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Gambling Movies Based On True Stories: How Accurate Are They?

There are dozens of gambling movies available to watch. Most of the films are completely fictional, but there are some which are based on true stories. Like all other true-story films, it’s important to question just how accurate these gambling films are. Let’s take a look.

21 (2008)

2008’s 21 tells the story of the famous MIT Blackjack Team, a group of current and former MIT students who used card counting and other strategies to win blackjack games at brick-and-mortar casinos – this strategy doesn’t work with Internet sites – throughout the 1980s and 90s. While the movie was largely successful, when compared to the real-life MIT Blackjack Team, it’s actually incredibly inaccurate.

First of all, the team was not founded by a maths professor like in the film; it was actually founded by three individuals, one of which was a Harvard Business School graduate and the others former MIT students. In addition, many of the characters in the film were fictionalised or based on various MIT team players from the teams years in operation. Finally, most of the events in the movie, like when Ben loses $200,000 at Red Rock casino, were made purely for the film and never happened.

Molly’s Game (2017)

Molly’s Game is a biographical drama film based on the memoir of the same name by Molly Bloom; a former Olympic Skater turned illegal gambling operator. The film tells the story of how Bloom began operating illegal high-stake poker games which attracted the attention of various Hollywood celebrities before running into legal trouble.

Compared to 21, Molly’s Game is actually a lot more accurate, even if it does exaggerate some events. For example, Bloom was actually threatened by a mobster and did become addicted to drugs as she struggled with controlling her poker games. However, some aspects of the film such as Idris Elba’s Charlie Jaffey character and the name of the venue in which the poker games were played were all fictionalised or at least changed for the film.

High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story (2003)

2003’s High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story is another film based on real events. This movie tells the story of Stu Ungar, a professional poker player who is one of the only people in poker history to win the World Series of Poker Main Event three times. Despite his legendary status and early success, Ungar struggled with gambling, drugs, and his personal relationships too.

The movie covers Ungar’s life through flashbacks, and while it does a great job of highlighting his successes as well as the trouble he experienced later in life, the film is often criticised for failing to show the full extent of his gambling addiction.

Why Are They Not Accurate?

Like most other films based on true stories, the film industry likes to exaggerate, sensationalise, and even create fictional events for more drama and entertainment. So while there are plenty of films which do a great job of accurately portraying real-life stories and events, there will always be something that is fictionalised or exaggerated for viewers, so don’t take these real-life movies too seriously!

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