In a nutshell, gambling can be very mesmerizing to watch. Not only is there the thrill of the moment; the roll of a dice, the spin of a roulette wheel, but there’s also the pageantry of lights and sounds. Put it all together and you get an experience that is a huge joy to watch.
Of course, the truth is that there aren’t that pieces of gambling entertainment out there. In fact, most gambling takes place in films, including some famous ones like the Ocean’s franchise which is a part-gambling, part-robbery flick.
Fortunately, though, there are some great TV shows in the genre. Since the world has largely moved from physical casinos to online casinos due to the pandemic, that means we’ll have to get our fill of old-school gambling through our screen.
Poker After Dark
If you’re a big fan of Poker, then Poker After Dark is definitely your show, especially if you like No-Limit Texas Hold ‘em. Hour-long episodes show the progress of a specific table over the course of a week, with blinds starting at $100/$200. The top prize was $120k, with a $20k buy-in, so the stakes are pretty high, and it can certainly get pretty dicey (pun intended).
In between each round, there’d be commentary from the hosts, as well as the players themselves. The show also started trying to introduce some new elements in the fourth season in the form of different types of games.
Interestingly enough, the show had a bit of a sordid history: it was canceled in its 7th season due to a criminal case, colloquially called the Black Friday Case, which involved one of the show’s sponsors. Thankfully, after a 6-year hiatus, the show was rebooted and is now streamed on PokerGo.
Just keep in mind that this isn’t a fictionalized gambling show like some of the others on the list (or a gambling movie like 21). Even so, it’s great fun if you want to see how real-world poker works.
If you’re looking for something a bit more fictionalized and a little bit wider, then Las Vegas will do it for you. It’s a comedy-drama covering a group of employees working in a fictionalized casino and hotel. As you can imagine, it covers everything from security to sleazy hotel guests, and things of that nature.
The show also has a pretty big star lineup, with celebrities like Tom Selleck and James Caan, and focuses on the character played by the latter: An ex-CIA officer who is president of operations at the fictional casino, before being replaced by another character played by Josh Duhamel.
Unfortunately, while the first two seasons did pretty well, the show started seeing lower and lower ratings starting from the third season, finally being canceled after the fifth. Even so, the show was received pretty well and it’s a great gambling-related TV show.
Looking at the slightly seedier side of gambling, Breaking Vegas focuses on some of the well-known illegal acts that have happened in vegas. In the same vein as some of the best movie heists, this show covers the cheaters, the liars, and the tricksters who tried to get one over on casinos.
The 14 episodes mostly cover things like the story of Ken Uston, who was one of the first people to perfect blackjack card-counting techniques and even sued several casinos over being blacklisted and won. There are also a few episodes that cover legal gambling strategies, such as throwing dice at a certain angle or with certain numbers on top.
Overall, it’s an interesting TV docu-series to check out if you’ve ever wondered how some of the most notorious cheating at gambling was done.
Centered around the world of race-track gambling, and horse racing in general, Luck tells the story of a man driven to gain revenge on those who wronged them. It very much lives up to the reputation HBO has for telling dark and gritty stories such as Game of Thrones and is captivating in its methodical purpose.
Interestingly enough, the main character is played by Dusting Hoffman, who if you’ll remember played Raymond Babbit in Rainman, one of the best film gamblers of all time.
Unfortunately, though, the show was canceled in its second season. It wasn’t due to reception either (which was really good), but instead because there were a couple of horse deaths during the production. Since the show primarily revolves around that, and there was already bad press around their deaths (even though an investigation cleared HBO), they ultimately decided to cancel it.
King of Vegas
Another show that revolves around real-life gambling, King of Vegas is a bit different in that it doesn’t only focus on one game, such as blackjack or poker, but instead has a variety of them in each episode. The games played, along with the ones mentioned above, including Red Dog, Craps, Mini-Baccarat, and Horse Racing, to name a few.
Something else that makes King of Vegas stand out is that it has a mix of sex professional gamblers, and six amateur gamblers, all vying for the ultimate title of King of Vegas, and a $1mill prize. Each week there would be a set of four new games and one person would be kicked out.
If you’ve done the math so far, that means there are 12 players in total and 12 episodes to go on, with the final episode crowning the “King of Vegas”.
It’s a shame the show only had one season since it has an interesting premise and a ton of potential.