Gambling is an entertainment form as old as the human race. Throughout history, men and women have been playing dice, cards, and various other games, all the while staking their income, or various other goods on the outcome. Gambling has had its ebbs and flows, but no event was more important for the practice than the building of the first casino. In the 1600s, the Casino de Venezia opened its doors, and its success roused other establishments to appear all across Europe. Today, gambling is done at various private or public establishments, or even online.
The hobby has attained such level of popularity, that all throughout history, writers, artists, and story tellers have told tales of famous gamblers. Whether it be the famous folk tale of a gambler cheating Death at cards, or the infamous song in which Johnny gambles his soul on a fiddle-playing contest against the Devil. In this article, we would like to take a look at a few of the most popular and beloved gamblers that have graced our fiction in the modern era.
Raymond Babbitt (Rain Man)
In 1998, Barry Levinson’s Rain Man hit the theaters, and instantly won the hearts and minds of the movie-going public. Starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman, the film follows an adventure that two estranged brothers take on in Las Vegas. The titular “Rain Man”, portrayed by Dustin Hoffman, suffers from FG Syndrome, which while causing him some developmental problems, also makes him a mathematics savant. Seeing this, his brother exploits Raymond’s talents to win a hefty amount of cash in Sin City’s plentiful casinos.
While counting in blackjack is not necessarily against the law, it is looked down on. Luckily, in 2023, such cheap tricks can be avoided, if gamblers simply moved to online casinos, where counting cards is impossible. If you are at all interested in gambling, check out Casinoencyclopedia.com, for a comprehensive list of some of the best real money online casinos that the internet has to offer.
Gambit (Marvel Comics/X-Men Franchise)
In 1990, comic book legends Chris Claremont and Jim Lee unveiled their latest mutant in The Uncanny X-Men Annual #14. Remy Etienne LeBeau, codename Gambit, was a fast-talking, gambling, flirtatious Creole, whose mutant ability allows him to charge inanimate objects with kinetic energy, creating miniature bombs. So, of course, Gambit uses his powers mainly to charge a deck of playing cards and fling them as shuriken at his enemies.
The character very quickly became a fan favorite, starring in quite a few comic books of his own, joining multiple X-Men associated teams, and even stepping into a romantic relationship with fan favorite, Rogue. Most recently, Gambit and Rogue were married, and starred in their own comic book line, aptly titled Mr. and Mrs. X, which garnered major popularity and received a warm reception.
The Gambit has also appeared in quite a few films and video games, most notably the 2009, live-action film X-Men Origins: Wolverine, where he was portrayed by Taylor Kitsch. While the movie received a negative reception, Kitsch was praised for his portrayal of the Ragin’ Cajun.
James Bond (Film/Novel series)
No list of notable gamblers is complete without mentioning the greatest spy character of all time. James Bond has appeared in a total of 25 films, 63 books, and a couple of video games. And while not all of them revolve around gambling, most of them do feature at least one scene where Agent 007 plays a game of Baccarat.
What many don’t know is that the world was introduced to James Bond as not only a secret agent, but also a proficient gambler. In 1953, Ian Fleming published his first James Bond novel. Casino Royale may not have been the first novel to receive an adaptation, but it was the first in the series. The story sees James Bond gambling in France, his goal to bankrupt a foreign spy. The novel received an incredibly positive critical reception, and was favorably compared to works by Raymond Chandler.
Though most modern fans will likely be a lot more familiar with Casino Royale’s film adaptation, released in 2006, starring Daniel Craig in the role of Bond. The film plot is somewhat different than the novel’s, though it still follows the same basic premise of James Bond playing cards against a foreign threat (in the film portrayed by Mads Mikkelsen). The film was a huge success, and has spawned quite a few sequels, all starring Daniel Craig.
Apart from the three gambling savants mentioned in our list, fans of anime might be familiar with Kaiji and Yumeko Jabami, from Kaiji: Gambling Apocalypse and Kakegurui – Compulsive Gambler. Both anime series tell a completely different story with different themes. However, the main characters in both are expert gamblers who achieve great success in the criminal underground thanks to their skills.
Impact of Fictional Gamblers on Popular Culture
Throughout the history of literature, film, television, and video games, fictional gamblers have played a major role in popular culture. From literature’s Count Hornsby to film’s Reverend Raphael Rothstein and James Bond, these characters have helped shape the public perception of gambling.
The influence of fictional gamblers has extended beyond their entertainment value to include the promotion of responsible gambling behaviors. Characters like Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein from Martin Scorses’ Casino are portrayed in a way that demonstrates they use proper bankroll management and practice safe gaming habits. Others such as Texan oil tycoon J.R Ewing are routinely used by anti-gambling organizations to demonstrate how corruption can occur when one engages in illicit forms of speculation.
Fictional gamblers have also held a profound impact on video games as well – from poker superstars like Duke Nukem who uses his wits at Texas Hold’em table online to wealthy hosts such as Tony Montana who spends his time playing high-stakes Blackjack with international criminals in Miami gaming parlors. These characteristics help demonstrate success can be achieved through risk-taking but only if done responsibly with an eye on management processes and knowing your limits.
Through these characters, we can learn that gambling can be both thrilling and rewarding, but it should always be done responsibly with self-control and common sense since careless actions may bring far greater risks than rewards!