Gambling is a pastime favored by many. That is so because it can elicit a wide range of emotions that few activities can produce single-handedly. There is the exhilaration and adrenaline boost that comes with winning big and the soul-crushing weight of defeat. In essence, each gambling session is an emotional roller-coaster that has multiple peaks and valleys. Its highs make you feel like you are on top of the world, and its lows suck all the energy out of your body, leaving you lifeless. It is these elements that make this activity an ideal plot device for drama. Everyone knows of movies that feature it, but few are aware of quality TV shows that implement gambling as a backdrop against which multi-layered characters get imposed on, facing the many challenges life provides.
Locating a captivating series that focuses on games of chance, cards, or sports betting is as hard as finding bonus codes, casino gambling ciphers for lucrative online fun. Thankfully, a few such shows exist, and we rattle them off in this article for betting enthusiasts to enjoy.
Men of a Certain Age
Ray Romano is mainly known as the loveable star of the hit sitcom – Everybody Loves Raymond. However, what few TV viewers are aware regarding this charming New York City comic, is that he used to be a gambling addict. According to Romano, at one point, his compulsion grew to a point where he had to seek professional help. Recently, he has participated in WSOP events, being highly competitive when facing poker pros.
This in-depth knowledge of betting action led Romano to co-create the drama TV series Men of a Certain Age. The show aired for two seasons on TNT, spanning twenty-two episodes. In it, Romano plays Joe, a divorced father of two who dreams of becoming a golfer. Joe also struggles with a gambling problem. TNT canceled the show in 2011, which also starred Scott Bakula and Andre Braugher.
There is no doubt in anyone’s mind the 1998 John Dahl directed movie Rounders, starring Matt Damon and Edward Norton help kick off the poker boom of the early-2000s. From 2003 to 2006, poker ruled the globe as the predominant card option around. David Levien and Brian Koppelman were the writing duo behind this Miramax drama, which did not set movie theaters on fire but became a cult classic through repeated TV showings. Due to the popularity of Rounders growing and WSOP events becoming a TV mainstay during the mid-2000s, the tandem of Levien and Koppelman got a chance to replicate the magic of Rounders on the small screen via Tilt.
Tilt was only the second original drama that ESPN aired. Its title refers to a poker slang term regarding frustration interfering with a player’s ability to make sound decisions. Tilt starred Chris Bauer, Eddie Cibrian, and Michael Madsen. It featured cameos from multiple active poker champions like Daniel Negreanu and ErikSeidel. It ran for only one season and got released on DVD in June 2005, three months following its finale.
The pilot for Las Vegas, filmed in March 2003, was the most expensively produced TV episode in NBC history. The national TV station had super high hopes for this show, which starred Josh Duhamel, Nikki Cox, Molly Sims, and James Caan. Eventually, Tom Selleck joined the cast. Much of the hopes laid on Las Vegas panned out, as the series that utilized the fitting Elvis Presley song – A Little Less Conversation rand for five seasons, producing one hundred and six episodes.
Las Vegas managed to generate decent ratings for its first four seasons, airing on Monday nights. Following a switch to Fridays, viewership declined, a trend that the show could not rebound from, retaining lost eyeballs. It does an excellent job of showing the inner workings of a high-end Sin City gambling establishment. Although, admittedly, it goes a bit over the top at times.
Okay, so here is a throwback, an adventure series that CBS showed from 1959 to 1960. Mr. Lucky starred John Vivyan, a little-known TV actor, who got to shine in this string of tales revolving around an honest gambler called Mr. Lucky. The real name of the titular character never gets mentioned throughout any of the series thirty-four episodes. Blake Edwards, the mastermind behind Breakfast at Tiffany’s and the Pink Panther movie franchise, created this show based on stories by Milton Holmes.
Mr. Lucky is a relic of its day. Its main character runs a small casino onboard a luxury yacht with his friend Andamo. Their business causes them to get into different altercations with colorful characters, some of which have criminal pasts or are on the lamb. What is interesting about this show is that it dramatically changed its theme following a few episodes. It ditched the gambling-oriented motif at the request of its main sponsor, the Level Brothers, which stemmed from the 1950s quiz show scandals. Thus, Mr. Lucky switched his floating gaming establishment for a floating restaurant.
Here is another TV show set in the world’s former gambling capital, Las Vegas. However, unlike the previous entry on our list, the events depicted in this one happen in the 1960s version of Nevada’s most populous metropolitan area. It features Michael Chiklis of the Shield-fame and Dennis Quaid in the title roles. The first plays a Chicago mobster, and the latter is a sheriff.
Nicholas Pileggi, who co-wrote the screenplay for Goodfellas, and the one for Casino, is the person that helmed this project, collaborating on it with established TV writer Greg Walker. Vegas got canceled after only one season by CBS, which allowed all of its twenty-one episodes to air. It opened strong with an audience of almost 15 million people, but this number got reduced to half when the show’s finale came about. There is loads of casino gambling in Vegas, which also concentrates on the shady behind-the-scenes happenings in the gaming industry.