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5 Things Movies Get Wrong About Gambling and Casinos

5 Things Movies Get Wrong About Gambling and Casinos

There have been some great movies about gambling and casinos. The 1998 movie Rounders is often credited with increasing the popularity of Texas Hold ‘Em. Yes, even despite John Malkovich’s terrible Russian accent. Films like Ocean’s 11 (2001) make casinos look fun and glamorous. However, Hollywood has also given us a lot of myths and misconceptions about casinos. Below are the 5 things the movies get wrong about gambling and casinos.

  1. Casinos aren’t run by shady, unscrupulous people and/or the mafia – Movies like Casino(1995) show casinos being run as front organizations or behind bankrolled by the mob. While the mob did run some Las Vegas casinos in the past, modern casinos are nothing like the shady organizations depicted on television. That goes double for Native American casinos, which are highly regulated and codified. Profits from Native American casinos are used to fund social programs, education, and are often reinvested in the community.
  2. You can’t win millions of dollars counting cards – The movie 21 (2001) is the heavily fictionalized account of the famous MIT blackjack team’s exploits. In this movie (and several others) we see geniuses use their brilliance to bilk casinos for thousands in quick and easy fashion. However, this could not be farther from the truth. While counting cards is a relatively straightforward endeavor, you will likely only make $10.00 an hour if you play $100 a hand while counting cards. To even be able to play that many $100 hands you’d need a bankroll of about $20,000. Even the real-life MIT blackjack team would go days and weeks without winning, and the average yearly salary for the team was $25,000. While that certainly is a profit, you’d likely be better off getting a full-time job than trying to make money counting cards.
  3. Casinos don’t hire goons to beat you up – Again, you can blame the movie 21 for this, although we’ve seen it in many movies and TV shows. You can’t have security beat someone up for counting cards. While you can refuse them service, you can’t beat them up (and counting cards isn’t against the law). Most security guards are honest, hardworking people with normal lives who aren’t looking to beat someone up every chance they get.
  4. Casinos do not hire “coolers” either – In the 2003 movie The Cooler, William H. Macy plays a cooler. A cooler is a casino employee who is sent to tables to stop winning streaks. The theory is that the presence of the “cooler” in and of itself will, in turn, give bad luck to the rest of the table. When you think about this premise, it makes no sense. How could you transfer “bad luck” from one person to another? If someone at your table is playing cards poorly or appears to have bad luck, it’s probably just that. They aren’t secret casino employees.
  5. Real life poker hands are never as ridiculous as they are in movies – The James Bond film Casino Royale (2006) a 40 million dollar hand (I guess they don’t have table limits!) has a four-way pot with the players having a flush, two full houses, and a straight flush. The odds of this happening in a real game are 18 trillion to one. In Maverick (1994) you have three players remaining in a pot that has a four of a kind, a straight flush, and a royal flush, respectively. These hands would never happen in real life, yet movies always end poker scenes with these types of setups.

Well, that’s our list. Can you think of anything else Hollywood gets wrong about casinos? Let us know on Facebook! Remember, life’s a game… live it up on the waterfront!

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