3 Iconic Gambling Characters on Television

Tommy Shelby

Image Source: Pixabay

TV shows have taken inspiration from all sorts of real-world activities and events over the decades, and gambling is just one of the areas from which amazing small screen stories have been able to blossom.

With that in mind, let’s take a peek at a few of the most memorable gamblers and gambling-adjacent personalities to have ever appeared on television.

Tommy Shelby, Peaky Blinders

Thomas Shelby, wonderfully portrayed by Cillian Murphy in the much-loved BBC gangster series Peaky Blinders, is a man with a finger in a lot of different pies, and his involvement in both legitimate and illicit gambling activities is a lynchpin of his family’s successes, as well as their tribulations.

From fixing horse races to running his own betting parlour, from which he can oversee the rest of his growing criminal empire, Tommy is also known for taking risks in his business and personal life as well.

Of course as the show is set in the early 20th century long before the advent of modern gambling technologies and top games such as Jammin Jars, the shop that he runs with his relations looks very different to what modern audiences would be familiar with, but this is all part of the allure of the world of Peaky Blinders. The authenticity comes from the living museum where many scenes were shot, and it is well worth a visit if you want to further immerse yourself in the world and its characters.

Tony Soprano, The Sopranos

It is probably no surprise that another iconic TV character with a connection to gambling is also a gangster, and Tony Soprano is certainly a high roller, as well as a man that you do not want to be in debt to, as evidenced by the story arc involving Davey Scatino.

Tony is often shown indulging in one of his favourite pastimes, whether that might be scratching his gambling itch at the casino with sessions of roulette and craps, or by placing big bets on the outcome of sports games using some of the underground bookies that he is obviously connected to due to his mob boss status.

The Sopranos is a deep enough show to scrutinise the dark side of gambling addiction, as well as showing how Tony’s own failed risks have a knock-on effect felt by those closest to him. In many ways the highs and lows of gambling help to reflect the highs and lows of a life of crime.

Chester Bernstein, Luck

Although Luck didn’t garner the huge success of some of the other TV shows mentioned so far, it is still very much worth revisiting if you are interested in the way that gambling has a role to play in modern society, and particularly if you want to see some incredible performances from timelessly entertaining actors.

Dustin Hoffman stars as Chester Bernstein, a man who has recently been released from jail and who is eager to get his own back on the people who put him behind bars in the first place. The main setting of a racetrack, where horses owned and operated by Bernstein and his partners compete, is an intriguing and unusual one, and Bernstein is supported by a cast of other characters ranging from underworld hoods to jockeys and trainers.

With famed movie director Michael Mann behind the camera for the pilot episode, Luck is a visual treat as well. It is only a shame that animal safety issues ultimately caused the show to be cut short before it could really get into its stride, as great things were promised by the nine episodes that made it to air.