Musicals and Theatre productions cover a huge range of niches, capturing an essence of real life. They explore human nature and often reflect the lives of real people.

There’s not many subjects avoided in the world of theatre. One topic that often pops up on stage, be it a main or recurring theme, is gambling. The world of theatre is always looking for new ways to innovate and entertain and incorporating plot lines of gambling have served them well.

The high stakes world of table games is frequently used to draw a sense of tension in plays or musicals and have been used for some of the most critically acclaimed stage shows in the world. 

There are even plenty of productions that feature themes of gambling and sports betting, often featuring plenty of drama. Here is a look at some examples of said themes in the world of entertainment.

Tales From The Blackjack

This one man show starring Alex Moran is an anthology style play following the lives of several characters all with the theme of gambling. It centres around a blackjack dealer, interacting with various customers, revealing dark secrets as each character’s personal life bleeds into their gambling life.

The play perfectly encapsulates all the drama of a high stakes blackjack table making for a palpable atmosphere throughout. It undoubtedly inspired the rise in the number of online blackjack games as theatre goers got a better understanding of the drama found around the table. 

House Of Games

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Originally written by David Hamet, ‘House Of Games’ was originally a movie, first screened in 1987. However, in 2010 it was transformed into a stage show by the Almeida Theatre starring Nancy Carroll as an unhappy psychoanalyst Margaret, and Michael Landes as con man Mike.

The tense heist story focuses on the two character’s relationship after they met in a backroom poker game, following Margaret’s invite from one of her patients. After meeting Mike, she is charmed and becomes fascinated with his life.

He begins to show her all the tricks of a con artist and Margaret eventually becomes a willing accomplice for a host of con artists. It is here when we start to witness both of the main characters learn that whilst we all love risk, you will not always reap the rewards.

The Odd Couple

This title did also feature on screens but unlike the previous entry, The Odd Couple actually started out as a stage show. Walter Matthau and Art Carney played the most famous stage iterations of Oscar Madison and Felix Ungar, two unlikely companions who are thrown together following the breakup of Felix’s marriage.

Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple takes a comedic look at gambling, with the comical poker scene which opens the roaring comedy, setting the tone for the rest of its run time. The poker game is played weekly, helping introduce the characters to each other and eventually start to bond. 

The audience learns more of the lives of each character as Oscar eventually asks Felix if he would like to move in with him. This comedy is fun from start to finish and is a great example of how gambling can be used as a positive plot point.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

This is a fascinating take on Hamlet. Tom Stoppard’s retelling of the Shakespearean classic revolves around two of the more minor characters from the play.

At the start of the play the two main characters, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, are seen betting on the outcome of a flipped coin. Rosencrantz has successfully bet on heads 77 times which invokes in him the thought that the world is ruled by chance, but also determinism.

These themes run throughout the entirety of the play where the leads run into countless unavoidable situations.

A Streetcar Named Desire

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Legendary playwright Tennessee Williams produced his masterpiece A Streetcar Named Desire in the 1940s. The play made its debut on Broadway in 1947 and has since gone through many adaptations, including a highly successful 1951 film.

Two of the key scenes in this stage show are the poker scenes which bookend the play and offer a powerful symbolism. 

The female characters, Stella and Blanche, go through plenty of adversity throughout the play. Stanley however, the male lead, remains unchanged and unaffected from the beginning to the end. 

We see him still enjoying the same game of poker he enjoyed at the start as the play comes to an end, signifying his inability and stubbornness to make a change.

The world of gambling, especially in casinos, is often alluring to many of us. The highs of a big win are like no other and the tension of a big table game is and the risk that comes with it is exciting.

For these reasons alone it is no surprise that gambling has so often taken centre stage, quite literally. It has been used as a way to bring people together, a way to show desperation and even as a comedic plot point in some huge stage shows. 

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