Top Things Movies Get Wrong About Gambling

In Casino Royale, showing in cinemas 2006, James Bond plays Poker head-to-head against terrorists. Our hero plays admirably, winning with seemingly little effort, even when the odds are against him. The gambling aspect of the film overall is great, adding tension and a glitzy atmosphere, all while depicting Bond as a gambling God. But can someone really play Poker with such incredible skill, all but dominating a professional game?

In short; yes, someone can play Poker skilfully. But the way Casio Royale depicts Poker is more than a little misleading. Bond, like many movie protagonists, apparently defies odds to win Poker. To put it another way, Casino Royale doesn’t show Bond playing Poker skilfully, it shows him simply overcoming luck like some sort of deity.

Sadly, Casino Royale, although a great Bond film, does Poker dirty. It also isn’t the only film that depicts gambling in a less-than-accurate way.



Maverick, 1994, is markedly worse than Casino Royale in how it depicts Poker. Bret Maverick not only defies the odds, drawing winning hands like they’re going out of fashion, he can apparently even summon particular cards by sheer force of will. Yes, the movie isn’t anything more than a fun western romp, and in that regard it succeeds. But if you know anything about Poker, you might find the gambling parts of the movie annoying.

Of course, playing Poker doesn’t mean being able to get winning hands more than the other players. Being a good Poker player means bluffing well, betting smart, and deceiving the other players when it matters most. Both James Bond and Bret Maverick are superhuman in their Poker abilities, and apparently don’t need to bluff at all. Not once in Casino Royale or Maverick is the protagonist even shown bluffing, which is missing the most important aspect of Poker.

So is there a movie that depicts gambling accurately?

The Sting


The Sting, 1973, is an iconic film, and for very good reason. The story follows a pair of low-level conmen as they attempt to get revenge on a ruthless crime boss. However, the conmen don’t intend to kill the crime boss. Instead, they intend on pulling the biggest con of their lives, essentially robbing the crime boss of a small fortune. So where does the gambling aspect come in?

A very memorable scene, about midway through the movie, sees Henry Gondorff, Paul Newman, go head to head with the crime boss in a private game of Poker. It’s a shrewd, comedic scene, depicting Gondorff as he cheats his way to victory. But, even with the cheating, The Sting is honest about Poker as a game of chance. In fact, this scene is perhaps the most accurate depiction of Poker in almost any movie ever, old or new.

Most notable is that Gondorff doesn’t magically draw a winning hand. He draws a losing hand, and must cheat to get ahead and win. The movie also puts enormous emphasis on patience as a big part of the game, and as we all know patience is major part of real-world gambling. We obviously aren’t suggesting you cheat, but we are suggesting you watch The Sting if you’re a fan of Poker.



Rounders, 1998, is widely seen as the best movie about gambling ever. More to the point, it’s also seen as one of the most accurate movies about Poker. The movie tells the story of Mike McDermott as he and a friend attempt to pay back a debt. It follows their journey as they go from one high-stakes Poker game to another, all in a desperate effort to win as much as possible.

There is, of course, more to the film than just the Poker, with a heavy emphasis on lies and mistrust between friends. But, if you’re into just the gambling aspect of the film, it really doesn’t get much better than this. Rounders deftly depicts high-level Poker play in numerous scenes, capturing the thrill of playing when it matters. Though Rounders perhaps still isn’t entirely accurate during the film’s conclusion.

As with other films, Rounders does rely on the old trope of the hero managing to draw a magically good hand exactly when he needs it. Even still, Rounders does much better than many other films as far as capturing the ups and downs of real Poker goes.

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels


From a great depiction of gambling in cinema, to a film that just has a ton of fun with it, we have Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Yes, the Poker playing scene in this film is legendary, depicting a hapless Poker play as he bets big in Poker and loses. The sequence in question takes advantage of stylish editing and great cinematography, demonstrating just how tense a high-stakes game of Poker can get.

Many say that this sequence isn’t a very accurate depiction of Poker, but that isn’t entirely true. What Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels does get right is that the Poker player in the movie breaks gambling rule number 1; don’t chase your losses. As you already know, chasing your losses in Poker is a mistake. Slow, smart, steady play is the ticket to winning, if you’re down.

What We Learned

Hollywood, mostly, doesn’t do a very good job of depicting gambling. In most cases movies lean into the drama aspect of casino games, favouring rapid action over showing the slow burn of real professional gambling. Which isn’t to say you can’t find rapid action gambling at the average online casino. There are many casino games that offer fast rounds, and a quick visit to a site like Treasure Mile casino is proof of this. The reality is, however, that professional gambling, specifically Poker, is a much slower, more thoughtful affair.

The bottom line is that, apart from a few gems, gambling isn’t shown in movies very well. Hopes are that a new Hollywood movie will give games like Poker what they deserve; a demonstration that when you gamble like a professional, you do so slowly and deliberately.