Swingers – “Always double down on 11”
If you ever play the fine game of blackjack, this is one of the most common tips you would get from the pros. Doubling down is a high-risk move in the game – if the card doesn’t fall in your favor, you cannot hit again.
But as Vince Vaughn’s character Trent keeps telling his friend Mike (John Favreau) in the comedy-drama Swingers (1996), you always double down on 11. When you hit 11, and the dealer is showing a card lower in value than 10, doubling down is an excellent move.
In the movie, Trent and Mike are out of luck actors heading to Vegas to make Mike feel better about himself. But since he is a novice, cue comic scenes, like the one where he buys-in for $300, at a high roller table with a $100 minimum bet!
Think “fish out of the water” and you have what John Favreau’s eyes looked like when Trent (Vince Vaughn) tells him to double down. Imagine having to double down at $100 minimum table when all you have is chips worth $300! That premise alone is comedy gold!
Predictably, it doesn’t end well for our duo, but in real life, doubling down works out more often than not in your favor.
Ocean’s 11 – “First lesson in poker”
As far as lessons from movies go, it doesn’t get any more explicit than this. Brad Pitt’s first scene in the Ocean’s Eleven franchise shows him teaching poker to Hollywood actors. But you will probably not learn anything important about the game from this scene, as Pitt is shown struggling to teach the stars the basics of the game.
Things get interesting when George Clooney joins the table. There is tension in the air, as the duo has some sort of bad blood between them from an earlier heist. Then you get the best possible lesson you could have for any sort of game, not just poker – “leave emotions at the door.”
What follows is a tense scene where Brad Pitt is teaching his wards how to spot a bluff and deal with it effectively. As the stakes rise from $500 to $2000, you also realize the dangers in assuming that someone is bluffing, when they are not!
What Happens in Vegas – “Slots are unpredictable”
In this breezy romantic comedy involving the lovable and cute couple of Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz, Vegas is at the center. Two odd couples accidentally meet up in Sin City and end up getting hitched at one of those Vegas chapels after a crazy night of drinking.
They wake up and realize their blunder and marital life gets off to a rocky start. But just as they are about to head off to get a divorce, things change dramatically when Ashton Kutcher distractedly puts a coin in one of those slot machines.
That machine coughs up a million-dollar jackpot, leaving the couple something more to think about and fight over in court. So what is the huge lesson about gambling in this goofball scene – don’t get drunk with strangers in Vegas could be one!
But in all seriousness, it just shows how you cannot make a plan for slots. You never know when you are going to hit the big one. So it’s always worth a couple of dollars worth of wagers. Just try not to get too caught up though!
Casino Royale – “In poker, you play the man across from you”
We absolutely had no choice but include the iconic poker scene from the Bond movie on this list. It is right up there with Dustin Hoffman’s Oscar-winning scene in Rainman as one of the finest depictions of a game of chance ever set on film.
Incidentally, the original Bond novel had the hero playing Chemin de fer (a version of Baccarat) against his nemesis, not poker. They changed that in the movie because poker has more dramatic potential, and it was a smart move.
This scene involving Daniel Craig and Mads Mikkelsen shows you that poker is never just about the cards – it is all about the person holding them. Why do many pro poker players wear shades indoors? It is for fear of revealing a “tell” – as they say, our eyes can betray secrets.
In Casino Royale, the poker game becomes a battle of wits between Bond and Le Chiffre, with one discovering the other’s tell, only to get played by it. The bottom line is if you want to get good at poker, learn how to read other people while keeping your own emotions under the wraps!