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The 5 best gambling scenes on TV ever

Closeup Photo of Person Holding Panasonic Remote Control in Front of Turned on Smart Television

Gambling is one of the few real life activities that matches film & TV for raw entertainment, gripping drama and thrilling finales. The innate drama of gambling makes it perfect for recreation on the big and small screen.

Even TV shows like The Simpsons and South Park have included gambling scenes to grip their viewers in the exciting action of casino games. Whether it be professional gamblers, hapless poker players or one-off winners, TV shows have it covered when it comes to gambling.

In this article we take a look at 5 of the most gripping, funny, enthralling and exciting gambling scenes from TV shows ever screened.

Only Fools and Horses

Del Boy’s 2 pair turns out to be much better than everyone else expected

Written by John Sullivan this iconic English TV show first aired in 1981 and was last seen on TV screens in 2003. Del Boy and his brother Rodney are the main protagonists in the show, which focuses on their repeated attempts to get rich and become millionaires.

Only Fools and Horses gained consistently high viewing figures with one episode in the 1980s reaching an audience of 24.3 million viewers. The show was recently remembered in an Only Fools and Horses musical.

In episode three of the second season, Del Boy is suffering on a losing streak and is seeking to change his luck. In the local pub he invites his friends back to his flat for a game of poker in an attempt to change his fortunes.

After borrowing money from his granddad, his brother and his friend Trigger Del Boy looks set to lose it all in the final hand against Boycie. To match Boycie’s final bet of £1,000 Del wagers his friend’s car, his jewellery and all of his possessions only for Boycie to reveal he has a hand of 4 Kings.

Del Boy laments revealing that he only had a 2 pair and believed that Boycie was bluffing. Just as Boycie is about to leave with the cash Del shows his hand, a pair of Aces – winning the cash in dramatic fashion.

Del Boy perhaps might have had more luck as a professional gambler than as a wheeler dealer, given his lucky streak. People can earn a handsome living from playing casino games these days, and you can learn their tips and tricks in this guide about how to become a professional gambler.

The Wire

Marlo Stanfield gets schooled at poker

This American crime drama was predominantly written by former police reporter David Simon. Critical response to the show pits The Wire against The Sopranos as the greatest TV show ever made.

5 seasons of The Wire were produced and the show was praised for its realism in portraying the life of a homicide detective. Wendell Pierce, who plays the role of Detective Bunk Moreland, was the exceptional star of the show.

In episode four of season four we are treated to a gripping poker scene involving drug kingpin Marlo Stanfield. While clearly being a savvy businessman, Marlo doesn’t transfer that to the world of poker.

He is skilfully dragged into calling on a bad hand and loses big. Marlo’s reaction to his loss is petulant at best as he proceeds to leave the game and take out his anger on a security guard in a close by grocery store.

The Sopranos

Silvio reacts to losing at poker like we all would, except with a lot more swearing

The Sopranos was an American crime drama that ran from 1999 to 2007 and has been hailed as the best TV show ever made. The show follows the life of Italian-American mobster Tony Soprano and humanises the day-to-day life of a high-profile criminal.

The Sopranos plays up to a number of the stereotypes surrounding mobsters but it has also been praised for challenging gender and family stereotypes. The show remains as the crowning point in the careers of James Gandolfini, Lorraine Bracco and Edie Falco.

In episode six of season two we are treated to a high stakes poker game involving most of the main characters. Silvio Dante is the second in command to Tony Soprano in the show and he is the star of this scene.

Instead of steeping poker in glory this scene shows its relatable, sad side. Silvio Dante repeatedly loses ever increasing amounts of money and releases his rage with several foul mouthed rants. Rather than glamourizing gambling, this scene relates with the audience as we all know the frustration that losing at poker causes.

Cleaning Up

Sheridan Smith’s character Sam gives up one form of gambling for another, much more dangerous one

National treasure Sheridan Smith plays the role of Sam – a zero hours contract cleaner in Canary Wharf, London. Sam has recently split with her partner and is battling him for custody of their two children.

Her husband opposes to her having sole custody of the children due to her mounting debts which were caused by her online gambling addiction. Sam is regularly pursued by a loan shark to whom she owes £14,000 and we follow her as she tries to recoup that money in a less than legal way.

Just like The Sopranos, this show does not glamourize gambling in any way. In fact it does the complete opposite. Our main exposure to gambling in the show comes when Sam repeatedly squanders her wages playing online roulette.

Sam chooses to recoup her losses by getting involved in the stock market. Working as a cleaner in a financial institution she overhears several conversations around insider trading. The overriding motif is one of a lowly cleaner getting involved in the murky world of banking, but in reality it is just an extension of Sam’s gambling addiction.
Only this time she is not gambling with her livelihood, she’s gambling with her freedom and her children’s future.


The team pull off a great con to win on a rigged roulette wheel

Adrian Lester, Robert Glenister and Matt Di Angelo star in this British crime drama from the BBC. Eight seasons and 48 episodes of the show were aired between 2004 and 2012.

The show focused on a group of con artists who were interested in long cons rather than get rich quick schemes. Hustle received widespread acclamation because of its intelligent storytelling that often involved fantasy scenes, off-screen action and breaches of the fourth wall.

In episode three of season seven, an infamous casino owner by the name of Marcus Wendell visits from America. Wendell is in town to show off a family heirloom, the first ‘fair’ roulette wheel built by his ancestors.

As it transpires the roulette wheel was anything but fair, with an in-built mechanism that ensured the house would always win. The gang find this out before playing roulette on the table and manufacturing themselves a big win before outing Wendell’s family.

So there we have it – five unforgettable gambling scenes to ever grace our TV screens. Do you have a favourite, or know of one we haven’t yet covered? Let us know in the comments panel below.


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