Hollywood glamorizes everything from guns to gambling, and the spinning roulette wheel looms larger than life on the big screen, smoothly spinning hypnotically. Luxurious, glossy hardwood houses the shiny roulette wheel, its black-and-red letters elegantly orbiting a shiny metal hub. And the bets drop onto the lush, green table while the bettors eagerly watch the spinning wheel.
The leading man in the film always wins at roulette because he is glamorous, well-dressed, confident, and lucky, with a gorgeous babe at his side and armed with a surefire roulette system. How could he fail?
When playing roulette in real life
, however, it’s best not to suspend disbelief entirely. The facts and the fiction rarely find common ground. Let’s debunk some popular mythology surrounding roulette in movies vs reality, shall we?
Early Hollywood films conjure images of a well-dressed croupier spinning the roulette wheel in exotic locales. The table is full of exotic international clientele, eagerly placing bets while the croupier speaks sing-song French.
A ceiling fan wafts the cigar smoke overhead as harsh beams of light cut through the haze to highlight a femme fatale clutching a handful of chips and quietly whispering. Fez-wearing waiters scurry around in the background.
Yes, I’m talking about Casablanca. Set in the turbulent times of Nazi aggression in Europe, the Moroccan capital serves as an international purgatory for all sorts of mysterious characters looking to escape Europe or live in the shadows in a new land.
Humphrey Bogart plays Rick Blaine, a mysterious American who runs a fancy saloon in bustling Casablanca. The black-and-white images paint Bogart in the classic noir style, looking more like a hard-boiled detective than a bar owner. Cue the soft light: in walks Ingrid Bergman.
“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine,” Bogart muses.
The roulette scenes in the film are short but sweet. In the famous Casablanca roulette scene
, the glamour of Hollywood works its magic on the spinning wheel. Rick steps in to save a floundering husband who is trying to win his way to America. His wife has made a deal with the local devil, a cop who will grant her two tickets to America if she is ‘friendly’ to him.
At first, Rick dismisses her to her fate, but later has a pang of conscience. He strolls up to the table where the woman’s husband is losing, tells him to bet on 22, gives the croupier a knowing glance, and the roulette wheel spins.
22! Rick tells the surprised man to let it ride, and the wheel spins 22 again. Rick tells the man to cash in his chips and leave Casablanca that night.
The Spy Who Loved Roulette
Speaking of the ultimate symbol of male glamor, we give you: Bond, James Bond. In every film he wears the best clothes, drives the best cars, wields the best gear, and beds the best babes. Oh, and he’s got the added bonus of possessing a license to kill, which lets him kill baddies globally with impunity, by order of Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
You can’t get through a Bond film without at least one casino scene, where he gets to order his famous Martini ‘shaken, not stirred.’ And while Bond is standing there soaking up the cool casino vibes in his crisp tuxedo and bow tie, he throws a few chips at the table—and always wins. Of course, he does; he’s the hero!
Bond is seen playing an intense game of Texas Hold’em against villain Le Chiffre in Casino Royale (2006). The Bond franchise experienced a major reboot with the introduction of Daniel Craig as the latest personification of James Bond. The film updates the game of choice from baccarat (as in the original 1967 version) to Texas Hold’em and drops Bond right at the beginning of his career, before he earned his license to kill, which happens to be numbered (you guessed it) 007.
Lucky 007 beats the baddy again. In the original Ian Fleming novel which spawned the movies, Mr. Bond played roulette rather than baccarat or poker. And in this game-changer came Bond’s biggest contribution to roulette: the James Bond System.
Outline in superb detail in Fleming’s novel, the James Bond System is a basic system of hedging your bets. He places 200 GBP in strategic places on the betting field which allow him to cover 70% of the betting combinations.
You can use any amount of your bankroll you are comfortable with, as long as you break it down into units of bets placed on the right numbers as follows:
- 14 units on 19-36
- 5 units on a line bet 13-14-15-16-17-18
- 1 unit on 0
Played on the European roulette wheel, the single 0 is your friend in this betting system. Using 37 numbers and hedging your bets to cover the highest number of possible outcomes, the total profit in this system would net you 20 GBP every 37 spins, or “the price of a nice dinner” as Mr. Fleming wrote. Those were 1967 pounds, mind you.
Not only is James Bond the epitome of style, cool, and charisma, but he also proves that Hollywood imagery etches a powerful illusion of casino glamor in the minds of the viewer and the gambler. Hell, the book even birthed a new roulette system to boot.
Many films depict the protagonist on crazy winning streaks at the roulette table. This is very common in films but very rare in real life. Sure, it is possible to win 25 times in a row playing roulette, but it is also likely that you will lose 25 times in a row; especially if you don’t know how to bet. T
his isn’t to say you can’t win playing roulette; you can. But it is important to remember that the results of each roulette spin are completely random and have no effect on future results.
Sadly, counting the previous roulette spin outcomes will net you nothing. This also defeats most ‘systems’ in roulette. They exist only to add hope to the game. You can still ‘get lucky’ and win big playing roulette. But not like Bond or Rick.
Don’t tell Lola. In the German film Run Lola Run (1998), poor Lola must come up with 100,000 DM (back when they had those) in a couple of hours or her boyfriend will get whacked by unsavory characters. She starts running around Berlin looking for answers. The film has three chapters with three separate outcomes.
Chapter 2: Roulette. Lola runs into a Berlin casino and takes all her money (100 DM) and buys a single casino chip. She is told she can’t go into the casino looking like she does (shock-red hair, wife-beater tank top, belly tattoos; you know, a Berliner). She begs for entry, struts up to the roulette table, and places the chip on the number 20.
After enduring the stink-eye from all the well-dressed, glamorous Berliners in the casino, the croupier spins—and Lola wins. Unphased, she places the 3,500 DM she just won back on the number 20. Repetition rarely works in roulette, but always does in film. And if the odds aren’t going your way: SCREAM, LOLA, SCREAM!
As the wheel begins spinning, Lola belts out a bombastic scream that cracks ear wax and champagne glasses in equal measure. Then the wheel stops: 20. Winner winner schnitzel dinner!
It’s fun to lose yourself in a glamorous casino environment, both on the silver screen and in real life. But it’s important not to suspend your disbelief completely when playing roulette online or at a brick-and-mortar casino.
Remember that roulette “systems” are mostly superstition and rely on pre-defined probability schemes. But a truly random result—as in roulette—doesn’t follow any system. Because the spin you’re in has no bearing on your future spins, it’s best not to put your faith—and all your money—on a roulette system.
We advise gamblers to only bet with what they can afford to lose. Gambling is fun in moderation, and it’s always better to lose a small amount and come back again to play another day. Who knows? Maybe your lucky 20 or 22 will hit one day and you’ll beat the wheel.
But if you choose #20, just don’t scream at the wheel like Lola. Sound waves have absolutely zero effect on a spinning roulette wheel. But it’s a great way to get ejected from a casino.