Movies – 21

Released by Columbia Pictures in 2008, ’21’ is a slick, stylish crime drama film loosely based on the book, ‘Bringing Down The House’, written by Ben Mezrich, which tells the story of the real-life Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Blackjack Team. Jim Sturgess stars as brilliant, but down-on-his-luck, mathematics prodigy Ben Campbell, whose admission to Harvard Medical School depends on his ability to raise $300,000 to pay tuition fees. Having impressed statistics professor Micky Rosa, played by Kevin Spacey, by unhestatingly solving the so-called ‘Monty Hall’ problem – a counter-intuitive probabililty puzzle – Campbell is deemed suitable to be trained in the ‘dark art’ of card counting.

Based on the principle that a deck rich in tens, court cards and aces is good for the blackjack player, keeping a tally of certain cards as they are played reveals when the odds shift in favour of the player and give a card counter a small advantage, typically between 0.5% and 1.5%, over the house. Although not technically illegal, card counting is heavily discouraged by casinos.

Having passed his initiation at an ‘underground’ casino in Chinatown, downton Boston, Campbell joins four fellow recruits on weekend trips to Las Vegas; using a well-rehearsed system of hand signals and code words they proceed to win hundreds of thousands of dollars playing blackjack. Predictably, despite his honourable intentions, Campbell is gradually corrupted by the high-rolling lifestyle and, ultimately, his arrogance and greed attracts unwanted attention. Events spiral out of control, leading to a final showdown, during which the avaricious Rosa finally gets his comeuppance at the hands of his long-time nemesis, veteran casino security consultant Cole Williams, played by Laurence Fishburne.

The movie was set to be one of the top gambling movies of all time (it did make the top 10 gambling movies in Italy ) but over time it has instead become regarded as one of many gambling flick of modern times..

Casino Games – Poker

In simple terms, is a card game played with a standard, 52-card deck of cards, in which players bet on the value of their hands. The value of a hand is inversely correlated to the likelihood of that combination of cards occurring, such that three of a kind ranks higher than a pair, and so on. Numerous variants of poker exist, but in all cases players have the option of calling, or matching, a bet, raising, or increasing, a bet, or folding, which means that they take no further part in the hand being played.

Since the early Seventies, when it became the featured game in the World Series of Poker, Texas Hold’em has risen to become the dominant variant of poker worldwide. In casino poker, where a non-playing dealer does the actual dealing, a round disk, known as the ‘dealer button’, indicates which player has the dealer position. The two players to the left of the dealer button post ‘forced’ bets, known respectively as the ‘small blind’ and ‘big blind’, to ‘seed’ the pot and each player is dealt two cards, known as ‘hole cards’, face down.

The first round of betting follows, after which three shared or ‘community’ cards, collectively known as the ‘flop’, are dealt, face up, in the middle of the table. A second round of betting follows, after which two further community cards, known respectively as the ‘turn’ and ‘river’ cards, are dealt one at a time and followed by further rounds of betting. The winner is the remaining player who can form the highest-ranking five-card hand using a combination of hole and/or community cards.

Omar Siddiqui

Ausaf Umar ‘Omar’ Siddiqui, also known to casino staff as ‘Mr. S.’, is a former vice president of merchandising and operations at Fry’s Electronics Inc. who, in 2008, was indicted, tried and convicted of one count of wire and one count of money laundering. Siddiqui signed a plea deal, admitting guilt to the two felonies, and defrauding his former employer of $65.6 million, provided the federal government dropped seven other felony charges; he was subsequently sentenced to six years’ imprisonment.

Siddiqui reportedly earned $225,000 a year, but devised a highly profitable ‘kickback’ scheme, wherby he would buy increased quantities of goods, at inflated prices, from some of Fry’s suppliers in return for a percentage of the total sales price. Indeed, he set up an entirely fraudulent company, called ‘PC International’, solely for the purpose of receiving millions of dollars in illicit payments.

Siddiqui used much of his ill-gotten gains to pay off enormous gambling debts in Las Vegas and continue his façade as a high-roller, or ‘whale’. Indeed, in his heyday, he was well-known on the Las Vegas Strip, where casinos vied with each other for his attention. They flew him to Las Vegas from his home in Palo Alto, in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, ‘comped’ him lavish accommodation, including the 7,000-square-foot Chairman Suite at the Venetian, for example, and extended him millions of dollars in credit.

In the space of a decade, Siddiqui gambled away as much as $167 million at the MGM Grand Casino, Las Vegas Sands Casino, Palms Casino Resort and elsewhere but, in 2005, his scheme started to unravel when a Fry’s employee caught sight of confidential documents, including abnormally high commission amounts on his desk. In 2011, Siddiqui filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, listing liabilities of over $136 million, mostly in gambling debts, against assets of less than $7 million, of which just $80 remained in his checking account.

Casino Questions

Entire volumes have been written about casinos. From stories of the establishments themselves, the history of Vegas, playing strategies and big wins. There’s no shortage of approaches to take with casino Q&As. In this edition though we’ll be centering in on the money (both virtual and real) and the collectibles side of casinos.

What is the highest chip value in use in a Vegas?

This may well be one of those questions without a confirmed known answer, are there are close to 200 separate casinos in Las Vegas, Nevada – 30 of them forming part of the Las Vegas strip. Most casinos offer $1000 chips for those wishing to put their peddle to the mental, gambling-wise. If you sit at a roulette table for any amount of time, no matter the denominations people are betting, you get to see an awful lot of money exchanging hands pretty quickly. For some though, they think beyond the low thousands. Consider the Floyd Mayweather types, making tens of millions of dollars and then not thinking twice about unwinding at a Vegas casino.

After searching high and low for an answer, we’ve settled on the Paris, Las Vegas, which offers a casino chip to the dizzying value of $100,000. It’s not often you’d ever actually see this chip as it’s held back for those with multi million dollar credit lines (arguably more money than sense!). Interestingly, the $100,000 chip which of course sports a RFID security tag, is usually reserved for baccarat. The game is known to attract big money players;  Planet Hollywood’s baccarat tables allow a maximum bet of a hefty $200,000!

Can you turn cash to chips and vice versa in Grand Theft Auto’s Diamond Casino?

Lover of the Grand Theft Auto franchise were elated when in July 2019 a fully kitted out casino (Blackjack, Poker, Roulette and more) popped up in the GTA 5 world. The casino, set in the fictional setting of Los Santos, even lets you exchange real money for casino chips, so is as real as can be. Chips can be purchased in-game at the ratio of $1 to 1 chip. Any winnings can then be spent in the GTA world such as on cars or weapons. However, you cannot turn your chips back into real world cash. Whether this will change in future is anyone’s guess. Some though would say that’s it’s not healthy to blur the lines between gaming and gambling. In fact a number of countries have blocked gambling based mini games in the likes of GTA 5 and Red Dead Redemption.

How are casino chips made?

Much in the same way that people are often fascinated by ‘where their money comes from’, many have wondered how casino chips are made. As you might well imagine there is more to them than meets the eye. It’s important for starters that chips are aesthetically pleasing. They are central to casino play and so significant thought goes into the design process, colour scheme and even weight of the chips. The manufacturing is as granular as giving consideration to the sound casino chips make when they are clatter together. They also need to be durable and so size and thickness is a consideration. Worldwide, there are only a handful of trusted companies with the experience to make professional casino chips (Abbiati, Matsui, and Gaming Partners International); rather than the cheap plastic ones you get in home roulette and poker sets.

Chips need to be casino specific and distinctive, so they have all manner of customisation options such as the design, rim, inner/outer section of the chip, and a choice of up to 50 colours. All previous designs are stored in a database to ensure that there are no matches. Underneath the bonnet there’s plenty going on too. Chips routinely sport both UV and RFID tag elements to ensure their authenticity and security.View it as being similar to a watermark on a bank note. So in summing up, a simple casino chip is a lot more complex and planned out than it may look at first glance.