CATEGORIES Features
Steve Buscemi in Saint John of Las VegasIn the new absurdist comedy 'Saint John of Las Vegas' -- loosely based on Dante's 'Inferno'-- Steve Buscemi plays a recently promoted insurance investigator sent to Sin City to look into a possible fraud case. A reformed gambling addict, he fights temptation along the way, before facing his demons head-on, which enables him to move on with his life.

There have been a myriad movies about gambling, gamblers and the fool's paradise that is Vegas. In many cases, the protagonist comes away with a valuable life lesson, generally along the lines of "stop while you're ahead" or "you can get away with murder in this godless place."

But there are other, equally valuable lessons to be learned, and we have culled some from our favorite movies set in or around the world of gambling. (Interesting note: several of these movies involve charismatic college professors). Steve Buscemi in Saint John of Las VegasIn the new absurdist comedy 'Saint John of Las Vegas' -- loosely based on Dante's 'Inferno'-- Steve Buscemi plays a recently promoted insurance investigator sent to Sin City to look into a possible fraud case. A reformed gambling addict, he fights temptation along the way, before facing his demons head-on, which enables him to move on with his life.

There have been a myriad movies about gambling, gamblers and the fool's paradise that is Vegas. In many cases, the protagonist comes away with a valuable life lesson, generally along the lines of "stop while you're ahead" or "you can get away with murder in this godless place."

But there are other, equally valuable lessons to be learned, and we have culled some from our favorite movies set in or around the world of gambling. (Interesting note: several of these movies involve charismatic college professors).

'Casino'
In this great, atmospheric Scorsese movie, Robert De Niro plays a mob-connected casino operator in Vegas who attempts to play by the "rules" while staying in business. Complications ensue when he falls in love with an unstable gold-digger (Sharon Stone).

Lesson: If you're a Vegas boss who doesn't like trouble, don't keep in touch with your crazy childhood friend, especially if he's played by Joe Pesci. Also, don't marry an ex-hooker.

'Casino' clip (WARNING: R-rated language!)



'Rounders'
A brilliant poker player/law student (Matt Damon) loses his life savings to a sleazy club owner (John Malkovich, with a bad Russian accent) in a high-stakes game; he gives up the cards only to be sucked in again by an ex-con friend (Edward Norton) with a big gambling debt.

Lesson: If you've sworn off gambling and are trying to keep on the straight and narrow, don't reconnect with an old pal who's just sprung from prison, especially if his name is Worm. Unless you're Matt Damon, in which case it'll probably work out OK.

'Rounders' clip (R-rated language)



'Croupier'
A young, blond Clive Owen (in his breakout performance) plays a writer who makes a living as a croupier in a seedy London casino. His detached attitude enables him to become involved in a dangerous plot to defraud the casino.

Lesson: If you believe you're a character in your own novel -- and are very good-looking -- you can get away with all kinds of illegal, immoral acts.

'Croupier' clip



'21'
Based on the true story of six MIT students who use their math skills to shake down Vegas, '21' stars Jim Sturgess as an ambitious but tuition-strapped student recruited into an odds-beating posse of blackjack whizzes by an unscrupulous professor.

Lesson: If you really want to get into Harvard Medical School, be prepared to cheat. Big-time. And don't trust slick, seductive professors, especially if they're played by Kevin Spacey.

'21' clip



'The Gambler'
In this taut, no-frills character study, a charismatic college professor (James Caan) cannot stop betting on stuff, even after hitting up his mother, grandfather and girlfriend for cash, and getting menaced by nefarious collectors.

Lesson: Don't gamble. But if you must and it's 1974, sport a stylish 'fro while doing it.

'The Gambler' clip



'The Cooler'
In this romantic drama, William H. Macy plays a guy who's so unlucky that he's hired by a casino to jinx other gamblers. Then he falls in love with a cocktail waitress (Maria Bello) and his luck begins to change, to the chagrin of the casino manager.

Lesson: Even the biggest losers can become winners. But if Alec Baldwin is your boss, your life will be hell (see also '30 Rock').

'The Cooler' clip



'Hard Eight'
In P.T. Anderson's low-key thriller, John C. Reilly plays a dim loser who's taken under the wing of a veteran gambler (Philip Baker Hall), then hooks up with an equally dim cocktail waitress (Gwyneth Paltrow) and befriends an ominous character (Samuel L. Jackson). Not good choices.

Lesson: If a complete stranger wants to teach you the fine points of gambling, there's probably a good reason. Also, don't date a hooker.

'Hard Eight' clip (featuring a crazed, mullet-wearing Philip Seymour Hoffman; R-rated language)



'Lucky You'
Curtis Hanson's drama stars Eric Bana as a troubled but gifted poker player with father issues who meets an aspiring Vegas singer (Drew Barrymore) with the patience of a saint. Can he face down his legendary poker-champ/ex-professor dad (Robert Duvall) in the World Series of Poker and maintain a romantic relationship?

Lesson: Sometimes you have to lose to win. And leads with zero chemistry shouldn't star in a romantic drama.

'Lucky You' clip



'What Happens in Vegas'
Two strangers (Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz) find themselves married after a wild night in Vegas. They agree to divorce, but then he wins $3 million at a slot machine. All sorts of dopey shenanigans, including love, ensue.

Lesson: In a world where Cameron Diaz is a high-powered Wall Street trader, anything is possible.

'What Happens in Vegas' clip