Top Ten Gambling Movies: Rounders, Cincinnati Kid, and More
Americans love gambling movies almost as much as they love gambling itself. What's not to like? You get the thrill of a high-stakes cards game from the comfort of a multiplex. Over the last few years, though, something happened.
The gambling movie was replaced by ESPN. Suddenly, with the broadcast of the World Series of Poker, you didn't need to go to the theater anymore. You could channel that gambling thrill from the comfort of your well-worn couch. Out went the Cincinnati Kid, and in came Chris Moneymaker. But let's get something straight here: Chris Moneymaker is no Steve McQueen. Nobody in off-brand polos and wrap-around mall sunglasses can be that cool. So, in honor of this week's cover story, Jacked Pot, on the dirty and lucrative casino racket in Florida, we present the top ten gambling movies of all time.
10. Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. Lead guy Eddy bets a fortune in a game of three card brag only to lose it all to some improbable hand. Surely a dilemma all card sharks have faced at some point. Except, Eddy owes the dough to some mobster named Harry the Hatchet, and he has to pay it back at an amphetamine'd pace while being directed by a pre-Madonna Guy Ritchie. No easy task. Realness meter: Dubious at best. Poker After Dark has been more authentic.
9. Rounders. Rounders is the Goodfellas of poker. Not in the greatest-Scorsese-movie-kind-of-way, but in the way that it made a lot of guys who look like Ray Liotta think they could play as well as Matt Damon. Talk to any of the hotshot players at Magic City Casino's poker room, and inevitably they'll cite John Dahl's 1998 cult flick as gospel. Realness meter: Only as believable as John Malkovich's Russian accent.
8. Bugsy. Bugsy Siegel, the Jewish gangster who fathered Las Vegas gets the biopic treatment in this 2-hour epic, also known among cineastes as the movie where Warren Beatty finally banged Annette Bening. Siegel's idea to build the first casino in the middle of the Nevada desert is as irrational as a deadbeat poker player's belief that this next hand will finally be the one that wins back his welfare check. Realness meter: If you bought Warren Beatty as a fey womanizing hairstylist in Shampoo, you will buy Warren Beatty as a fey womanizing gangster.
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7. A Hole in the Head. You can't actually have a gambling movie list without Sinatra, who all but personifies Vegas. In this Frank Capra classic, which was actually filmed at the Magic City Casino in 1959, Sinatra plays a deadbeat dad with a penchant for losing money at the tracks. He ends the movie singing High Hopes, surely the unofficial theme song of desperate gamblers everywhere. Realness meter: More believable than Sammy Davis Jr. as a slick thief in the original Ocean's Eleven.
6. Leaving Las Vegas. In this prequel to National Treasure, Nicolas Cage plays an adventurous archeologist with a gambling problem and a weakness for kind-hearted hookers. It ends well: with Cage winning an Oscar. Commonly referred to as The Wrestler of its day! Realness meter: As legit as an episode of Intervention.
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