Casinos have a way of invoking our inner spirits through the intense thrill associated with their games; the turning of Texas Holdem Cards, the continuous peeping of slot machines, and the constant turning of Roulette wheels.
It is no wonder that games such as poker have found their way into the spectator sports industry, with millions of people following key poker events worldwide.
Movies and TV shows play a crucial role in introducing these games to their fans globally. For instance, the Casino Royale, starring James Bond, was such a blockbuster that conveyed a clear depiction of a real-life casino experience, of course with a James Bond taste for crime in it.
Another such film is the 2013’s thriller, Runner Runner, directed by Brad Furman. Unlike James Bond’s Casino Royale, which is based on real-life actions inside a casino, Brad’s Runner Runner takes us through the intricate new online gambling world.
The film features Justine Timberlake as Richie and the lead actor. Ben Affleck stars as Ivan, Gemma Arterton as Rebeccas, and Anthony Mackie as Agent Shaver. The film generated over $62 million, which did not meet Brad’s expectations considering the talented crew he hired. Online gambling was beginning to take shape when the movie was released, and many fans did not resonate with its theme. It was ahead of time.
Timberlake, who plays Richie Furst, is a grad student at Princeton University and an ex-Wall Street employee who lost his job during the 2008 economic depression. As he struggles through the world of job-seeking coupled with the burden of schooling, he encounters a dilemma where he is forced to gamble his tuition fees on his outstanding poker skills. He loses all of it.
Beaten and discouraged, Richie discovers that the online poker site he lost his money on manipulated the game to favor his opponent. He then sets out to Costa Rica, where the online betting firm is based, and launches a search for his cheaters.
Ivan Block (Ben Affleck) happens to be the owner of the online gambling site. The Batman actor is confronted by furious Richie, who puts his case forward, forcing Ivan, who is ignorant on the whole issue, to fire his top employees who facilitated the cheating.
Tables turn for Richie when Ivan offers him a partnership contract. The film then takes a series of plot twists that introduce Rebecca and FBI Agent Shaper, who later exposes fraudulent activities associated with online gambling.
Does the Runner Runner portray a real online casino?
The online gambling sector has improved over the years, and most movie scenes might appear obsolete from a contemporary perspective. The movie portrays what most online gaming companies were like in the early 2000s, especially in countries with limited regulations.
As Casino Gurus explains, today’s online casinos are safe and secure. You can spend $10, $100 or $10,000. And they let you play hundreds of slots and card games that give you a fair chance of winning.
Today’s online poker
You can participate in online casino games in the US and make a living out of it if you are good enough. This doesn’t mean that you may not lose your money if you make the wrong decisions during the game. Furthermore, losing doesn’t necessarily translate into an underground crime online casino world. It may be terrible luck on your side.
Online poker or physical casino poker
Well, online poker and casino poker offer different user experiences. As much as online poker provides convenience as one can play from any corner of the world, it loses many aspects of a poker game. Even with modern technologies such as virtual reality introducing interactive features, online casinos still lack the thrill of sitting on that table battling your opponents.
Perhaps Runner Runner gives us a clear idea of the main challenge associated with online poker and other online gambling games; cheating. These games rely on computer software that can be easily manipulated or hacked to favor a specific outcome.
Many states and countries limit commercial poker games to licensed casinos only. For this reason, credit card merchants are warned against facilitating payments to online gaming sites. If payment is possible, it is usually slow, marred with delays and deposit or withdrawal limits.
One of the worst challenges currently facing the industry is the rise in underage gambling. More than one million children are exposed to online poker and other betting games in the UK alone. This was unheard of in the era of physical casinos.
Runner Runner’s shortcomings
Many reviewers have criticized the film as too formulaic with too much on plot twists and motivations on the storyline. Additionally, many online poker fans could not relate to the movie’s plot because not many online gaming sites are run by mobsters.
Despite having a talented cast in Timberlake, and an Emmy Award nominee director Fleck, the film failed to impress the fan base. No wonder its revenue was way below the bar.
That said, there is still a clique of thrill junkies who wouldn’t let a little escape from reality get in the way of having fun. After all, what do we expect from a Hollywood thriller when we go to the cinema halls, if not a little escapism from reality?
Nevertheless, Runner Runner provides a clear portrayal of the online gambling industry and how regulations can change players’ safety at all times. Additionally, it gives a picturesque description of what young people go through trying to make ends meet.
Despite heavy criticism for its exaggeration of online gaming, the movie is one of a kind. It remains unrivaled as the first movie to portray the world of online gaming.
A lot has changed in the online gaming industry with the introduction of new technologies and faster and reliable internet connection. Today, online gaming is fast, replacing casino-style gambling and betting shops by generating billions of dollars in revenue every year.
Online poker and sports betting have aided in the reacceptance of gambling into most societies, which had been shunned as inappropriate by many people for decades.
Hopefully, with the introduction of friendlier technologies and strict global regulations, the challenges of gambling addiction and underage gambling will soon be a thing of the past.