When it comes to casino games and pop culture, it’s most common to find games like roulette, craps or baccarat featured. These games have been played in some of the most famous movies of the 21st century such as Casablanca.
And this has helped establish these games as a mainstream part of pop culture. It has also given these games a kind of glitz, glamour and prestige that other casino games, like slots, will never have.
But what few fail to understand is that it’s not only the because of the drama and visual appeal that these game have become such integral parts of mainstream culture. It’s largely because these games are easy to understand. They aren’t too complicated and don’t require a player to have too much skill or strategic understanding of the game.
What many don’t know is that it’s not only roulette, craps and baccarat that have been featured. There are also films and books which feature blackjack with all its intricacies. Of course you may have to do some digging as there are fewer films which feature blackjack. Many underestimate blackjack’s role in pop culture. Here are some of the films and books in which blackjack appears.
One of the most famous films to feature blackjack is called 21. The film was released in 2008. The interesting thing about the film’s name is that 21 is the term which is used to refer to blackjack where players are allowed to have a hand value of maximum 21.
The film deals with a MIT team of blackjack players who are so skilled that they use have mastered the art of card counting. The team use this approach to the game to win life-changing sums. While there are many intricate plot twists, the film does a good job of portraying just how complicated blackjack and more importantly card counting is.
The focus of 21 is on an MIT math major, Ben Campbell, who needs to make extra money to pay for medical school. Together with other students as well as a MIT professor he forms a card counting team. They go to Vegas and try and trick the system.
The film is inspired by a true story. It accurately portrays how card counting works. When the card counters feel that the card still to be dealt will be advantageous to them they signal other members of their card counting team. These members then place big bets to take advantage of the player’s edge. Viewers are given a taste of just how exhilarating but at the same time how risky blackjack is.
Another popular film which features blackjack is the film Rain Man. This is a very well-known 1988 film that helped introduce the game of blackjack into mainstream culture. While the focus of the film is not blackjack it does make up part of one of the most memorable scenes of the film.
The film, staring Dusting Hoffman and Tom Cruise, features an autistic main character who at one point goes to Las Vegas in an attempt to strike it lucky. Due to the character’s autism he is able to remember things in an almost photographic way. He also has very well developed mathematical skills. This combination of memory and mathematical skill make him an unbeatable and formidable card counter.
The useful thing about this film is that it helps dispel some the myths surrounding card counting. It clearly conveys the fact that card counting does not involve memorizing all the cards dealt. In the film one sees how the main character learns a system which helps him code the cards according to their values. He then keeps track of these codes.
The film, The Hangover, also features blackjack. This is a 2009 comedy starring Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis. The film deals with a group of friends who wake up in Vegas the morning after a raucous night spent celebrating a friend’s bachelor party.
They discover that their friend has, in fact, been kidnapped and that the kidnappers are demanding an exorbitant ransom. They decide to play blackjack in order to make back the money the kidnappers are demanding. In the end, they manage to walk away with a massive $82,400.
While The Hangover may be fictional it does clearly showcase a key element of blackjack. What many don’t know is that blackjack is a game with low casino odds will generally have high payout percentages. This means that is one is a really skilled player who knows how to use blackjack strategy to his/her advantage it’s possible to walk away with life changing sums.
Blackjack also features in some popular novels. There’s Sucker Bet, a novel written by James Swain. It explores the corrupt underworld of the blackjack community. In the novel an ex-cop who is now working as a security guard uncovers that something is amiss with the blackjack at the casino where he works. The scam sees a player win 80 hands in a row. This is a fictional drama but it looks quite closely at the seedy side of blackjack.
There is also a novel called Bringing Down the House written by Ben Mezrich. This is probably one of the most popular novels to feature blackjack. The novel was later made into the film 21 which starred Jim Sturgess, Kevin Spacey as well as Kate Bosworth. The novel traces the journey and experiences of a group of card counters as they make their way from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to Las Vegas.
Blackjack’s role in pop culture may not be immediately clear as the game hasn’t been featured in as many films and novels as games like roulette, craps and baccarat have. However that shouldn’t discredit the role that this game has played. What players need to understand is that by turning to the film and novel portrayals of the game a lot can be learnt about how to play and improve one’s game.
Blackjack will never have the same status as games like roulette, craps or baccarat. And what the pop cultural portrayals of the game do is help explain the intricacies of the game to a wider audience.