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Casino Cinema Spotlight: What Ocean’s Eleven tells us about casino security

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Playing casino games are great. But sometimes you just want to sit back and watch casino action unfold from your living room sofa. No, we’re not talking about putting your online slots game on AutoPlay (though that would work to). We’re talking about watching casino entertainment on the big screen.

There are lots of casino-themed movies, but arguably one of the most famous ones out there is Ocean’s Eleven, a 1960’s movie starring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr, that was remade in 2001 with George Clooney. Today, we’re reviewing the more recent one, though the plots are technically the same. But this is more than just a review of the movie. It’s a detailed look at whether a heist like this could actually happen. Spoiler Alert: Yes.

Ocean’s Eleven in a nutshell

After Danny Ocean is released from prison, the first thing he chooses to do is violate his parole by heading straight to California. There, he meets up with his buddy Rusty Ryan to propose what would ultimately become one of the greatest schemes in casino history. More on that in a second.

The pair head to Sin City where they meet up with a former casino property kingpin named Reuben Tishkoff, to whom they propose their master plan.

So what’s the plan? Conquer the Blackjack tables by counting cards? Nope. That one is reserved for the cast of the hit motion picture 21 (more on that when we’re done with Ocean’s Eleven). No, this master plan involves robbing three casinos at the same time, including the Bellagio, The Mirage, and MGM Grand.


It’s a bold plan, but one that could very well succeed. You see Reuben is familiar with casino security, so he’s an ideal candidate for the job. However, that familiarity with casino security also sets up red flags and makes him second guess his desire to be a part of the plan.

Ultimately, Reuben jumps on board. Not because he wanted the money. Not because it was something to do. No, this was all about revenge. It turns out that Bellagio, The Mirage, and MGM Grand are all owned by Terry Benedict (at least for the purposes of this movie). And Terry is an old rival of Reuben’s.

If you’re stopping to wonder how much cash a casino could possibly have on hand and whether there really is that much money under one roof, here’s the deal. Under Nevada law, a casino must have enough money on hand to cover all bets made. So a casino can’t just have a couple million in a vault and hope that people won’t actually win big. Nor can they write IOU’s and pay money the next day. While they can issue checks, casinos must have a ridiculous amount of cash on hand.

Danny Ocean decides that the best night to rob the casinos is the night of a major boxing match. On that night, it’s estimated that there will be more than $150 million in the Bellagio vault alone.

So why is it called Ocean’s Eleven? Well, Danny Ocean needs more than just Rusty and Reuben. He needs a team of expert criminals to tackle the job. After all, robbing one casino is one thing. Robbing three of them simultaneously is a whole other ball of wax. Danny gets to work on recruiting eight guys he’s worked with in the past, all of whom are perfect for the crime. These include: Linus Caldwell, a pickpocket; Frank Catton, a casino employee and conman; Virgil and Turk Malloy, two mechanics who really know what they’re doing; Livingston Dell; an electronics and surveillance maven; Basher Tarr; an expert on explosives; Saul Bloom; an old-school conman; and The Amazing Yen, an acrobat (we’re not kidding).


So what happens next? We’d love to tell you, but then we’d be spoiling the entire movie. It really is a solid film (the same can’t be said for some of the sequels), so it’s worth watching.

Could a heist like this really happen?

To say that the plot of Ocean’s Eleven could never happen would be foolish. Actually, let’s rephrase that. Assuming that Ocean’s Eleven is about to happen soon is foolish, but you’d also be naïve to think that casinos are immune to robbery and theft, regardless of the magnitude.

Without spoiling the movie, the whole idea of Ocean’s Eleven was that the plan unfolded underneath people’s noses, yet no one really noticed it happening. The whole notion of expecting the unexpected is a mantra that criminals live by.

And believe it or not, a crime similar to this one did occur at Bellagio. OK, it wasn’t of this magnitude and it didn’t involve 11 people. But back in December of 2010, a man rode up on a motorcycle to the front of the Bellagio doors, walked right in, headed to a Craps table, and pulled out a pistol, demanding chips. He then fled, wearing a full-face motorcycle helmet. The man was eventually caught trying to unload a bunch of $25k chips to an undercover police officer.

While the story is definitely an interesting one, perhaps even more interesting are some details that came out in court.

On Dec. 11, just a few days before the heist, the would-be criminal told a Bellagio poker dealer that he would love to pocket some cranberries, a nickname given to the $25,000 chips due to their color.


Man, how easy would it be to rob a casino?” Carleo said, according to court papers.

The dealer’s response?

Dude, you watch ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ too much. This is real life and that … doesn’t happen,”

Apparently, it does. And now Anthony Carleo is serving a 9-year sentence for his crime. Not quite the ending in Ocean’s Eleven, but we’ll leave it up to you to find out what happens.

Other casino heist movies you need to see

When you’re done watching Ocean’s Eleven, you’ll definitely crave even more Vegas action. If you’re in the mood, give the movie 21 a try. It follows a group of MIT students as they try and use their mathematics skills to count cards and win million in Vegas. Unlike Ocean’s Eleven, this one is based on a true story.

If you’re a poker fan, Rounders is one of your best bets. It tells a story of a gambler who returns to play poker in an effort to help his friend pay off a whole chunk of money owed to loan sharks. It’s arguably one of the best poker movies of all time, so go all in with Netflix when you have a chance.

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Antoine Foxx

33 year old male. Has visited Las Vegas several times as well as other great gambling places. Always having a good time. After having a little girl, he couldn’t travel as much so he started enjoying online gaming. Antoine is always looking for something different and interesting. Part time rock star but full time computer geek, he never seems to guarantee a balanced life. Enjoys Cajun food a lot!