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Best of Gary Trask

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Top-10 most memorable gambling-movie characters

10 August 2009

It's only been in theaters for about two months, but something tells me that "The Hangover" is going to live in the memories of Las Vegas fans for years to come. "The Hangover" – a story about a bachelor party gone bad in Sin City – enjoyed the third-best opening for an R-rated comedy back in June and if you've seen it you know exactly why it is such a big hit.

When and if we update our list of the Top-10 Gambling Movies of All-Time there's probably a pretty good chance that "The Hangover" will slip in. One of the main reasons the movie was so compelling was the characters. There aren't any A-List stars in "The Hangover," but the four main characters -- as well as the many people who had bit parts – are what made this movie an instant classic.

The performances by these relatively unknown actors got us thinking about some of the most memorable characters in gambling-related movies and we decided that one of the main men from "The Hangover" would make our Top-10 list. Here's the complete list, and as always, if you think we missed someone, let us know by e-mailing gary@casinocity.com.

10. Alan Garner from "The Hangover"
In our minds, Alan – played by Zack Galifianakis – absolutely stole the show in this new hit movie. Something tells me that when we update our Top-10 Quotes from Gambling Movies Alan will have plenty of lines for us to choose from, including this one:

9. Jay Trotter in "Let it Ride"
If you've ever been to the race track (or the sportsbook) and heard someone saying repeatedly "I'm having a very good day!" chances are they are quoting Richard Dreyfuss' character from this longtime gambling classic. In the movie, Trotter has the kind of day that every gambler dreams about, but, of course, ends up blowing it all away.

8. Dan Mahowny from "Owning Mahowny"
Owning Mahowny is one of the most underrated gambling movies of all-time and fittingly the main character is played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, who is never mentioned as one of the great actors of this generation, but certainly should be mentioned in the argument.

7. Bernie "The Born Loser" Lootz from "The Cooler"
William H. Macy nails his role in this 2003 film when he portrays a guy down on his luck and living in Las Vegas. Next time you watch this movie pay extra attention to Bernie's attire as his shirt and tie get more colorful as his luck changes.

6. Eddie Felson from "The Hustler"
A little known fact is that Paul Newman originally turned down the chance to star in this 1961 film because he had already committed to a movie starring Elizabeth Taylor. But when Taylor dropped out of that movie, Newman was asked about "The Hustler" once again and this time he accepted the role after reading just half the script. The No. 2 choice for the Felson character was going to be Bobby Darin and something tells us that if Darin was "The Hustler," Eddie would not have made this list.

5. Danny Ocean from "Ocean's 11"
The only thing you need to know about Danny Ocean is that he was portrayed by two of the coolest actors of all-time – Frank Sinatra and George Clooney. Enough said.

4. Axel Freed from "The Gambler"
This is another gambling movie that has stood the test of time and the main reason is the performance of James Caan. I've found myself standing in line at a sportsbook muttering Freed's classic line -- "It's only insane if I lose and I'm not going to lose" -- more than a few times.

3. Raymond Babbit from "Rain Man"
Dustin Hoffman's legendary career has seen him play more than his share of memorable characters, but the man at the top of this list has to be Raymond Babbit. Hoffman delivers classic line after classic line in this movie and some of the best material comes from the casino scenes. During the shooting of those scenes, Hoffman used to regularly wonder off and play the games for real. Eventually someone was assigned to keep an eye on him and drag him back to the set when he was needed.

2. Nicky Santoro from "Casino"
If reputed mobster Anthony Spilotro – the real life Nicky Santoro – was half as scary and volatile as Joe Pesci made him in this film, I'm glad our paths never crossed.

1. Teddy KGB in "Rounders"
"Rounders" is to poker what "Caddyshack" is to golf. In golf it's nearly impossible to play a round with a group of guys without someone quoting "Caddyshack" at least once and the same goes for a night of poker and the movie "Rounders." And the guy most poker players remember from "Rounders" (with apologies to Worm) is Teddy KGB, who was played masterfully by John Malkovich.

Recent Articles
Best of Gary Trask
Gary Trask

Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT
Gary Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT