TV and movie producers have a passion for the casino world that’s almost unconditional. Regardless of whether the protagonist is a betting bad-ass or an unlucky loser, those who call the shots seem to love the industry and all it entails. Of course, if you’ve ever played blackjack, roulette, slots and more, you’ll know why the casino industry is a top draw in Hollywood and beyond.
With its colourful characters, glitzy backdrops and endless series of highs and lows, betting has the power to make any on-screen action interesting. However, the characters we’re asked to invest in don’t always find themselves on the right side of lady luck. In fact, some famous faces have had two left feet when it comes to dancing with the mistress of fate. To show you what we mean, let’s take a look at some of the best and worst casino players from TV and movies.
The Best Casino Players from TV and Movies
Raymond Babbitt from Rain Man
Inspired by megasavant Kim Peek and played by Dustin Hoffman, Raymond Babbitt is an autistic genius who has an unwitting knack for blackjack. After his brother Charlie discovers that his estranged late father’s $3 million fortune is being left to Raymond, the sibling he didn't know he had, the self-centred car dealer decides to act.
Kidnapping Raymond from the Walbrook Institute and taking him on a road trip, Charlie soon discovers his remarkable affinity for numbers. Before a bout of humanity and compassion envelops Charlie, we get to see Raymond demonstrate how effective card counting can be as a blackjack strategy.
The Cast of 21
The movie 21 is based on real-life events and stands as a shining example of how a little bit of thought can go a long way in the betting world. Although some of the storyline has been embellished for dramatic effect, it’s no less true that six students from MIT managed to win millions playing blackjack. Using their talent for mathematics and numbers, the students formed a blackjack card counting team.
Under the guidance of professor Micky Rosa (played by Kevin Spacey), they go on to 'take down the house' in Las Vegas and beyond. In later life, members of the infamous MIT blackjack team would go on to have success in other areas of the betting world. Andy Bloch is a professional poker player with more than $5 million in lifetime tournament winnings.
The Worst Casino Players from TV and Movies
Joey from Friends
There’s an old saying in poker that, "If you can’t find the sucker at the table, it’s you,” and this certainly applies to Joey Tribbiani. The Friends character first learned to play with Ross and the gang, but his skills were less than impressive when he got his own spin-off show. Playing in a fictional poker game alongside some not-so-fictional celebrities, Joey proceeds to blunder his way through the rules, ruining the action for everyone.
The final straw comes when he declares a Texas tornado after all four suits appear on the board. As he shakes the table and rakes in chips that aren’t his, only a headlock from Coolio can bring the situation to a halt.
Nicky Santoro from Casino
Perhaps the worst gambler of all is Mr Santoro. Maybe his friend and casino owner Sam 'Ace' Rothstein should have known better, but money is money. Unfortunately, when Santoro loses his cool and blows up at the blackjack table in the movie Casino, two things happen.
Firstly, he’s forced to ask Rothstein for a loan and, secondly, he gives the pit boss a beating with a phone. As any bettor will tell you, neither of those things should be part of your arsenal. Unsurprisingly, Santoro gets his comeuppance later in the movie, but not before he proves that he’s the worst gambler in movie history.
Although you shouldn’t believe everything you see on the screen, the best and worst casino players can teach you a thing or two about your own game. To be successful, you need to have a calm, methodical approach.
If you can understand the mathematics of a game and use that to your advantage, all the better. One thing you shouldn’t ever do though, aside from playing and not knowing the rules, is lose your cool. Act like Mr Santoro and you’ll not only make mistakes but most likely find yourself being escorted outside and barred from ever playing again.