Monday, 5 April 2010's about ignoring reality

In Croupier, Clive Owen plays Jack, a croupier/writer who is struggling to find an appropriate subject for a novel.

So far, so cliched.

While the film has a few good lines: "gambling is not about money, it's about ignoring reality", to tell the truth, the attempt at gritty reality is more likely an imaginative punter's wet dreams.

Of course films do not have to mirror life exactly, but one unexpected and unpleasant side-effect of becoming a dealer is being unable to watch any film featuring a casino without red-eyed, vein-popping frustration. The roulette scene in The Invention of Lying is appallingly inaccurate, 21 is riddled with errors and the lack of research is nothing but pure laziness. I'm well aware how geeky I sound, but why bother putting all that energy and time into making a film without getting a few facts together?

It's not little things, either. In the table test scene (the equivalent of an interview), Jack counts out £1700 when the casino owner asks for £1800, and then claims to be keeping the count in blackjack when very very few - if any - dealers would do this. Firstly, it's utterly pointless as you aren't playing, but then you have cards, bets, and table security to think about. There's no advantage to the casino in you having this ability so it certainly wouldn't expected or asked of you.

To dispel another myth: when Jack returns to the business he gets a manicure. Not only have I never heard of anyone in our place getting a manicure, most seem to actively keep their nails scruffy - me included - by biting them to the quick. Any length makes chip work tough and the table tops are so ingrained with dirt that after twenty minutes of dealing your nails are totally clogged with this black, greasy substance that I spend half my break times scrubbing off.

Anyway, enough of the glamour.

I do actually have a dirty little confession: casinos can be pretty soulless places when you work in them full time and being a dealer can be very hard, thankless work. When a brand new gambler comes to my table, full of Ocean's Eleven myths, it doesn't matter if you both know you're part of a game: it's one of the pleasures of dealing to be seen as just a little bit cool.

The Table Test From Croupier: