You probably don’t have to think for very long before being able to name a movie or several that have casino scenes in them. Casino scenes seem an everyday staple for many movie and TV franchises, especially when discussing the action or comedy genre. 

Whether it is James Bond being stone-cold and calm while dealing with a master criminal at the Poker table or Zach Galifinakis being big-brained while ripping off a casino in the Hangover, these scenes tend to go down well with audiences for various reasons.

But what are these reasons, and what role do casinos play in modern cinematography? Let’s discuss that further. 

Great for building suspense

Casinos are, by nature, places of great suspense. Money is won and lost all the time, and you’re just waiting for that one card to be the right one to walk out of there with a small fortune. 

By having a scene set at a casino, this vibe automatically transfers over to the viewer without much extra effort. This is amplified by, for example, making a round of a game seem infinitely long. The roulette doesn’t just spin once and give you the result – It keeps going. The poker players don’t just show their hands, we need a The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly staredown before we see who has won. 

This is only amplified by the fact that the actors seem to be using real Poker strategies to give legitimacy to the scenes. has, for example, in their guide to Poker, described the importance of knowing the value of your hand before you do anything. Whenever we see a person in a casino scene pick up their fresh hand of cards, they always speculate which other combinations they can beat comfortably and what their overall chances of winning are.

An identifiable setting

There’s just something about casinos as a setting that seems immediately identifiable to us. It is what could be termed a “culturally relevant location.” This essentially means that, as a location, casinos hold a strong place in our cultural subconsciousness.  

It’s a place of pomp, splendor, hope, and excitement. You always kind of have an idea of what is about to happen when a scene is shot at a casino. This strong identifying factor makes a casino a fantastic place to shoot a scene. As a cinematography technique, this is wise to use.

Room for colorful characters

Lastly, we will discuss the selection of characters a casino allows to fit in naturally, and this is where one of the most genius things about casino scenes shines through. You can create the oddest character imaginable, and they will not feel out of place in a casino setting.

Flamboyant, eccentric, stark raving mad, or cool and collected – There’s room for all of these colorful characters at the same time. This variety makes it quite easy for a writer to find a place where their odd characters can shine. 

Summing up

Casinos make for great scenes in modern cinematography due to them being places that naturally build suspense, because they have a spot in our cultural consciousness, and because they allow for odd characters to really shine.

For these reasons, it is not so strange that we see casino scenes in many movies and television shows. They work exactly as intended every time.