The Five Best Gambling Scenes In Film

June 30, 2016
Place your bets! Double down with the five best gambling scenes in movies, which flip from high tension to gut-busting comedy.

While gambling’s great, it never quite lives up to the movies. Free bets aside, the gambling that you see on the screen always has something special to it…something that can’t be matched. In fact, these are often the scenes that inspire people to play. Below are five of the best gambling scenes to ever grace the silver screen.

Paul Newman and co in Cool Hand Luke

Paul Newman and co in Cool Hand Luke

COOL HAND LUKE (1967) This one’s a classic, and perhaps one of the enduring reasons why most poker players work so hard on bluffing. It’s almost impossible to outdo Paul Newman at his best, though, so the iconic poker scene will always go down as a goal rather than reality for most poker players.  In terms of pure gambling prowess, though, this is probably the scene to beat.

Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man

Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man

RAIN MAN (1988) Rain Man’s gambling scene isn’t necessarily played for drama, but it’s an integral part of the movie. It’s a part of the movie in which the two main characters actually bond, but it’s also a moment when one character is clearly being taken advantage of. In terms of gambling iconography, though, this scene was an instant classic – it captures the glitz of casinos just as easily as it captures the mathematical prowess necessary to win at some games of chance.

Daniel Craig in Casino Royale

Daniel Craig in Casino Royale

CASINO ROYALE (2006) Bond vs. Le Chiffre changed the nature of the game by upending some of the more common tropes in gambling. Not only does the hero initially lose because he misreads a tell, but the classic game of chance (baccarat) is changed out to poker in order to provide a more modern flair. A number of Bond movies have wonderful gambling scenes, but this is perhaps the scene that gives you the most insight into the nature of the characters. The final hand is a thing of beauty, and it’s definitely worth renting the film to watch this scene by itself.

Robert Wagner in Austin Powers

Robert Wagner in Austin Powers

AUSTIN POWERS (1997) While the other gambling scenes on this list are serious affairs, the Blackjack scene from Austin Powers is a classic because of the comedy value. Parodying the gambling scenes from the Bond franchise, it demonstrates that bizarre sense of confidence that some gamblers tend to have. While Powers loses, that’s not the point – it shows that the character has absolutely no clue what’s going on at the moment, and also that it doesn’t matter. For Powers, looking good while playing the game is more than enough.

Jackie Gleason and Paul Newman in The Hustler

Jackie Gleason and Paul Newman in The Hustler

THE HUSTLER (1961) This 1961 film captures a moment in time perfectly. Taking place in the smoky pool halls of the past, there’s nothing glitzy or glamorous about this game. It’s all about working an angle, just like a good game of pool. While The Hustler might not put gambling in a great light, it’s incredibly popular among those who love to play the game.

There are many other great gambling scenes in film, but these five show something special. Whether you’ve seen them a hundred times, or they’re new to you, each scene is more than worth watching. Watching these movies is one bet that’s sure to pay off.

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