Your Favorite Movies vs. Reality: Casino Edition

When you think about the classic casino scenes in movies, Ocean’s Eleven, Casino Royal or 21 probably come to mind. However, there are plenty of examples where cards, craps or roulette make their way into the Hollywood hits.

We’ve compiled a list of our favorite casino movies and scenes that we’re also detailing how real they are. Of course, most are portrayed in a dramatic way to heighten the plot of the movie whereas other entries are more realistic. Let’s take a closer look:


Swingers delivered a funny casino scene when Vince Vaughn encourages his friend Jon Favreau into some blackjack at higher limits than he’s comfortable with. Favreau, who is uncomfortable with $100 a hand blackjack, is peer-pressured into playing the game by Vaughn and the dealer even though he only has $300 to work with. Vaughn further pressures him to double down when he’s on 11 and Favreau reluctantly follows suit. While he ends up with a healthy 18, the dealer ends up with 21 and Favreau’s chip stack drops from $300 to $100 in the blink of an eye.

Realness Factor: 10/10

While there’s some comedy in here, there is a lot of realness too. Friends in movies and in real life will always pressure each other to play bigger games than they can afford. Players who simply want to win big end up in over their heads too. As far as how the game played out, it’s accurate. The dealer hit on 16, as expected, and he just ended up with a better hand than Favreau.


In the classic Rainman, Cruise’s character, Charlie Babbitt, and Dustin Hoffman’s character, Raymond Babbitt, are sitting in a diner when Charlie realizes that Raymond has an incredible memory stemming from his autism. While Charlie had mostly been frustrated with his brother before then, he now realizes a place where his brother could be a real asset: Las Vegas. They head to Caesars Palace and after a brief learning curve as Raymond tries to understand the game, he ends up being a real asset to his brother.

Realness Factor: 6/10

Autistic people are known for having photographic memories or being a savant. For example, there’s a man who flew around Manhattan in a quick helicopter ride once and was able to redraw every building, every structure from memory – down to the number of windows on each building too.

Although it’s possible that Hoffman’s character could pull this off, casinos are very careful with autistic people these days as well as card counting. They likely would have been cut off much sooner.

Casino Royale

In the height of the poker craze, the James Bond film Casino Royale included some action in the 2006 production. Bond joins the table as the villain, Le Chiffre, is cleaning up and Bond’s friend from the CIA, Felix, is losing. Bond is losing at first too but after the stakes get raised, he ends up beating Le Chiffre out of everything.

Realness Factor: 9/10

Setting aside the dramatics of Bond movies, the portrayal of the game here was fairly realistic. Of course, seeing the villain clean everyone out right up until the very end, where the hero comes in and just edges him with a slightly better hand to win it all is definitely theatrics. However, this team of action happens all of the time in Texas Hold’em.

The Hangover

When the troublesome trio in The Hangover have to somehow get their hands on $80,000 to pay back Mr. Chow as a ransom for their friend Doug, they turn to playing BlackJack with the help of Alan’s card counting. Alan, who has mostly been a weirdo throughout the movie, pulls this incredible skill out of his bag of tricks, and ends up taking the house for $82,400 with the help of Stu and Jade – just enough to cover their bills.

The next morning, they ended up meeting Chow to give him the money but he returns them the wrong Doug, as the plot of the movie thickens.

Realness Factor: 2/10

Card counting isn’t exactly a new trick in the casino or in movies but nowadays, they do their best to prevent it. Not only do they keep a watchful eye for anyone trying to engage in such tactics, it is also hard to win such massive amounts – as the guys in the movie did – in such a short period of time.

Card counting gives you an edge but it’s not like hitting the jackpot. You give yourself the edge over many hands over many hours, and hope to pull ahead as a result. That’s what makes this humongous gain so unrealistic.


Rounders is one of the all-time classic gaming movies. It mostly deals with underground poker, rather than at casinos, but keep in mind that it was released in 1998 before poker became seriously trendy.

In one climatic scene, Matt Damon thwarts John Malkovich in a winner-takes-all ending. While Teddy KGB explodes with emotions, Mike McDermott (Damon) keeps a stoic face all the way through the end.

Realness Factor: 6/10

While the gaming itself was probably quite accurate, the movies theatrics here are over the top. There are bad beats galore in the poker world but most people are able to contain themselves. These types of epic explosions with shouting and drama is more for Hollywood than anything else.

Oceans Eleven

Early in the movie, Brat Pitt and George Clooney are hosting a little underground game of poker. While Pitt and Clooney appear to be rivals, they’re actually in cahoots. Pitt guides the other players around the table to call Clooney’s bluff but he actually has a hand of four nines, which is very strong, and he ends up cleaning everyone out. Later, they split the money.

Realness Factor: 9/10

A lot of shady tactics are employed in underground poker games. And to be fair, “shady” might be the wrong word as some skilled players would call it gamesmanship. Poker players around the table can say what they want but it’s your job to filter the noise and read the players. In this case, nobody realized they were getting played, so they got cleaned out.

Oceans Thirteen

One of the classic scenes in Ocean’s Thirteen is when they take the house for all they’ve got. First, they play roulette and using a magnet of some kind with a modified ball, they bet it all on ‘13’ knowing that it will come through. Then, taking the winnings, they start to play Craps and with the magnet working in their favor again with rigged dice, they’re able to pick up win after win after win as the dice keep flipping to their numbers at the last second. Lastly, to get out of the casino with all of their winnings, they simulate an earthquake, which allows them to easily escape in the commotion.

Realness Factor: 0/10

While it’s a cool plot in movies, this is incredibly unrealistic. Trying to game the roulette wheel is virtually impossible and while going on a run in craps is common, having the power to flip the dice at the very last second to your numbers is just not possible. And we won’t even delve into the fake earthquake at the end. By that point, we can all just chalk it up to being a Hollywood movie with a fun story.

Dr. No

In this 007 thriller, our 007 agent, James Bond, is hunting down Dr. No. This leads him to the London gaming club, Le Cercle, where he meets Sylvia Trench playing at the Baccarat table. Trench keeps losing at the game and Bond is on the shoe. Trench keeps going at him and eventually asks the house to raise the limit for the game, which they do. When she loses again, Bond cashes out and leaves the table.

Realness Factor: 9/10

There are differing versions of Baccarat but the game itself looked quite real. Usually, there are more players involved in the game and while there are others at the table here, this is just a head-to-head duel. That does happen in the game, though, so this is not just a made-up movie scene.


21 is about MIT majors who put together a card-counting team that seems to beat the game at casinos. It’s not just the card-counting, though, as they also use signals to help build their profits. While there’s plenty of plot before the aforementioned scene, what’s happening here is the crew decides to put on disguises (to hide from security, who was on to them) and take the casino for one last ride before they install biometric software. They end up winning $640,000 from the Planet Hollywood but this all proves to be a bit of a ruse that security is kind of in on.

Realness Factor: 2/10

All sorts of winning casino players have tried to use disguises in the past but the ones we saw in this movie are not that realistic. Also, when they start winning and cleaning up like crazy, the casino would probably start to notice the signaling between them. Furthermore, card counting over just a few hours to pick up $640,000 in winnings seems just a tad unrealistic.

Austin Powers

Austin Powers, which is a classic comedy movie that mostly parodies James Bond, had a famous blackjack scene where he goes head-to-head with Dr. Evil’s right-hand man, Number 2. Number 2 wears an eyepatch but secretly, his eye patch x-ray vision can examine the deck of cards that’s face down and see what card is coming up. Even though Number 2 is sitting on 17, he knows that a four is coming up and says “he likes to live dangerously” when the dealer is surprised by his play.

Meanwhile, our protagonist Austin Powers, only holds a tandem of cards that is valued at five and decides to stay. While the dealer suggests he hits, Powers says he also “likes to live dangerously” and he immediately loses.

Realness Factor: 1/10

Of course, this movie is just a parody of Bond and the scene is satire of the many Bond casino scenes. Powers sitting on five when the dealer is showing a King makes no sense. But movies aiming to be funny, not realistic.

Parent Trap

Not exactly a gaming scene in a casino but one classic gambling act that many kids might remember. Lindsay Lohan versus Lindsay Lohan showdown at Camp Walden in Parent Trap. The identical twins go at it but Annie loses when Hallie pulls out a Royal Flush at the very end. As part of the loss, Annie is forced to strip down and skinny dip in the lake. While she pays her debts, the other kids steal her clothes and run away, forcing an uncomfortable situation when she has to get out of the lake naked.

Realness Factor: 3/10

Underage gambling is illegal to begin with. But we all know plenty of people play poker at camps, get togethers and homes just for fun. Even so, the two of them having a straight flush and a royal flush at the very end is definitely movie theater.

Did we miss any of your favorite movies?

Dave Golokhov

Dave Golokhov

Dave has a long history in the media. His career began at The Score Television Network. He’s since been a radio host on Sirius Satellite Radio, made numerous television appearances as a panelist, and has written for publications like FOX Sports, and The Baltimore Sun. He’s interviewed hundreds of celebrities in both sports and entertainment, ranging from Shaquille O’Neal, to Floyd Mayweather, to The Mannings.

As a travel/adventure writer, Dave has written a number of destination stories covering some of the most unique destinations, such as Bilbao (Spain), Tel Aviv (Israel) to Iceland. He’s also (been lucky to) had the opportunity to review the experience of eating at some of the world’s best restaurants, including Noma (Copenhagen), Amber (Hong Kong) and Eleven Madison Park (New York). All of those stories can be read on, The Daily Beast and The Globe & Mail.


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