambling movies while lying in bed…

April 26th, 2017 by Irwin Fletcher Comments

Greetings fellow Nerds and Nerdettes;  upon the advice of my friends that I should “get outside more often” I attended the Eblana LARP last weekend. Whilst I had a brilliant time, I injured my knee (ligaments and muscle damage) to the point where I was told by the hospital that it would be over a week before I could walk again.

So, here I am, lying in bed and all that seems to be on tv are poker and gambling ads. So, in true FTN style, here are my top ten films that have a gambling element in them (Be Warned, spoliers ahead):

The Hustler
Paul Newman was incredible as “Fast” Eddie Felson, the poolroom hustler who wants to play the big time against Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleeson in a superbly acted non comedic role). This is the original film that earned Paul Newman a massive hit sequel in the 1980s with The Colour of Money and whilst the sequel is superb I still prefer the raw grittiness of the original movie. Best Scene: It’s the climatic game between Fast Eddie and the Fat Man.

Ocean’s Eleven’s
This was the big budget remake starring George Clooney and Brad Pitt and was a box office hit with its charm, visual style and hip and stylish soundtrack thanks to Belfast’s won David Holmes. Whilst the film is a heist movie, there is a key scene early in the movie with Danny (Clooney) gate crashing Rusty’s (Pitt) poker game. The interplay between Danny and Rusty is great fun as Rusty informs his fellow players on the reasons why Danny is betting the way he does. Best Scene: The poker game with Rusty being schooled by Danny.

The Cincinnati Kid
Steve McQueen may be known for his amazing stunts with cars, but this was a film where he had to rely on acting talent alone, and boy could the man act! Kid (McQueen) has aimed for a big poker game all his life and he finally gets his opportunity with Lancey Howard (Edward G. Robinson). The Big Game starts and both players are trying to outwit each other in what becomes much more than a money game. Best Scene: The Winner of the Big Game between Kid and Lancey and that wonderful line (so wonderful it was even quoted in The Mask).

Indecent Proposal
This movie caused quite a stir when first released; not just because of its raunchy for their time sex scenes with Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson but for the offer of $1,000,000 for a stranger to sleep with your wife. Morals aside, the close-ups of that little white ball bouncing round the roulette wheel is still mesmerising. Best Scene:  The Roulette scenes where the viewer’s heart is jumping around as much as that little white ball.

Rain Man
Another movie on this list that again that isn’t a ‘gambling’ movie but has some great scenes. Dustin Hoffman portrays Raymond; a savant who has an incredible memory and is accompanied by his hippie brother Charlie, portrayed by Tom Cruise. Dustin Hoffman quite rightly deserved his Academy Award for his portral and the scenes in the casino were both comedic and heart-warming. Best Scene: Raymond displaying his ability to expertly play Blackjack.

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
This is another crime movie that has a number of gambling elements to it. Guy Ritchie became a bankable box office Director when this was first released and his visual style and punchy dialogue have been copied by virtually every British Gangster film since. Best Scene:  Tom losing the card game! Never has the sense of loss been so expertly caught on camera before and it’s something that all gamblers will have felt.

Big Deal at Dodge City
This western movie may not be too well known among you out there, but trust me, this is one of the best gambling movies ever. The whole plot centres around The Big Game; a bunch of gamblers known for swindling other players and “The Little Lady” who joins the fun –  it truly belongs in the betting top 10 of movies. Best Scene: The Final Reveal!

Holy Rollers: The True Story of Card Counting Christians
This is a brilliantly made documentary in which a highly skilled group of Christians took casinos for millions. The audience can question the morals, but you can not deny the skills involved. Best Scene: Any one where the players win (it’s all the more thrilling because its all real)

The Sting
No gambling film list could not include this multi-Academy Award winning movie starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford as a pair of skilful con artists seeking revenge for the murder of their friend. This film had it all and is still as thrilling today as it was when first released over 40 years ago. The plot twists and turns require multiple viewings and the ending is still one of the best in the history of Holywood. Best Scene: The Poker Game with Paul Newman is one of the best!

Martin Scorsese’s biopic of life in Las Vegas in the 1970s of various gangsters (names were changed to protect certain individuals still living at the time the film was made). This movie had the glitz of Las Vegas matched only by the ruthlessness and at times barbaric violence that makes this one of the greatest films ever made. Starring Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Sharon Stone, all of whom put in career-defining performances, Casino gave the viewer an inside look at Casinos and gambling rarely seen before. Best Scene: Too many to list, but the narration from Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein says it all: “In the casino, the cardinal rule is to keep them playing and to keep them coming back. The longer they play, the more they lose, and in the end, we get it all.”

Happy gambling folks and remember, when the fun stops, STOP!


I'm an LA journalist who really lives for his profession. I have also published work as Jane Doe in various mags and newspapers across the globe. I normally write articles that can cause trouble but now I write for FTN because Nerds are never angry, so I feel safe.