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"There’s no such thing as a lucky gambler, there’s just winners and losers. The winners are those who control the game. All the rest are suckers.” - Meyer Lansky
FADE IN: INT. CASINO - EARLY 1980’S - NIGHT Images, fragmentary and in slow motion, like a dream. Lights flash on a slot machine. A MAN with sideburns leaning to get a better look at something. A small CROWD pressing forward. A TALL STACK OF BLACK $100 CHIPS is pushed onto the felt of a blackjack table, arriving at another stack to make a pair. DARRYL PURPOSE (O.S.) And double down on this one. Now we see the whole table. Whoever this is, he’s got big bets on every circle, plus five split hands and six doubles; the table is full of chips, many thousands riding on a single play. REVERSE TO GET A LOOK AT HIM: innocent-faced. Calm. Collected. He looks too young to be doing this. The dealer turns over her bottom card: a five. With a 6 up, that’s 11. The crowd reacts; it doesn’t look good for the kid. Life... DARRYL (VOICE OVER)
As the dealer starts to deal herself a decisive card -DARRYL (VOICE OVER) ... is chance. -- we cut -EXT. TRAILER PARK - 1950’S - NIGHT A permanent trailer home, thin strand of Christmas lights framing a window. A muffled argument within. DARRYL (V.O., CONT’D) We’re born into a set of conditions. INT. TRAILER HOME TWO GIRLS, four and five, sit on the floor. holds a tattered doll and cries. DARRYL (V.O.) A particular family. A moment in history. We’re closer to the argument here. the door they’re looking at. It’s coming from behind The youngest
WOMAN (O.S.) You bastard, how can you do this -MAN (O.S.) Give it a fucking rest, will you?
DARRYL (V.O.) And there’s only so much we can do to affect the outcome. INT. TINY BEDROOM The man packs a bag as the woman watches, in tears. Darryl’s father and his mother MAGGIE. MAGGIE (WOMAN) I’m pregnant. He nods. No shit. Grabbing his bag, he opens the door and heads for the exit. Maggie follows. Through her tears, we feel her strength. Her dignity. MAGGIE I won’t take you back this time. mean it! He walks out. The youngest cries louder. I Maggie picks her up. This is
INT. HOSPITAL DELIVERY ROOM - NIGHT Maggie in the throes of delivery. Pain, sweat, pushing. CLOCK ON THE WALL, the second hand running toward 11:21. DARRYL (V.O.) I was born in August, 1956, at the same time an idea was born. INT. ACADEMIC’S UNIVERSITY OFFICE - NIGHT A CLOCK says 11:22. A MATHEMATICIAN writes on a blackboard. The crew cut hair, the glasses, he’s every bit the stereotype. Until his hand rises into frame with a martini, which he sips. A WIDER ANGLE shows three colleagues in a late-night party of blackjack, alcohol and pizza. A WOMAN sits on one guy’s lap. MATHEMATICIAN #2 Roger, you playing or you working? DARRYL (V.O.) Baldwin, Cantey, Maisel and McDermott. Hit me. MCDERMOTT A
Cantey hits him. Bust. Disgusted, McDermott throws down his cards. Baldwin, at the board, has a eureka look in his eyes. BALDWIN (MATHEMATICIAN) Hey guys... CUT TO:
AN ARTICLE FLOATS ACROSS BLACK: “OPTIMUM STRATEGY IN BLACKJACK.” DARRYL (V.O.) Their paper in the Journal of the American Statistical Association caused a lot of excitement in academic circles. (beat) And in Vegas. INT. FLAMINGO HOTEL AND CASINO - BLACKJACK TABLES - DAY Gamblers hold a chart from the article: optimum plays for every hand vs. a dealer’s up card. Pit bosses huddle in conversation. DARRYL (V.O.) It became known as basic strategy. Today cards summarizing it are sold in every casino gift shop in Vegas. EXT. LAS VEGAS STRIP, CIRCA 1956 - DAY The Strip then: a handful of tiny casinos in a huge desert. casinos disappear AND A NATIVE AMERICAN VILLAGE APPEARS. DARRYL (V.O.) Throughout history, people have played games of chance where the only hope of affecting the outcome was prayer to indifferent gods. Moving in, we find some PAIUTE INDIANS tossing colored sticks. Some laugh, others frown. Items change hands. INT. HOSPITAL HALLWAY - DAY Darryl’s father walks along the hospital hallway. he holds a gift: a toddler's baseball mitt. DARRYL (V.O.) But here Baldwin et al. had shown that for any given set of circumstances... INT. HOSPITAL ROOM Baby Darryl is surrounded by women: Maggie holding him, his two sisters -- Dori and Deanna -- and his GRAN. Everyone’s happy. DARRYL (V.O.) ... there was a right play. Darryl’s father walks in. The women’s smiles fade. looks at him. At the baseball mitt in his hand. DARRYL (V.O.) A play to minimize your chances of losing and maximize your chances of winning. Maggie In his hand The
DARRYL’S FATHER I’m here to take you home. DARRYL (V.O.) They’d shown that sometimes there are things we can do to affect the outcome. Everyone is watching Maggie -- who makes her play. MAGGIE Three strikes. You’re out. Darryl’s father is emotionless. He looks at the four women. At the baby. Then turns and walks out. Maggie kisses baby Darryl and crosses herself in silent prayer. DARRYL (V.O.) But the only problem with basic strategy is it still leaves the house with the advantage. INT. DODGER STADIUM - DAY A bat swings, misses -- THWACK -- the ball hits the catcher’s mitt. At first base the runner takes off, stealing second. IN THE STANDS, eight-year-old Darryl jumps up and cheers with the fans. A beat behind, Maggie does too. She has no idea why. DARRYL Wow! Against a left-hander! Davis is only forty-six percent against left-handers. He’s eighty-nine percent against right-handers. MAGGIE (hugs him, happy he’s happy) That’s great honey. INT. MAGGIE’S MOTHER’S HOME - LIVING ROOM - DAY Darryl realizes something as he and Maggie walk into the house. DARRYL Hey, you know what? We scored 6 runs, we’re 6 over 500 for the season and Ron Fairly, number 6, scored the winning run. MAGGIE And two years ago you were six. Darryl scrunches his face, trying to see her point, then stops short when he sees A MAN, cigarette in one hand, drink in the other. Gran and his sisters are all seated, dressed nicely. MAN There you are.
Darryl watches the man kiss his mom on the cheek while touching her shoulder. Maggie looks at the drink in the man’s hand. MAN Just thought I’d have one while I was waiting. Hope that’s okay. MAGGIE (forced) Of course. DARRYL Who are you? This was loud. Everyone looks at him.
MAGGIE Darryl honey, this is Mr. Purpus. MR. PURPUS (MAN) Put ‘er there mister. He shifts the drink to his cigarette hand and holds out the other with exaggerated friendliness. Darryl shakes. DARRYL Purpose isn’t a name. It’s a word. It means “aim” or “goal.” MR. PURPUS It’s P-U-R-P-U-S. The first part’s the same, but the last part is P-US. Pus? Darryl! DARRYL MAGGIE Don’t be rude. She turns to Mr. Purpus.
He didn’t realize he was.
MAGGIE I’ll change and be right out. She walks out, leaving behind an awkward silence. Deanna picks at her fingernails. Dori pulls her hand down to stop her. Darryl stares at Mr. Purpus. Mr. Purpus smirks back. INT. MAGGIE’S MOTHER’S HOME - FRONT DOOR - NIGHT Dressed for her night out, Maggie crouches in front of Darryl and gives him a present. IT’S A PUZZLE BOOK. Darryl smiles. MAGGIE Are you going to eat everything on your plate and do your homework? (he nods, she whispers) It’s important to mommy that you be nice to Mr. Purpus, Darryl. (MORE)
MAGGIE (cont'd) I know you’re not happy, but can you pretend to be happy? For mommy? (a beat and he nods) You’re a good boy.
She kisses him and walks out. Mr. Purpus winks at Darryl and walks out after her, shutting the door. Darryl stares at it. DARRYL (V.O.) I was a good boy. INT. PUBLIC SCHOOL CLASSROOM - DAY
Darryl and his class face the flag, pledging allegiance and getting the words wrong. DARRYL I studied hard.
INT. PUBLIC SCHOOL HALLWAY - DAY
Darryl tries to herd rowdy public school kids into a line. DARRYL (V.O.) Made hall monitor every year.
EXT. STREET - DAY
Walking home from school, Maggie points out a police officer. MAGGIE If you ever need help what do you do? DARRYL Go to the nice policeman. Darryl smiles at the nice policeman, who winks back.
INT. DARRYL’S BEDROOM - NIGHT
Darryl lies in bed, smiling as his mother tucks him in. DARRYL (V.O.) My room was organized, my teeth brushed, my fingernails spotless. She takes his baseball cap off, kisses his head and goes to the door. He loses his smile when he sees Mr. Purpus there as she closes it. A beat and he puts his hat back on. DARRYL (V.O.) I was as innocent as the saints.
INT. CHURCH - DAY
Darryl carries a ring on a cushion up the aisle to his mom and Mr. Purpus at the altar. He spots JESUS ON THE CROSS, bleeding from his crown of thorns and side wound. Disturbed, he veers off course, into the pews, where adults push him back on track.
EXT. CHURCH - DAY
Darryl watches the happy couple get into a car with cans tied to the back. The priest notices Darryl, hands him a brochure. INSERT - “The Health Dangers of Sinning Against the Body” Darryl opens it curiously, looks inside, his mouth drops open.
INT. PUBLIC SCHOOL CLASSROOM - DAY
A teacher hands out tests.
Darryl sharpens his pencil.
DARRYL (V.O.) And when I was nine I was rewarded with the knowledge that I was a genius.
INT. PRINCIPAL’S OFFICE - DAY
All smiles, the Principal, Darryl’s teacher and the test interpreter sit with Maggie and Mr. Purpus. Darryl’s not here. DARRYL’S TEACHER He did especially well on the math. TEST INTERPRETER His scores say he’s going to be a scientist or a musician. DARRYL’S TEACHER A virtuoso! MAGGIE Well that’s really something, isn’t it? Should we tell him?
INT. ANTEROOM OUTSIDE PRINCIPAL’S OFFICE
Darryl sits in a chair. behind the closed door.
Their voices are muffled but audible
MR. PURPUS (O.S.) Just give him a swelled head if you ask me. MAGGIE (O.S.) And maybe interfere with his future? Influence it somehow? TEST INTERPRETER (O.S.) No, no, it’s all here and numbers don’t lie. He has a promising future. Tell him, don’t tell him, it won’t make any difference.
INT. PURPUS HOUSE - LIVING ROOM - DAY
A larger, more comfortable house. Ever-present drink in his hand, Mr. Purpus looks at Darryl warily. Jealously.
MAGGIE We talked it over and we both think it’s a good idea. It’ll be fun. MR. PURPUS It’ll toughen you up. Your problem is you think all the time about baseball and whatever but you don’t do anything. Dori and Deanna are watching TV. The news cuts to police firing water canons and setting dogs on black protesters. NEWS ANCHOR (ON TV) Police clashed with protestors in Alabama today in the largest protest -Maggie gets up and quickly turns it off. and grabs a board game off a shelf. She smiles brightly
MAGGIE How about a nice game of Parcheesi?
EXT. BASEBALL DIAMOND - DAY
Little League tryouts. A kid WHACKS a pitch and runs to first base. COACHES nod, jot notes on pads. Darryl is next. He crowds the plate, leaning too far over. There’s the pitch. Darryl swings wildly -- AND GETS HIT IN THE HEAD AND DROPS.
INT. A COACH’S LIVING ROOM - DAY
The coaches take turns choosing kids for teams, writing names on a board. Toward the bottom “Darryl Purpus” goes on. DARRYL (V.O.) My first little league season I was chosen second to last. Robbie Erenberg was chosen last.
EXT. DODGER STADIUM - STANDS - DAY
A small kid, patch covering a lazy eye, watches the game with his parents, eating a hot dog too fast. He starts to choke. DARRYL (V.O.) At a Dodgers game later that year Robbie choked on a hot dog and died. The following season I was chosen last.
EXT. BASEBALL DIAMOND - DAY
Darryl at the plate -- as he’s hit in the head again. CUT TO: An older Darryl, maybe thirteen, steps up to the plate. He taps the bat against it, all business. He grins at the pitcher.
DARRYL (V.O.) But as I grew older I improved to where I could hit pretty good. Maggie, in the dugout, wears a “Team Mom” shirt and baseball cap. She cheers for her son. Darryl puts the bat back over his shoulder. His stance is solid. His confidence high. DARRYL (V.O) But I was always a bit rigid at the plate and every year ... WHACK! He’s hit in the head again. DARRYL (V.O.) ... I held the record for getting hit with the ball. CUT TO: The umpire helps him off as Darryl tries to clear his head. In the bleachers, Mr. Purpus turns to another dad with a smirk. MR. PURPUS At least he holds a record for something. They laugh. Darryl sees them laughing as he goes by. dugout, as she hugs Darryl, Maggie sees it too.
INT. PURPUS HOUSE - KITCHEN - DAY
Maggie stirs a soup, a BABY GIRL on her hip. AN EVEN YOUNGER SISTER sits in a high chair by Darryl, who watches Mr. Purpus read the paper. Darryl is thoughtful. Considering action. MR. PURPUS Nixon’s gonna kick Humphrey’s ass and we’ll finally restore some integrity to the White House. He’s gleeful. Reacting to the word “ass”, Maggie glances at Darryl then at her husband sourly. He’s oblivious. DARRYL I don’t want to play baseball anymore. MR. PURPUS Don’t be ridiculous. You’re just getting halfway decent. DARRYL I don’t like it. So I’m quitting. Mr. Purpus looks at Darryl surprised. himself a backbone? When did this kid get
MR. PURPUS You’re not. (points a finger at him) Only quitters quit. No. MAGGIE Is that what you really want? Maggie is looking at Darryl from the stove. Darryl nods. is. Maggie nods. Okay. She puts on a happy tone. MAGGIE I think Mrs. Gowan would enjoy being team mom, don’t you? Undermined, Mr. Purpus shoves his chair back, goes to a cupboard and grabs a bottle of gin. He looks at Maggie, challenging her to say something. She just stirs the soup harder. MR. PURPUS You let him get away with everything! How’s he going to make something of himself in life if he doesn’t learn to take some responsibility? Dori barrels through and out the back, 17 now. MR. PURPUS Where the hell do you think you’re going? Drop dead. DORI It
MAGGIE (slams ladle down) You’re one to talk when you can’t even treat people with basic respect! MR. PURPUS Don’t go bad-mouthing me in front of the kids! I’m just trying to keep him from ending up a total disaster like his father-- ! DARRYL (loud, interrupting) Can I have a guitar? They look at him in surprise. DARRYL There’s something inside me that makes me feel, I don’t know, like I’m supposed to be a musician. Maggie and Mr. Purpus look at each other meaningfully. the test interpreter’s prediction coming to pass. It’s
DARRYL (V.O.) Now this was genius.
INT. DARRYL’S BEDROOM - NIGHT
Posters of 60’s bands compete for space with singer-songwriters. The Beach Boys “In My Room” plays softly on the stereo. Darryl plays along on his guitar, enjoying himself. There’s a knock on the door and Maggie comes in. MAGGIE Honey, you want to come downstairs? The family’s watching television. DARRYL I really think I should practice, mom. Maggie nods -- she understands -- and closes the door. Darryl can hear an argument start between her and Mr. Purpus and escalate as it moves downstairs. Darryl drops a new 45 on the turntable: Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction.” He cranks it, drowning them out, and plays along. PULLS US THROUGH A THE MUSIC
CROSS FADE TO:
INT. PURPUS HOME - LIVING ROOM - DAY
Three elderly grandparents in birthday hats and shocked expressions watch the family TV, where President Nixon is giving a speech. MUSIC UNDER. DARRYL (V.O.) August 8th, 1974. My 18th birthday. NIXON (ON TV) ... and prosperity without inflation at home. Therefore, I shall resign the Presidency effective noon tomorrow. DARRYL (V.O.) Things were good or at least trending in the right direction. The party has been aborted mid-stream, candles on the cake melted down. Darryl isn’t waiting. He’s eating and opening gifts. One is a book: “BEAT THE DEALER,” with a note: “More puzzles to solve. Love, mom.”
IN THE HALLWAY, Maggie is peeking into one room after another. She finds Mr. Purpus asleep in a lounge chair outside, empty beer can in his hand. Her face says it all: she’s had it. DARRYL (V.O.) My mother and stepfather divorced.
EXT. PURPUS HOME - DAY
Mr. Purpus hugs Darryl’s sisters, then shakes Darryl’s hand awkwardly. He gets in his van. Drives off. DARRYL He was my father all I really got weird last name. (V.O.) for ten years and out of it was a So I changed it.
INT. SOCIAL SECURITY OFFICE - DAY
He hands over his Social Security card, “Darryl Purpus” on it. CUT TO: He’s handed a new card, his last name changed to: “PURPOSE.”
INT. NORTHRIDGE UNIVERSITY CAMPUS - DAY
Darryl happily walks campus, carrying his guitar. DARRYL (V.O.) I’d found mine, after all. was making sense.
INT. CLASSROOM - DAY
Darryl plays a classical piece in front of the class. He’s fantastic -- but suddenly stops, a sharp pain in his wrist. You okay? MUSIC TEACHER
DARRYL I don’t know. MUSIC TEACHER Take a break. Darryl sits, flexing his hand to ease the pain. He notices a pretty girl smiling at him flirtatiously. Darryl stares at her, then looks away. He doesn’t know what to do. The bell rings. Everyone gets up to go except the girl. She hesitates, waiting for him to say something or come over. Darryl is frozen. He doesn’t leave, but he doesn’t go over. Disappointed but amused, she gets up, trails the others out.
INT. DOCTOR’S OFFICE - DAY
The doctor places Darryl’s right hand in a soft cast. DARRYL (V.O.) Carpel Tunnel Syndrome. The doctor said nobody really knew what caused it.
INT. DARRYL’S BEDROOM - NIGHT
Darryl’s right arm is above the sheets in the cast. His left arm is under the sheets moving rhythmically. He’s masturbating. DARRYL (V.O.) But I couldn’t help thinking that I knew what it was.
INT. DOCTOR’S OFFICE - DAY
Now the doctor puts a soft cast on Darryl’s left hand. DARRYL (V.O.) Whatever the cause, all of sudden it was over. I’d lost my purpose.
INT. DARRYL’S BEDROOM - DAY
Darryl in bed in his underwear in the middle of the day, deeply depressed. Both hands in casts. His guitar in its stand. Flies buzz around an old, untouched plate of food.
EXT. PURPUS HOME - BACK PATIO - DAY
Darryl -- unshaven, hair long and unkempt, beer in a soft-casted hand -- lies in the lounge chair last occupied by Mr. Purpose, in his exact same position. His two younger sisters -- now six and seven -- play ‘tea party’ and try to involve him. He doesn’t resist but he doesn’t play along either. The youngest primly hands him a cup and saucer. His older sister Dori shoos the girls inside as Maggie sits on the edge of Darryl’s chair. MAGGIE Darryl, everybody is worried about you. Dori, Deanna. Your father. Darryl’s eyes shift to: A NEW STEPFATHER attempting to project a combination of “stern” and “caring” but just alternating between them. Maggie’s voice cracks. She’s really worried. MAGGIE You can’t sit here forever and do nothing. What would happen to you? Darryl is silent. Maggie looks to the new stepfather, who nods: get on with it. Maggie steels herself. MAGGIE We’ve talked it over and Dan and I agree. You need to pull yourself together. I want you to start by pitching in around the house. If you can’t even do that... (glance at new stepfather) I’m going to have to ask you to leave.
Darryl looks at her, then at his new stepfather. MAGGIE This is for your own good. Here’s the list. You can start with the pool. The pool is brackish. Cleaning supplies collect dust at one end. MAGGIE The girls are going to stay with Dori over the weekend. When Dan and I get back Sunday I expect you to have these things taken care of. Darryl. He reaches up and takes the list. Maggie sighs, relieved. She kisses his forehead, gets up and goes. Darryl glances at the list, then lets his hand fall to his side. A gust of wind pulls it from his feeble grip. He makes no effort to go after it. ANGLE ON THE POOL. It looks the same.
REVERSE ON MAGGIE AND THE NEW STEPFATHER staring at it. WE’VE TIME CUT. They’ve just gotten back. A noise draws them inside.
It’s Darryl -- lugging a duffle bag down the stairs. DARRYL Before you say anything, mom, I want you know this is my decision. You’re not kicking me out. Maggie bursts into tears. She runs over and hugs him. He looks over her shoulder to see the new stepfather in the kitchen, grabbing leftover chicken from the fridge as he watches them. MAGGIE Don’t go. It’s okay. I didn’t mean it. We’ll work it out. He pulls out of the hug, looks her in the eye, and musters a tone of determination he’s nowhere close to feeling. DARRYL You were right. I can’t just sit here forever and do nothing.
EXT. PURPUS HOME
Maggie and the new stepfather follow him out, the stepfather munching on a chicken leg. Darryl tosses his bag into his ratty ‘62 Ford. Other stuff, not much, is already inside. MAGGIE But where will you go? don’t do this. He gets in, starts the car. Darryl,
She runs to the driver’s side.
MAGGIE Wait! Let me give you some money. (pulls money from her purse) For gas. He looks at her. And takes it. She touches his cheek, pouring all her love into him through her fingertips. He pulls out. Call me! MAGGIE
INT./EXT. DARRYL’S CAR - DAY
Stopped by highway 5, he watches cars go by in both directions. DARRYL (V.O.) I wandered off into the world, no game plan at all. Darryl notices the book “Beat the Dealer” in a milk crate of his stuff on the passenger seat. His mom’s birthday present. DARRYL (V.O.) But life is chance. He pulls onto the highway. DARRYL (V.O.) And the choices we make nothing but a decision to spin the wheel or deal the cards.
INT. FLAMINGO - NIGHT
At the roulette table, a croupier spins the wheel. At the craps table, a player at the line throws the dice. Darryl walks through, his senses assaulted by the lights and noise, the movement of the people and the money. Elderly women sit at a line of one-armed bandits, cigarettes dangling from permanent frowns. Pull. Pull. Pull. One of them rubs a sore arm muscle. And then he sees A BLACKJACK TABLE. The pretty dealer. The green felt. The cards in a shoe. Everything crisp and fresh. He pulls two fives from the money his mom gave him. The pretty dealer takes them and puts two red chips in a betting circle. About to protest, Darryl sees the limit sign: “$10 to $200”. Too late, she deals face up. He reaches for his cards. PRETTY DEALER No hon, we don’t touch the cards. If you want a hit, scratch the felt with your finger or say “hit.” You want to stay, say “stay” or do this.
She waves her hand back and forth. He has a jack and a four. He looks at her up card. A six. He has no clue. PRETTY DEALER It’s the simplest game in the world. Whoever gets closest to twenty-one without going over wins. The dealer has to hit everything up to and including sixteen. Paint cards are worth ten, so you’ve got fourteen. A blackjack is the best hand, any ten plus an ace. It pays you one and a half times. That’s most of it. Now I’ve got a six showing and a ten’s the most common card, so... Darryl waves his hand back and forth. She turns over her hole card, a ten, for sixteen. Then deals herself a ten. Bust. PRETTY DEALER Look at that. You know what I think? I think you’re one of the lucky ones. Darryl smiles -- and bets again.
INT.\EXT. DARRYL’S CAR - DAWN
Darryl asleep in his clothes in back seat of his car. A hard rap at the window wakes him. He sits up to see two policemen outside. He rolls down the window. DARRYL It’s alright officer. I’m fine.
COP (to his PARTNER) It’s alright, Mike, he’s fine. The partner laughs. The cop GRABS DARRYL BY THE HAIR AND PULLS HIM OUT THROUGH THE WINDOW, ignoring his yelps of pain. The partner thinks this is even funnier. Darryl is shoved face down, arm twisted back. The partner turns Darryl’s pockets out. COP Let me be clear as you seem to be something of a moron. Nobody comes to Vegas to see some asshole sleeping in his car. They come for excitement, maybe to see a show. You’re ruining the ambiance, you understand? Yes! DARRYL
PARTNER Grand total of two bucks. He gives one dollar to the Cop and pockets the other.
COP Figures. Here’s an idea. Why don’t you take a drive up to Hoover dam, think about your pathetic life and do the world a favor? I see you again, I break this. He gives Darryl’s arm a final twist. On the way back to their car, the cop says something and his partner laughs again.
INT. DARRYL’S CAR - MOVING - DAY
Sidewalk dust on his face, crying, Darryl drives. ahead says: “Hoover Dam: 2 miles. No stopping.”
Thorp’s book lies on the floor in the back, the author smiling out from his photo in suit and tie. DARRYL (V.O.) Ed Thorp picked up where Baldwin, Cantey, Maisel and McDermott left off.
INT. SMALL, WELL-ORDERED APARTMENT - 1960’S - NIGHT
ED THORP, just as square as his photo, sits on a couch doing calculations, his wife next to him, smiling and hopeful. DARRYL (V.O.) A statistician, Ed did the math and determined that a Florida vacation would be too expensive. Thorp looks as his wife. Her smile fades.
DARRYL (V.O.) So he took his wife to Vegas.
INT. LAS VEGAS CASINO - 1960’S - NIGHT
Thorp plays single-deck blackjack, using a copy of basic strategy robotically, no sense of fun at all. Two pit bosses watch, amused. His wife is bored. Ed watches a dealer PUT CARDS IN THE DISCARD TRAY. DARRYL (V.O.) And Ed then saw something that blew basic strategy out of the water: he saw that blackjack had a memory. Thorp’s head turns to look at a craps table and a man throwing dice. They tumble in SLOW MOTION. DARRYL (V.O.) You can toss dice a million times and no toss will ever affect another. But the composition of the deck in a blackjack game is ever-changing... Time slows.
Thorp looks at the DISCARDS again. SFX: each card’s value is briefly revealed to us, from the bottom of the stack to the top, as if temporarily transparent: a lot of small cards. DARRYL (V.O.) ... affected constantly by the absence of cards already played. Thorp looks at the DECK in the dealer’s hand. SFX: each card’s value is again briefly revealed: all tens and aces. Thorp bets. The dealer deals. Thorp gets a blackjack.
INT. M.I.T. COMPUTATION CENTER - DAY
Thorp reads numbers amidst a sea of computer printouts. DARRYL (V.O.) Ed ran millions of simulations. It took him a year, but what he found changed everything. The no-nonsense Thorp breaks into an enormous smile. Thorpe sits, writing up his work. DARRYL He found that little cards were good for the house and big cards and aces good for you and me. And he found a way to keep track, a mathematical system to legally wrest the advantage away from the house. Card counting was born.
EXT. HOOVER DAM - DAY
Darryl has parked his car in the middle of the bridge and left the driver’s door open. He’s walking to the edge, still crying. He looks over. WATER GUSHES 700 FEET TO BEDROCK. He touches the low wall. It would be so easy to just slip over it. DARRYL (V.O.) But to beat the house you had to have the guts to face it ... Darryl wipes tears and snot off his face with his sleeve. DARRYL (V.O.) ... to stand up to that place where the odds seem stacked against you and make your plays anyway. As Darryl stands there, he calms down. He stops crying.
DARRYL (V.O.) You had to choose to get in the game.
He turns and looks behind him: at beautiful Lake Mead, nestled amidst stark, magnificent mountains. DARRYL (V.O.) Because life is more than chance.
INT. TROPICANA BATHROOM - DAY
A large casino bathroom. Darryl cleans his face at a sink. An attendant hands him a towel. Darryl looks at the attendant’s table. Combs. Toothbrushes. Tiny soaps. Cologne. Darryl looks at that table, thinking, and WE CUT TO SCENES OF HIM LIVING OFF THE UNWITTING LARGESSE OF THE CASINOS:
EXT. SANDS CASINO POOL AREA - DAY
In shorts, bathroom towel over a shoulder, hair neatly combed, Darryl enters the pool area nods to a security guard as if he belongs -- the guard nods back -- then dives in the pool. He floats at one corner and uses a tiny soap to wash himself.
INT. STRIP JOINT/CASINO - DAY
A free breakfast buffet. metal tray.
Darryl piles eggs onto a plate from a
A fly is stuck in the crust at one corner. The strippers start to dance.
INT. STARDUST HOTEL - DAY
Darryl forgets to chew.
He grabs a newspaper from in front of a hotel room door...
EXT. STARDUST - POOL AREA - DAY
... and lies on a lounge chair in the sun, circling want ads.
INT. DARRYL’S CAR - NIGHT
Lying in the back of his car in an out-of-the-way alley, covered by a blanket with a Tropicana logo, he reads “Beat the Dealer.” He finds Maggie’s note: “More puzzles to solve.
INT. CENTERFOLD CASINO - MORNING
He spoons eggs onto a plate from the same warming tray, big smile on his face now as he watches the strippers. He goes to spoon some eggs into his mouth and stops when he notices: The same fly in the same spot in the corner of the tray.
INT. CASINO CAFE - DAY
Finished eating, he writes a room number on the check.
WAITER Room three seventy-eight? Darryl nods and rises as a nearby couple looks up. MAN Three seventy-eight? room. That’s our
Darryl and the waiter lock eyes -- and Darryl bolts out of the cafe. The waiter watches him through the window as he run off.
INT. OFFICES OF DONOVAN BURKE ENTERPRISES - DAY
MR. BURKE, owner and manager, reviews Darryl’s job application. BURKE Let me get this straight. You went to college for a semester which means you dropped out. You’ve never had a sales job. You’ve never had any job. Is that a fair reading of this? Darryl shrugs. He guesses so. Burke gestures at his men on the telemarketing floor. Boxes of pens are everywhere. BURKE I can pretty much guarantee you that every one of my staff lied to me on their job application, but if anyone ever needed to, it’s you. Darryl nods. He should have thought of that.
DARRYL I’m a fast learner, sir. BURKE Kid, you better be. This is Vegas.
INT. TELELEMARKETERS’ FLOOR - DAY
Moving through, we pass a telemarketer on the phone. TELEMARKETER ... “Helmer.” Is that German? Norwegian, no kidding. I’m half Norwegian myself. We come to Darryl, cold calling, a yellow pages for Iowa City open to the carpeting section, “Joe’s Carpeting” circled. DARRYL (INTO PHONE) ... Joe’s Carpeting up here in Des Moines is one of our biggest customers. Yeah, that’s it exactly, they’ve got the same name as you, which is why I’m calling. (MORE)
DARRYL (INTO PHONE) (cont'd) Joe called the other day and asked me to print up a thousand of our deluxe Write-O-Graph pens, you know those beautiful pens with the bright silver tops? Well Henrieta, my secretary, I guess she put an extra zero on the order and now I’m stuck with nine thousand pens that say “Joe’s Carpeting” on them, so I’m calling up other Joe’s -(laughs with customer) Yeah I know, but I love Henrieta. Burke is watching Darryl, nodding approvingly. THE SAME TELEMARKETER is on another call: TELEMARKETER “Zmatlik?” What’s that, Transylvanian? Czechoslovakian? No kidding. I’m half Czechoslovakian myself. BACK TO DARRYL DARRYL Twenty cents each? Are you joking? These retail for a buck twentynine. No, you’re right, I don’t have much choice, do I? I am stuck with all these pens. How many do you want? Darryl uses a Write-O-Graph to write up the order but the pen doesn’t work. Burke shakes his head at the boy’s naiveté and snatches it away, then hands him a decent pen.
INT. DARRYL’S CRAPPY ONE-ROOM APARTMENT - NIGHT
A mattress. A chair. No lamp, Darryl reads a new book on blackjack to flashlight. Lying by his bed is A PILE OF OTHER DOG-EARED BLACKJACK BOOKS.
INT. HORSESHOE CASINO - BLACKJACK TABLE - NIGHT
Darryl bets red $5 chips and watches every card go by, his lips moving occasionally as he keeps the count. Suddenly, he smiles and jumps to two hands of multiple reds. A BEEFY PIT BOSS is watching him, not amused. Also watching Darryl is a fellow player: a neatly dressed young man in a red turtleneck, a pile of green $25 chips in front of him. He’s noticed the pit boss’s interest. TURTLENECK Hey friend, maybe you should look for a place a little less warm. Darryl looks up toward the pit boss. Too late.
EXT. HORSESHOE CASINO - NIGHT
The pit boss drags Darryl out, a security guard backing him up. DARRYL It’s completely legal! BEEFY PIT BOSS Let me share my opinion on that. (slaps Darryl’s head hard) And don’t come back unless you want to find yourself in the desert! He tosses Darryl onto the ground, goes back inside. Darryl and the security guard look at each other a beat, then Darryl gets up and walks off. But as he goes he notices: The guy in the red turtleneck entering the Four Queens casino.
INT. THE FOUR QUEENS - NIGHT
Darryl comes in, looks around, but doesn’t see turtleneck.
INT. FOUR QUEENS BATHROOM - NIGHT
Darryl comes out of a stall, washes his hands. There’s a mirror on the ground leaning against the wall, a replacement for a broken one above a sink. In it, Darryl sees somebody passing cash from under one stall to another. Voices whisper. GUY GIVING CASH (O.S.) Three even. You writing it down? GUY RECEIVING CASH (O.S.) You write it down for both of us. GUY GIVING CASH Conditions are good next door right now, so let’s go over there. A stall opens. The man who received the cash comes out. Early 40’s, unsteady, drink in hand. Top buttons on his polyester shirt open to expose chest hair and a diamondstudded medallion on a gold chain. Out of the other stall steps the young man in the red turtleneck. As he washes up, he notices Darryl. TURTLENECK Hey friend. Darryl nods hello. Turtleneck dries his hands and walks out.
INT. HORSESHOE - DAY
A LARGE CROWD watches a HIGH ROLLER at a blackjack table. It’s the same guy from the Four Queens bathroom. The cavalier attitude, the raw display of wealth, the drink in his hand. The man exudes an over the top, 70’s male sex appeal.
THIS IS KEN USTON. Darryl is here too, watching. He glances over at the Beefy Pit Boss who through him out a little while ago and shifts position to keep a support beam between them. Ken’s got hundreds in black chips on two unplayed hands but doesn’t seem to care as he leers at a cocktail waitress. Ken? What? Oh. already. PIT BOSS KEN I thought I won these
This gets a nervous laugh from the crowd. He hits his first hand, stands, then stands on the second. The dealer turns over his hole card. He’s got thirteen, reaches for a card -FAN IN CROWD C’mon, break --- and the hand does. The crowd cheers! As the dealer pulls out a dozen black chips to pay off Ken, a waitress arrives with another drink for him. KEN Hey there missey, what do you say after I clean up this town, you and I go wild west on each other? WAITRESS Why waste time cleaning up the town if we’re just going to get it dirty again? The crowd eats this up. The pit bosses chuckle. What a guy. Ken tosses a green chip onto her tray. Darryl smiles too, but his attention shifts to: A GUY AT KEN’S TABLE IN A BASEBALL CAP After Ken loses a hand, Baseball Cap unstacks some chips. looks around, bored, his eyes light on something. Ken
Darryl turns to see TURTLENECK at another table, a hand on his cheek. Ken gets up and wanders over there. PIT BOSS Uh, Kenny, Mr. Uston, your chips... (gives up, to dealer) Get me a rack. The crowd follows. Darryl goes with them. Ken puts a bet down at Turtleneck’s table. He and turtleneck act like they don’t know each other. Turtleneck stakes more chips. Ken bets more money. Darryl smiles. He’s got it figured out. CUT TO:
Turtleneck at the bar, nursing a drink. Darryl goes to tap his shoulder -- but gets a tap on his own shoulder instead. He turns. It’s a TALL MAN in his mid 40’s in a dark suit. TALL MAN Sir, come with me. Darryl glances at the beefy pit boss who threatened him earlier -- now looking in his general direction. Oh shit.
EXT. HORSESHOE CASINO - NIGHT
Darryl steps outside, expecting serious trouble. But the tall man just looks him over. A beat and Turtleneck comes out. TALL MAN This is the guy? Turtleneck nods. The tall man looks Darryl over doubtfully as Turtleneck waits for his verdict. The tall man nods. Then goes back inside. Turtleneck writes on a paper, hands it to Darryl. Midnight.
SAHARA HOTEL HALLWAY - OUTSIDE A ROOM - NIGHT
Darryl is knocking on a door impatiently, but no one answers. He knocks again. He seems to have been at it a while. He looks at the paper, confused. Turtleneck emerges from an elevator. TURTLENECK No one home, huh? He raps on the door. Twice. Then once. Twenty-one. A beat and the guy in the baseball cap from Ken’s table opens it. Turtleneck grins, gestures. Darryl goes in, Turtleneck follows.
INT. SAHARA HOTEL ROOM
TURTLENECK Are we first? Last. BASEBALL CAP
The tall man exits the bathroom. A guy pops up from behind the bed. A guy in an Evel Knievel T-shirt steps out of a closet. TURTLENECK What did you guys think -- casino security was politely knocking? KNIEVEL T-SHIRT We didn’t know what to think. He knocked but he didn’t say anything. Freaked us all out. TURTLENECK Down three hundred.
He hands cash to the tall man, who sits on the bed and counts piles of money, jotting notes in a well-worn notebook. GUY BEHIND THE BED New rule: invite a guy to a team meeting, tell him the team knock. ANOTHER KNOCK AT THE DOOR -- not a team knock. A beat and everybody scatters. Darryl follows suit, jumps into a closet. VOICE (O.S., BEHIND DOOR) Room service! Baseball Cap opens it. Waiters roll in three tables overflowing with food. Baseball Cap tips them and they go. Everyone comes out. Darryl looks like he thinks this is all rather strange. BASEBALL CAP I’m comped for my action here. You don’t want people working for the casino to see a bunch of people in your room. You just never know. DARRYL But then who do they think all the food is for? Baseball Cap shrugs. That’s more analysis than he cares to give the situation. Knievel T-shirt munches a carrot. KNIEVEL T-SHIRT We gotta eat, right? TURTLENECK Everybody, this is... (realizes he doesn’t know) Darryl. DARRYL
TURTLENECK Darryl picked us off. Spotted me giving Ken some cash, then put us all together at the Horseshoe. Everyone stops and looks at him. GUY BEHIND THE BED What did you see? DARRYL These two touched their cheeks before... Ken? sat down at their tables. You guys were counting on other tables. You were all using piles of chips to signal the count. Everyone stares. Holy shit. Darryl smiles.
TALL MAN We need a review of practices. GUY BEHIND BED Meanwhile, what do we do with this guy? BASEBALL CAP Kill him I guess. They all nod. smile fades. It’s unfortunate, but there it is. Darryl’s
TURTLENECK Christ. Remember the trouble we had getting rid of the body last time. They all groan and nod. What a pain in the ass that was.
GUY BEHIND THE BED We’ll have to eat him. BASEBALL CAP You eat him. I’m having the lobster. Everyone laughs, reaches for food. Knievel T-shirt hands a relieved Darryl a plate. The tall man didn’t join in with any of this and doesn’t laugh now. He takes the plate away from Darryl before he can put anything on it. TALL MAN Let’s go see Ken.
INT. KEN USTON’S JOCKEY CLUB APARTMENT - NIGHT
A piano. A bar. The latest in high-tech 8-track stereo. Darryl and Turtleneck play “Pong”, the world’s first video game, on Ken’s TV. They control crudely drawn sticks, knocking a circular blob very slowly back and forth. TURTLENECK This is amazing. Darryl nods. They’re riveted. The tall man does team bookkeeping in his black book. Ken comes out of the bedroom, showered and energetic in a plush white robe. He tosses the tall man a wad of cash. Walter. KEN Up ninety six hundred.
Walter (tall man) catches it and starts counting. Every time we see Walter he’s counting money or going over finances. KEN Is this him? Ken Uston. Kenny. (shakes Darryl’s hand) Darryl. DARRYL
KEN Pat says you can count and that you showed some guts going back into the Horseshoe after they threatened you. PAT is Turtleneck. being watched. Darryl looks at him and realizes he was
DARRYL Young, smart and brave. What were the gods thinking, Walter? WALTER (TALL MAN) Maybe they sent him to remind you you’re mortal, Ken. Ken laughs, pours himself a drink, holds the bottle up for Darryl’s consideration. Darryl nods, nonchalant. Ken pours. KEN Or maybe it’s a warning that this style of play isn’t so perfect after all. WALTER It’s your style of transferring money that’s not perfect. Ken gives Darryl his drink with a wink, sits at the piano and plays. Jazz. He’s not bad. KEN You like blackjack, Darryl? Darryl starts to nod, but stops himself. He tells the truth.
DARRYL I want to be good at something. I think I could be very good at this. Ken smiles and nods as if that were the only right answer. looks at Walter. Walter shrugs. Ken stops playing. He’s made a decision. He gets up, excited. KEN What do you think? You want to join our little team? WALTER What Ken means is do a little counting for us -KEN We’ll make you rich. WALTER We’ll give you $20 an hour to start -He
KEN The sky’s the limit! WALTER If it works out, you could eventually earn a player’s share. If not, we part ways, no hard feelings. Before Walter finishes talking, Ken puts out his hand, imbuing the gesture with import. With a big smile, Darryl shakes it. KEN A team is about trust, Darryl. About watching each others’ backs. Darryl nods. Ken pulls him in for a sideways hug and laughs.
KEN Outta sight! The doorbell rings. Walter shoves money and records into a bag. As Ken heads for the door, he nods at Pat. KEN Pat will train you. Come by the team house tomorrow, we’re getting together. Ken opens the door. It’s the waitress he flirted with earlier. She looks at him in his robe as Darryl follows the others out. WAITRESS Kind of presumptuous, aren’t you? KEN I think of myself as optimistic. He pulls her in.
Darryl watches them kiss as the door closes --
TEAM HOUSE - DAY
Everywhere is evidence of where they spend their time: casino chips, table limit signs, cards. Pat escorts Darryl past: KNIEVEL T-SHIRT on the couch reading a magazine. He’s the youngest.
PAT This is Lyle. He’s an Evel fool. Get your disgusting feet off my couch. Lyle pulls his feet off the couch, but otherwise ignores him. He greets Darryl by turning his magazine to show him a photo. LYLE (KNIEVEL T-SHIRT) Here he is jumping over the Snake River Canyon. He almost made it.
It’s a fanzine. Evel Knieval parachuting toward a river. Darryl nods. Pat leads him on. Ken is at a grill out by the pool and waves a spatula. Darryl waves back. Walter is outside too, doing calculations on his notepad. Both of them are in the shade to avoid the heat. PAT That’s Victor. VICTOR is also out by the pool, but lying in the sun. He’s the one who was hiding behind the bed last night. Victor picks up a reflector to get even more sun. PAT Victor’s indestructible. When he was three, his father dropped him from a fourth-story window of their apartment building. Accelerating at 9.8 meters per second squared he must have hit at thirty miles an hour. Bounced half a story. But not a scratch on him. Darryl looks at him doubtfully. Pat shrugs -- you’ll see -- and leads him to a regulation blackjack table, on the way passing: BASEBALL CAP In his early 30’s, he’s older than the others. Athleticlooking, handsome and aware of it. He’s on the sofa with a woman who’s fending him off as he tries to kiss her. PAT Joe and the wife. JOE’S WIFE ... you’ve been saying for years we’d have the money for a house and meanwhile they’re building new casinos and we’re still living by a waste burning plant. Joe (baseball cap) keeps trying to kiss her. JOE’S WIFE Stop kissing and answer me! Joe starts kissing her neck. She pushes him off forcefully. Joe pulls back and looks at her. A beat. Then starts trying to kiss her again. She sighs, gives up -- and kisses him. Darryl sits on the second seat at a regulation blackjack table. PAT No. Sit at third base. You’ll see more people’s cards that way. But you want to train yourself to use your peripheral vision so you don’t look like you’re looking. Show me how you practice counting.
Pat removes a single card from a deck, sets it aside face down, hands the deck to Darryl. Ken leans in from the patio. KEN How do you like your burger, Darryl? DARRYL Medium rare, sir. Everyone chuckles at the “sir.” KEN “Ken,” “Kenny,” “shithead,” never “sir.” My daddy was “sir.” VICTOR Yeah, as in “move along sir.” JOE Or “sir, I said please keep your hands to yourself.” Everyone laughs. Pat taps the deck in Darryl’s hand, impatient. Darryl flips cards over in a pile one by one and recites his running count as it rises at every small card, falls with every big card and stays the same for every 7, 8, and 9. DARRYL Plus one, plus two, plus three, plus two, plus two, plus one, plus two -PAT Stop. Learn to count in pairs or groups, to visually cancel out. Pat takes the deck and fans through it fast, counting silently, as Lyle sits next to Darryl and shows him another photo. LYLE Here’s the famous jump over the fountain at Caesars when he broke his pelvis. Man, I wish I’d been there. Minus one. PAT Small card. Darryl nods. Nice.
Pat turns over the card he removed: a four. PAT Look away for a sec.
Pat spreads about twenty cards face up on the table as Darryl turns away and sees Joe and his wife still making out. They come up for air. JOE’S WIFE When are you coming home?
JOE I’m seeing George later. too late.
JOE’S WIFE (grabs purse to go) Say hi to George. When am I going to meet him. We should have a dinner or something. ON PAT PAT Okay, now, pairing them, look at all the cards and see how fast you can -DARRYL Minus three. Now Pat looks. It takes him a longer.
PAT Minus three. They look at each other, Pat raising an eyebrow. KEN C’mon, get your asses out here!
EXT. PATIO - DAY
The patio. A THERMOMETER IN THE SHADE SAYS 111 DEGREES. Everyone is suffering in the shade. In front of them, Victor squeezes out some baby oil and rubs it on his skin. Holds the reflector up again. Joe, sweating the worst, is incredulous. JOE How can you stand it? VICTOR Stand what? Ken serves a burger and some onion onto Darryl’s plate. KEN The key to a great burger experience is a sweet onion, sliced razor thin. And nothing rounds out a barbecue like a bottle of Cordon Bleu -- compliments of the Sahara. He pulls out a bottle and everybody cheers. Ken hands it to Darryl to uncork -- AS A SEXY WOMAN ARRIVES. She waves hi. VICTOR Hey George. There’s a chorus of hellos for ‘George.’ GEORGE IS JOE’S MISTRESS. He kisses her. She notices Darryl popping the cork.
GEORGE Who’s this? JOE More fodder. KEN No. No. Our latest cannon aimed at the heart of the casinos. A patriotic young soldier at the front lines in our tiny nation’s holy war against legalized thievery. The teammates share wry looks over Ken’s earnestness -- but smile too. Ken pours for everyone and raises his glass. KEN To our new brother-in-arms. Everyone raises their glass. Darryl beams.
INT. WALTER’S CADILLAC - MOVING - NIGHT
Walter drives, the team packed in like well-dressed sardines. Pat tests Darryl on team signals as Ken peppers him with advice. DARRYL Take a break -- follow me -Pat rubs an eye -- grabs a shoulder -KEN It’s a twenty-five minimum table so you’ll be flatbetting green chips... DARRYL Hot shoe -- meet me in the bathroom -Pat touches a cheek -- grabs his crotch -KEN ... You’re not a high roller but the pit bosses will still notice you, so try not to make them suspicious... DARRYL Danger -- leave the club immediately -KEN ... They’re looking for silent, sober collegiate types, so look like you’re having fun. Better yet, have some fun. Have a drink. Tip the dealer. VICTOR AND LYLE are squeezed into the passenger seat, in mid-conversation.
LYLE I can still be a major league pitcher. VICTOR No you can’t. LYLE I’m only eighteen. VICTOR You don’t even play baseball. LYLE But I could. I could still do anything. I could be the next Evel Knievel if I wanted to. He's got to retire sometime, right?
EXT. SANDS HOTEL AND CASINO - PARKING LOT - NIGHT
The car pulls into a spot far from the casino entrance.
INT. WALTER’S CADILLAC
Walter turns and looks at Darryl.
Then hands him some cash.
WALTER Three thousand. Team money in one pocket, personal money in the other. That way there’s no... mistakes. (lets that sink in) We have a standing policy of random polygraphs and anyone can ask anyone else to take one at any time. (to everyone) We’re sixty-two thousand away from doubling the bank. Remember: minimize errors and you’ll maximize profits. KEN Something’s missing. your watch. Joe, give him
As Joe hands it over, he looks at Darryl and touches his nose. DARRYL Change tables. JOE No -- you’ve got a booger there. Everyone looks at everyone as Darryl wipes his nose. KEN He’ll be fine.
EXT. SANDS HOTEL AND CASINO - PARKING LOT - NIGHT
Everyone starts to spread out to circle in on the casino separately -- leaving Darryl alone. He’s nervous. Pat. DARRYL
Pat comes back over to him. DARRYL Betting twenty-five a hand. a lot of money for me. That’s
PAT Flatbetting green is the least of your worries. You want something to worry about? The moment you walk in there you’re subject to total surveillance. SMASH CUT TO:
INT. SANDS - CASINO FLOOR - MINUTES LATER
PAT’S WORDS CONTINUE OVER THIS SCENE as Darryl walks in, now totally freaked. He passes a security guard talking to a cop. PAT (O.S., CONT’D) Vegas cops, security -- undercover security -- all looking for the casino’s enemies. Looking for you. Darryl looks at the FACES OF PEOPLE he passes. All of them seem to be sizing him up, seem to know what he’s up to. ONE OF THEM IS A MAN WITH SALT AND PEPPER HAIR. him long enough to not forget him. PAT (O.S.) Every mirror is one-way glass. And over tables, the Eye In The Sky. Darryl looks in a mirror he passes, then looks up. runs the length of the ceiling. A mirror We linger on
THE CAMERA RISES from Darryl and goes through the ceiling...
INT. EYE IN THE SKY CATWALK
... where casino personnel walk a catwalk, looking down on players with binoculars and cameras with telephoto lenses. Among them is the five-foot-two-inch tall WILL VICKMAN. PAT (O.S.) Sands’ head of security is Will Vickman, a very short, very serious man who uses the latest in surveillance technology.
Vickman moves to an unwieldy video camera on a tripod as a technician ejects a video tape and hands it to him. PAT (O.S.) V.H.S. Video Home System. That’s right. Now they can record your every move and play it back immediately. Vickman puts the tape in a VCR. DARRYL APPEARS ON A MONITOR LOOKING UP AT THE CAMERA. THE IMAGE ZOOMS IN ON HIM. PAT (O.S.) These people look at you the way they look at a cheat or a thief and if they catch you taking off big money, that’s exactly how they’ll treat you.
INT. SANDS - CASINO FLOOR
He walks to a blackjack table and sits.
PAT (O.S.) So if you want something to worry about, worry about that. DEALER Would you like to play, sir? But Darryl’s frozen. He can’t speak, can’t move. Then he spots Joe at a table, an amused look on his face. He looks around. All his teammates have amused looks. Chuckling, Pat scratches his head. What’s up? Darryl gives a signal of his own: he rubs his temple with his middle finger. Fuck you. Pat laughs to himself. Darryl relaxes, puts out some cash.
DEALER Changing three hundred! A pit boss with a large pompadour watches, unconcerned. CUT TO: As Darryl plays, a streak of small cards pour out. He stacks chips and puts a hand to his cheek. Ken abandons the table next door to put a bet down at Darryl’s table. He’s drunk. KEN Let me get some of this action over here. Hi beautiful. (woman dealer smiles, he places a tip bet for her) Let’s make some money honey. Hey -that rhymes! YOUNG PIT BOSS Uh Ken, you still got a hand over here.
KEN Play it for me, Mike. want to do.
The crowd watching Ken shakes their heads. This guy is nuts. The Young Pit Boss laughs and sits to play Ken’s hand. A JOVIAL PIT BOSS and a PIT BOSS WITH A POMPADOUR are amused too. Ken decides to have some fun. He looks right at Darryl. KEN Kinda young to be at a high stakes table aren’t you? What do you do? Darryl is stunned. All eyes go to him. The crowd, the bosses.
KEN What do you do? Darryl recovers. DARRYL I’m a musician. Yeah? KEN What do you play? DARRYL
At the other table, the young pit boss gets an 18 and the dealer a 17. The crowd laughs, claps. YOUNG PIT BOSS You win Kenny. The pit bosses are all smiles. Baseball Cap, sitting at that table, stacks more chips. Ken bounces over and puts out two more bets for the pit boss to play for him. More laughter. Darryl is relieved for the reprieve. But the count is up here too. He stacks chips. back. He spreads to four hands of $500. KEN So you in some kinda band? I mean, how do you make money playing guitar? Darryl can’t believe it. Ken looks at him with a mischievous grin. The pit bosses are watching. Listening. Waiting. Jingles. Jingles. DARRYL KEN You write jingles? Ken laughs. Ken bounces
Darryl nods, pleased with himself.
KEN Sing me one! Sing me one of your jingles!
DARRYL Meow meow meow meow Meow meow meow meow... At first everyone stares, but as he continues they get it. The Meow Mix ad. Ken starts laughing. The pit bosses laugh too -- but they’re impressed. They know that jingle. JOVIAL PIT BOSS “Tastes so good -- ” JOVIAL & POMPADOUR TOGETHER “-- cats ask for it by name.” POMPADOUR Some serious money in jingles. He looks jealous. Darryl shrugs. The beautiful dealer smiles at him. Ken is laughing so hard he can’t play his hand -- as the young pit boss leaps up happy. Blackjack! YOUNG PIT BOSS I got a blackjack!
INT. BIG BUDDHA RESTAURANT - NIGHT
A raucous late-night dinner at a fusion Japanese/Chinese restaurant. Joe gets the attention of the sushi chef, points to his Unagi and gives him the thumbs up. The chef waves back. SUSHI CHEF Okay for you, okay for me! Joe watches incredulous as Victor eats those Chinese peppers you should never eat, one after another like popcorn. Ken weaves drunkenly in his seat. Jingles. KEN Brilliant. Walter is tight-jawed.
Lyle tries to get the Japanese waitress’s attention but she sails on by. Pat lifts a finger and she comes over. He grins at Darryl. PAT Nobody sees Lyle. It’s like he’s invisible. It’s great for blackjack, but when he goes home for Christmas he has to persuade his mother she actually had a son before he can get any ham.
LYLE That’s not true. old.
She’s just very
Ken drapes an arm around Darryl’s neck. KEN Jingles! You could bet the money with that cover-- Hey! What about it? Want to be a big player like me? WALTER Maybe he’d be better than you. Maybe he wouldn’t drink so much then tip away our profits and blow so many plays. KEN (beat, focuses on him) Are you insinuating something? WALTER (rolls his eyes) C’mon, I’ll take you home. Darryl rises to help, but Walter puts a hand on Darryl’s shoulder and pushes him back down. I got it. WALTER
Walter helps Ken outside, Ken humming the Meow Mix jingle. DARRYL What’s his problem? PAT Walter? Let’s see. Maybe it’s that he invented what we’re doing but he can’t do it himself so he has to rely on Ken? VICTOR Dieppe, France. Everyone nods. Darryl looks at them. Victor leans forward.
VICTOR Nineteen-seventy-two. Walter’s in Dieppe playing this casino. In France they’re owned by individuals with a licence from the state -JOE -- It’s just a few years after Thorp, the guy’s got no clue about card counting, conditions are incredible, he’s letting Walter bet down to the last few cards--
PAT And still -- Walter’s losing.
INT. FRENCH CASINO - 1972 - NIGHT
A washed-out vision of events as the team narrates it, actions and moments exaggerated as befits the telling of a legend. VICTOR (O.S.) That’s how it goes. You hit a bad streak and it feels like you’ll never win again. QUICK CUTS of Walter losing hand after hand, an ARROGANT, AMUSED FRENCHMAN laughing silently. Walter digs out more money. PAT (O.S.) You start to doubt everything. Maybe you’re not playing right, maybe you’re being cheated. JOE (O.S.) And the guy’s like... The Frenchman’s mouth moves but it’s Joe’s voice with an accent: FRENCHMAN (WITH JOE’S VOICE) You know vat I am going to do with all zis money? Renovate my new villa! PAT (O.S.) Walter keeps dumping more and more, but does he give up? No. FRENCHMAN (WITH JOE’S VOICE) And zen I use your money to take my wife to Las Vegas, eh? We go see Wayne Newton! Ha ha ha. LYLE (O.S.) But he wins it all back, right? VICTOR (O.S.) Shut up man -PAT (O.S.) You’re ruining the fucking story. More cuts. Walter wins a hand. He wins a series of hands.
PAT (O.S.) Okay, so the long run kicks in and money starts coming across the table in the other direction. JOE (O.S.) The French guy’s not concerned. The house has the advantage, right?
Cuts of Walter’s pile of chips growing higher and higher and the Frenchman’s smile getting smaller and smaller. VICTOR (O.S.) The man just won’t give up on his dream of seeing Wayne Newton. He lets it go on -- for four days. JOE (O.S.) Walter doesn’t just win his money back. At the Villa, the sobbing Frenchman hands a deed to Walter -PAT (O.S.) He wins the Frenchman’s villa. VICTOR (O.S.) And his casino.
BACK TO SCENE
VICTOR The holiest. Everybody loves this tale. LYLE He lost it all later though, didn’t he? VICTOR You really know how to tell a story man. You’re the master. DARRYL How’d he lose it? They all look at each other. Nobody knows. All that
PAT We just figure he had to. money, you could retire.
JOE So six months he gets this idea, so beautiful, how nobody ever thought of it before -VICTOR Split the betting from the counting. Let the money attract the attention while other people do the work -PAT All he needed was a front man. Somebody with money credentials. Conservative. Straight-laced.
LYLE Ken Uston. Graduate of Yale and Harvard Business School. Vice President of the San Francisco Stock Exchange. What? DARRYL
INT. SAN FRANCISCO STOCK EXCHANGE OFFICE - DAY
A straight-laced Ken Uston sits in a leather chair in a suit. Short hair parted firmly at the side. He sharpens a pencil. He pushes a button on a multi-button phone. Swivels his high back chair to look out on the skyline of 1970’s San Francisco.
BACK TO SCENE
They’re all laughing and talking over each other. PAT And then Ken goes native -LYLE -- Nobody gets away with betting the money like Ken -VICTOR -- He invents this act of his, turns into a gold mine -JOE I bet half what he does when I B.P.? They totally sweat it --
PAT But he does get a little carried away with himself. They laugh at the understatement. PAT So you gotta understand where Walter’s coming from. He wants to get what he can before team play is blown. Because once it’s blown, it’s blown forever. Nobody will ever do it again. They all nod and look at each other soberly. DARRYL So then I guess we better kick their asses while we can. Their smiles come back. They raise their beers and toast to Darryl’s words. Darryl watches them as they drink. DARRYL (V.O.) For the first time I was living among men. I would finally learn what it was to be a man, how a man was supposed to live and act and be. Joe decides to eat one of those peppers. If Victor can do it, so can he. The pain makes him wish he were dead. He gulps water. Darryl is concerned -- but everyone else just laughs.
So Darryl laughs too.
INT. HOTEL ROOM - DAY
As Pat tops off his beer, WE CUT TO:
A BONG and a BAG OF WHITE PILLS -- quaaludes -- lie on a coffee table by a half-finished game of Risk, the board game of world domination. KEN (O.S.) Wake up sleepyhead. Darryl, asleep on the couch, is shaken awake by Ken. His tongue is a dead furry animal. Disoriented, he tries to spit it out. KEN The guys dropped nine on the last shift. We’re going back out. PAT (O.S.) The smart thing would be to leave the losers home this time. JOE (O.S.) Oh hey Pat? Fuck you. Pat chuckles. Darryl sits up. I need
DARRYL I played all night myself. some breakfast at least.
Victor goes to the curtains. There’s sunlight at the crack where they meet. Darryl holds up a hand to shield his eyes --- as Victor slides the curtains open, revealing it’s not daytime; it’s nighttime. The light at the crack between the curtains wasn’t the sun, it was the bright lights of the Strip. KEN Try dinner. C’mon, get up. Swing shift’s in an hour. We heard the Barbary put in single deck. We want to take a quick look in there first. Darryl nods, but his head lolls back. In a beat he’s snoring.
The guys share looks, mischief in their eyes. ‘George’ is putting on makeup. Pat takes her lipstick. Joe her mascara. Victor her powder. They approach Darryl as Ken watches, amused.
EXT. BARBARY COAST - NIGHT
The team waits outside. Darryl comes out, having just scouted the place. HIS FACE IS PAINTED WITH MAKEUP. PAT So what’s it look like in there?
DARRYL I don’t know. I got the feeling they were watching me. They all nod, deadpan. Then break up, laughing.
DARRYL (V.O.) It wasn’t a family. It was better than a family.
EXT. FREMONT STREET - NIGHT
Downtown Vegas in December, decorated with Christmas lights. The team converges on the Golden Nugget. DARRYL (V.O.) It was a team. Fighting for a common cause, loyal to a fault. At the Horseshoe across the street, two pit bosses are ejecting a homeless guy. One is the beefy pit boss we met earlier. The team slows down and watches. BEEFY PIT BOSS I told you to stay out! The beefy pit boss tosses a bucket of ice water onto the homeless guy. Both pit bosses laugh and go back in. The teammates share looks -- and wordlessly switch gears, heading for the Horseshoe instead. Darryl follows them. DARRYL (V.O.) And I was a part of it. Passing the homeless man on their way in, Ken hands him a fifty. Darryl gives him his jacket.
INT. HORSESHOE - MORNING
Crowded. Christmas decorations. The beefy pit boss gladhands a happy couple arriving from the Midwest, all sweetness and light. Darryl wears a baseball cap and keeps his head down. DARRYL (V.O.) And while the tourists dozed in the American dream, assured of their good fortune... Darryl watches another couple, a twin of the first, on their way out -- wearing strained smiles. DARRYL (V.O.) ... often waking to the taste of sugarplums gone sour... Moving around the circular pit, each team member at a table...
DARRYL (V.O.) ... we were the knights of the oval tables, out slaying dragons. The other pit boss watches, unhappy, as Ken wins another hand. Ken notices Darryl watching him and winks. Darryl smiles. DARRYL (V.O.) We kicked their asses.
INT. LARGE HOTEL ROOM - NIGHT
TWO HANDS GRIP A “BRICK”: a bundle of shrinkwrapped money. label says: “Fifty Thousand Dollars” and “The Horseshoe.” VICTOR (O.S.) Twenty-one. Seven. Eleven. Hut, hut!
Victor fades back. They’re playing football with it in the large hotel room. Darryl goes long, Lyle covering. Walter is doing calculations on his pad. WALTER Guys, cut it out. That’s real money. It deserves some respect. KEN Oh, let them play. Joe is on the hotel room phone, talking to his wife. JOE Don’t wait up, I’m going out to celebrate with George. (listens, turns to ‘George’) Carla says hi. ‘George’ looks at him deadpan. JOE George says hi. Two raps, then one, at the door. Ken opens it. It’s Pat. looks at the thousands in cash and chips lying on the bed. PAT We broke the bank? KEN We broke the bank. Darryl watches as Ken and Pat shake hands firmly and grip each other’s shoulders. Victor fades back to pass to Lyle, throws -Darryl goes to block, tips it -- and it flies into the bathroom AND LANDS IN THE TOILET. Walter glares at all of them. WALTER What did I say?! Pat Joe goes back to the phone.
Off the players looking sheepish -CUT TO: Walter handing out two rounds of wet cash to everyone. WALTER Fifty percent share for players, fifty percent share to investors. Except Darryl, who he gives a small wad to. it -- and beams. Wow. Picture! LYLE Lyle snaps a Polaroid. Darryl looks at
Everyone poses with the cash.
EXT. MAGGIE AND STEPFATHER’S HOME - NIGHT
Maggie answers the ringing phone. MAGGIE Hello? ... Darryl! It’s Darryl!
Darryl’s sisters run over and huddle around her. The stepfather -- Dan -- stays on the couch watching TV. MAGGIE How are you honey?
INTERCUT WITH DARRYL IN HIS CRAPPY ONE-ROOM APARTMENT - NIGHT
DARRYL I’m good, mom. You get my postcards? They’re up on the fridge. She touches them.
MAGGIE They don’t say much. Is everything okay? Do you want to come home? DARRYL I’m fine, mom. Really. MAGGIE Well, what are you doing with yourself? DARRYL Well, I had a job selling pens... MAGGIE (to the girls) He was selling pens. DARRYL But now I’ve got a new job working with this team...
MAGGIE Like a baseball team?
DARRYL More like a team of investors. Oh! MAGGIE He’s working with investors. (girls like sound of that) Investing in what? DARRYL In playing cards. Blackjack. Against the casinos. The girls wait for the next tidbit, but Maggie moves off to whisper into the phone so they can’t hear. MAGGIE ... You’re working with gamblers? DARRYL The guys are great mom, I think you’d really like them, and this isn’t gambling, it’s card counting, which is something that gives us the advantage, so I’m using my math skills to make money. That’s good right? He stops, not sure what to say so she’ll feel okay about it. Maggie decides it’s time to put on her happy tone. MAGGIE I think that’s great. You do. DARRYL
MAGGIE You’ve met a group of friends. You’re using your math skills. It’s not gambling, it’s card... Counting. Counting. DARRYL MAGGIE And I think it’s great.
He thinks a beat about what she’s doing. DARRYL I am going to make something of myself in life. MAGGIE Well honey, of course you are. A knock at the door. Two raps, then a third. He goes to it.
MAGGIE When are you coming home, Darryl? The girls miss you. I miss you. You don’t know Dan very well, but I think if you both spent some time together you’d really like each other. WE SEE DAN. He’s grown a beer belly since last we saw him.
Pat, Victor, Lyle and Joe walk in. Pat frowns at Darryl’s crappy place as they unceremoniously start grabbing Darryl’s stuff and walking out the door with it. DARRYL I don’t know, mom. I gotta go. Darryl.
MAGGIE Okay. I love you, Darryl. (hard to let go) Good luck.
Darryl starts to say something back, but Pat yanks the phone cord from the wall and takes the phone with him on his way out -INT. TEAM HOUSE - KITCHEN - NIGHT
Darryl is moving in. Victor and Lyle watch, amused, as Pat points to a hand-made chart he’s got on the fridge. PAT House chores rotate every week. Dishes are washed when you use them. Rent is a hundred and sixtytwo dollars and fifty cents each. (looks at Lyle) Not a hundred and sixty. (Lyle nods in mock seriousness) And people, can we please turn off the lights when we’re not using them? Victor reaches over and turns off the light above Pat’s head plunging them into darkness.
INT. SANDS - CASINO RESTAURANT - NIGHT
Passing the casino restaurant, Darryl sees something and stops: Sand’s head of security, Will Vickman -- and his wife -- at a table WITH KEN AND A DATE, a redhead we’ve never seen before and never will again. The four talk and laugh like best friends. Darryl watches, amazed and amused. Now two Pit Bosses drop by.
KEN Frank -- how’s the golf swing?
PIT BOSS Not as good as yours. KEN That’s true. They all laugh as if this were actually funny. Ken spots Darryl watching. He smiles -- and scratches his head in greeting. Darryl scratches his head in return.
INT. SANDS - BAR - MOMENTS LATER
Still amused, Darryl walks up to the bar, where he spots a woman in a low-cut dress, hanging out with a friend -- and looking right at him. She smiles. Continues to look at him. PAT (O.S.) Go for it, man. Pat is stepping up to the bar. He keeps his distance and talks low, pretending not to know Darryl. Darryl looks at the woman in the dress and thinks about going for it. PAT Reward lies in the house of risk. Darryl can’t bring himself to move. Pat shakes his head.
PAT You may be the only virgin in Vegas. Darryl looks caught. Pat chuckles -- then goes over to the woman himself. At first she ignores him and looks at Darryl. Then Pat says something that makes her laugh, she looks at him -INT. TEAM HOUSE - NIGHT
A party. Men and women dancing to the disco beat. Joe with ‘George.’ Victor with a date. Ken with two women. Darryl is in a chair, watching them all. He shifts attention to the chair next to him, where the woman from the bar is sitting in Pat’s lap, their faces close, their conversation intimate. Pat plays with her necklace, which is her name in silver: SUSAN. Lyle is sitting on Darryl’s other side -- both are dateless. LYLE According to the Guiness Book of World Records, he broke 35 bones. (beat) He was in a coma for 30 days once. (sips a beer) He says it’s all about having a positive mental attitude.
DARRYL You know what? I don’t get it. LYLE You don’t get what? DARRYL What’s the point? Why do what he does? Why should anybody do that? LYLE What do you mean? (to Pat) What does he mean? But Pat is busy kissing the woman. Lyle turns back to Darryl. In
LYLE He risks his life. His life. death-defying stunts.
DARRYL Ghandi, Martin Luther King, they risked their lives, but for a reason. Why not worship somebody like that? Lyle just looks at him. Thirty. LYLE Five. Bones.
INT. LARGER HOTEL ROOM - NIGHT
The team is breaking a bigger bank, everyone happy -- BUT SUDDENLY THERE’S A POUNDING AT THE DOOR. Security! VOICE (O.S.) Open up!
Everybody freaks. They scramble like headless chickens, some grabbing money, others hiding behind the bed or in the closet. VOICE (O.S.) We know you’re in there! MORE POUNDING. Then Darryl steps out from behind the bathroom door, laughing. He’s pounding -- on that door. DARRYL (VOICE) Come out with your hands up! PAT You cocksucker. They all start cursing him, but the more they do, the funnier he finds it. He can’t stop laughing. In the end, they all crack smiles. Ken drapes an arm over Darryl’s shoulder.
KEN We all talked it over. Well, we didn’t, but I think everyone will agree that you should have a full player’s share in this bank. I don’t. PAT Less for me.
Everyone laughs, then aren’t sure if he’s kidding or not. The rest are in agreement. Walter hands Darryl a full share. Darryl looks at all of them, nearly moved to tears. This makes them uncomfortable. They look away, focus on other things. Picture! LYLE
They pose around the bed. It’s a bigger pile of money than last time. Darryl -- big smile -- holds up A LOT OF CASH. OFF THE CAMERA FLASH WE CUT TO:
SILENT MONTAGE - THE TEAM LIVING LARGE, PLAYING, BREAKING BANKS: INT. HONDA MOTORCYCLE DEALER - DAY
Everyone but Walter is here laying out cash to buy a motorcycle.
EXT. HONDA MOTORCYCLE DEALER - PARKING LOT - DAY
Ken circles the lot on a motorcycle, showing off as SALESMEN gives instructions to the others. Darryl jerks forward and starts slowly circling. Suddenly victor shoots forward -- out of control -- and slams into a car. HE FLIES OFF THE BIKE, UP OVER IT, DISAPPEARING ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE CAR, WE HEAR AN AWFUL THUD. Everyone freezes.
EXT. HIGHWAY - DAY
But he just stands and brushes himself off.
On their new motorcycles, they race each other on Route 66.
EXT. THE STRIP - NIGHT
The Sahara clock flashes between 3 a.m. and 100 degrees.
MOS SHOTS of the team at various tables. Pat tips a waitress a dollar. She starts off, but he says something -- and she reluctantly gives him 50 cents change. WE MOVE OVER Joe betting the big money at Walter’s table, ‘George’ on his arm. She shifts from one sexy pose to another, distracting the pit boss -- as Joe ogles a woman going by in a short skirt.
'George' hits him.
WE KEEP MOVING -- OVER TO:
Lyle talking animatedly to a woman. We don’t hear what he’s saying, but when he moves his hand like a bike taking off -we know. His hand “crashes.” It tumbles over and over. Never once looking at him, the woman gets up and walks away. AND WE MOVE TO: Ken, at Darryl’s table, winning three hands at once. A crowd applauds. Ken goes into a Mohammed Ali thing, floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee. Pit Bosses Jovial and Pompadour share a look. Uston sure wins a lot. Will Vickman walks by. Will pats Ken on the back and Ken says something that makes him laugh.
INT. HOTEL ROOM - DAY
They gather around the bed, breaking their biggest bank yet. Lyle takes a picture. OFF THE FLASH --
INSERT A PHOTO OF THEM BREAKING A DIFFERENT, EVEN LARGER BANK.
INT. TEAM HOUSE - NIGHT
A SHEET COVERS A REFRIGERATOR-SIZED OBJECT. to reveal an ARCADE SPACE INVADERS GAME.
It’s pulled off
A WIDER SHOT reveals it’s Pat birthday party and this is Darryl’s gift. Pat is so moved he almost hugs him. They do an awkward dance of “should we hug or shake” and end up shaking firmly, as men do. CUT TO: Still at the party, we come in on the finals of a CARD COUNTING CONTEST. Darryl vs. Ken. Surrounded by excited partiers, Pat has a stop watch -- Darryl and Ken ready to fan through their decks as fast as they can. Pat clicks it. And they’re off. Low! It’s over in eight seconds. DARRYL
Darryl finishes first by a hair to turn over the removed card. He’s right. It’s a 2. A cheer goes up. Joe raises Darryl’s arm. ‘George’ pours a beer over his head. Ken smiles and nods, the very image of the proud mentor. Darryl basks in Ken’s esteem. always wanted to experience. It’s the kind of moment he’s
END THE MONTAGE AS WE COME IN ON:
INT. GINGERMILL BREAKFAST JOINT - DAY
The team at breakfast, Walter reviewing his notepad. WALTER You’re overplayed at the Sands. KEN They love me at the Sands. Any day they’re gonna put me in Sammy Davis’s suite for a night. LYLE That would be so cool. WALTER You can’t win there forever. Same with Joe. At some point they’ll get suspicious. We don’t want to risk security deciding to keep an eye you. We should lay off for a while. DARRYL Or throw someone new at them. Somebody, say, like me. Conversation stops. Darryl glances at Ken for his reaction. Ken grins and nods, thinking about it. Darryl smiles. WALTER They’d never buy you as a B.P. You’re too young. And if I were going to let somebody try, there’s plenty of people ahead of you. (looks at Pat) PAT I prefer the shadows to the limelight. Victor nods, agreeing. Walter glances at Lyle -- who smiles. He’d do it. Walter frowns, discarding that idea immediately. Darryl smiles wider. He knew all this. KEN It’s not about age. It’s about attitude. About confidence. You said you wanted to be good? (off Darryl’s nod) I think you could be great.
INT. MEN’S STORE - DAY
Ken has Darryl trying on jackets, rejecting one after another. KEN Jingles writer by day, by night you’re in an underground rock band. (MORE)
KEN (cont'd) Your fans aren’t many -- yet -- but they’re loyal. This Jekyll and Hyde existence makes you dark. Ironic. DARRYL Can I be a singer-songwriter instead? KEN Okay, but an artist. Let the hair grow. Take fewer showers. They don’t care if you smell as long as they don’t think you’re smart. Every word, every gesture has to express this character. They want to get into your head, but you get into theirs first. QUICK CUTAWAYS OF KEN AS A B.P. AS HE CONTINUES TO TALK: At a table, Ken abruptly shoves out a bet -KEN (O.S.) They love it when they think they see a steamer chasing his losses. Losing a hand, Ken turns beet red. He bets up --
KEN (O.S.) But it’s not about the money. You don’t care about the money as much sa about losing or winning. So mostly you’re distracted, even careless. Ken is asleep at a table, snoring. Nobody knows what to do. He really seems asleep. He really is asleep. KEN (O.S.) If they suspect you of something, they’ll try to fuck with your head. Put the pressure on. It’s early in Ken’s career. He’s in a suit. A pit boss stares daggers at him as another takes the discards and fans through them, counting them down the way we saw Pat do it. KEN (O.S.) They’re just trying to see how you react. They think they can read you. But they can’t if you don’t let them. Instead of being intimidated, Ken makes a point of leaning over to try to get a look at the discards the Pit Boss is scanning. That gets a chuckle from the other pit boss. KEN (O.S.) You’re a high roller, the lifeblood of the casinos, so ask for comps and act like you deserve them. A female pit boss hands Ken show tickets. Ken nods his thanks.
KEN (O.S.) And when you’re comfortable with it, cultivate relationships with the pit bosses. Show them some consideration, a gift certificate, a box of cigars. Something. Ken is having sex with the female pit boss in his hotel room -BACK TO SCENE
Darryl has on a new jacket.
KEN It’s the details that really matter. I want you to have this. He pulls out an antique gold watch. It’s beautiful.
KEN My grandfather’s watch. My grandmother gave it to him on their 25th wedding anniversary. Ken. DARRYL I, I don’t know what to say.
KEN What? No. No, I picked this up at a flea market. No, that’s what you say, you say “this my grandfather’s watch. My grandmother gave to him.” Maybe he was a musician too. That kind of detail. Right. DARRYL Okay.
INT. TEAM HOUSE - DAY
Walter grimly observes as Pat uses flash cards to drill Darryl on decision rules for the count. Pat holds up: “Ace-6 v. 4”. DARRYL Double at minus six. (Pat shows another) Stand at plus one. Right again. Ken smiles at Walter, who still seems skeptical.
DARRYL Except I don’t think that’s right. Everyone looks at him. WALTER What do you mean?
DARRYL It feels weird, I don’t know why. I just don’t think there can a number where you’d stand on soft eighteen with downtown rules. WALTER You feel that, do you? And what makes you think your hunch has a leg up on Julian Braun and an IBM 609? Braun ran these numbers himself. Ken’s eyes urge Darryl to shut up. Walter’s verdict. He does. Everyone awaits
WALTER Just use the numbers. All of them. (to Ken) Same as Joe: his top bet is twentyfive percent of yours. Five hundred a hand. We need to stay under the radar as long as we can.
INT. WALTER’S CADDY - MOVING - NIGHT
The team packed in, Pat flashing Darryl the study cards. Ken gives him advice as he takes pulls from a whiskey bottle. DARRYL Minus two... Plus five... Plus six... KEN Don’t give your real name. Don’t give any two casinos the same name. You’re like a super hero with a secret identity. In fact, never use your real name at all in this town, ever. Would Superman take out his Superman American Express card to pay for his groceries? No. Why? Because Lex Luthor could be in line behind him.
EXT. SANDS CASINO - NIGHT
Darryl paces nervously outside, his guitar strapped to his back. PAT You know, betting the big money is the least of your worries -Darryl shoots him a look that shuts Pat up.
INT. SANDS CASINO
Then goes inside.
Victor’s already got a hand to a cheek. Darryl hurries, then shifts to “nonchalant.” Pompadour spots the change-up. He watches Darryl put down some money and the dealer count it.
DEALER Changing a thousand! Pompadour gives Darryl a long look designed to make him nervous. POMPADOUR What’s your name? DARRYL Jack Baker. POMPADOUR Can I see some identification? Darryl looks at him, surprised. Quick cutaways to Victor, Lyle, Joe and Walter at nearby tables -- all of them surprised. DARRYL You want identification? Pompadour looks Darryl straight in the eye, waiting. Darryl takes a wad of ten grand from one pocket -- and a wad of ten grand from another pocket. He slams them on the felt. DARRYL Here’s your goddamn identification. Pompadour looks at the money. Then at Darryl.
DARRYL Can’t a guy get a goddamn game in this town without a hassle? Victor stares at Darryl, mouth open. Darryl looks right at him.
DARRYL You got a problem mister? Maybe you’d like to take it up with me? POMPADOUR Easy, take it easy, there’s no need to get all... (recognition dawns) Hey -- jingles, right? Hey Phil! It’s Mr. Jingles! The Jovial Pit Boss waves. Pompadour gladhands Darryl.
POMPADOUR Alright. Okay. Good to see you. Pull up a chair and relax, okay? (laughs, pats his back) It’s always good to see you. Susie, get this man a cocktail. Darryl sits. He puts out a bet, hand shaking ever so slightly.
A SERIES OF CUTS AS DARRYL PLAYS: The dealer pays him off on two hands of five hundred. Lyle stacks chips. The count is up. Darryl bets three hands. Another payoff. His pile is growing.
Now he has four hands of five hundred out. His cards are tucked as the dealer turns over her hole card, for 16. Darryl smiles. But she pulls a five -- for 21 -- and scoops up all his chips. Another cut: a new table. Darryl’s pile is almost gone. Walter is sitting at this table with him, chips stacked, the count high. Darryl bets all he’s got left. The dealer gets a blackjack. Darryl pulls out more cash. CUT TO: Hours later. Darryl is tired -- but his pile is huge again. He looks at Pompadour and Jovial. They’re watching him and whispering. It makes him nervous. CLOSE ON POMPADOUR AND JOVIAL JOVIAL You should have gone into jingles. POMPADOUR I could have, that’s what I’m saying. MORE CUTS: Victor stacks chips, the count up. Victor stacks more chips. Darryl bets up. He wins. Wins.
Darryl bets multiple hands.
Victor stacks even more. Darryl scratches his head. Victor shrugs. Darryl spreads to every open circle on the table, betting five hundred a hand. Victor pulls his own bet off. VICTOR Mister, if you’re crazy enough to bet every hand, be my guest. But the guy in the seventh spot stubbornly refuses to yield -betting his lone $25 chip. The dealer deals --- and busts. He pays off. AND STILL VICTOR STACKS MORE CHIPS. Darryl pauses. Thinks. A crowd has gathered. Darryl stacks the payoffs to let them ride. That’s a thousand a hand. Then he puts out a thousand more on each of the six spots on the table. He’s betting two thousand a hand. DEALER Checks play two thousand, table max!
Darryl’s teammates watch in shock. Walter looks grim. looks at the guy in the corner, wanting that spot too. stubbornly bets his $25. The dealer deals --
Darryl The guy
CUT TO: The same hand, a minute later. The dealer has a five face up. We move across the felt to find the table filled with double downs and split hands, each with another two thousand attached to it. Darryl is on the last: a pair of eights. He splits them, putting out another two thousand. He gets a ten on one and a three on the other. He puts out another two thousand. DARRYL And double down on this one. The dealer trembles as she carefully deals the card face down. A wide angle on the table shows it covered in black chips. This moment reminds us of the opening of the film -- but it’s not the opening of the film. The dealer is a man, not a woman. And the stubborn guy on third has a bet on that circle. The guy on third is nervous and regrets his choice. He gestures to Darryl that he’d like to stand. Darryl nods The crowd whispers. It’s the play of the century. Pat, in with them, turns to a spectator -- but for Darryl’s benefit: PAT Six splits, five doubles. That’s thirty-four grand out there. On one play. If it were my money, I’d be shitting bricks. Darryl chuckles. But he’s sweating. The dealer turns over her hole card. A six. Oh no. She’s got eleven. The crowd gasps. She pulls a... two. Thirteen. Then an ace -Then a king. She busts. The crowd cheers!
AND IN THE CROWD THE MAN WITH SALT AND PEPPER HAIR WATCHES.
INT. SANDS GRAND SUITE - NIGHT
Everything is bright white, from the marble floors to the grand piano, to the roses in the ivory vase. Champagne bottles line the counter at the bar. Pompadour escorts Darryl in, having taken a paternal interest in the young high roller. POMPADOUR This is Sammy Davis Jr.’s suite when he’s in town. Generally we don’t let other people stay here. That was your first time betting THE big money, wasn’t it? (off Darryl’s look, laughs) Well, you did good kid. You need anything, anything at all, call me. (MORE)
POMPADOUR (cont'd) (hands him a card, pats his back, heads for door) Check out the tub. It’s something.
INT. BATHROOM - NIGHT
Darryl does laps in the tub.
The tub phone rings.
WALTER (OVER PHONE) We’re coming up. Click.
INT. GRAND SUITE - MINUTES LATER
Victor glances back into the hall to make sure they weren’t seen as he closes the door. Darryl is in a plush white robe. Walter advances on him, furious. his ground emotionally. Darryl backs up -- but holds
WALTER Your top bet was five hundred! DARRYL The count was thirty-two with a deck and a quarter left, Walter. Everyone looks at Victor, astounded. Victor nods, confirming.
DARRYL That’s an advantage of 12.4 percent with a variance of just 9.4. (stops backing up, forcing Walter to stop) With our bankroll, I should have been betting six thousand a hand. WALTER And the five hundred I saw you put out at the top of a shoe? What was the advantage on that?! DARRYL Negative point four percent. WALTER Negative point four percent!
DARRYL Will Vickman was watching. It was a cover bet. That move cost exactly two dollars over the long run. We tip waitresses more than that. They were the right plays. Both of them. Walter looks at him. There’s a long beat. Broken by the sound of a champagne cork popping. It’s Ken, opening a bottle. KEN You ever have a running count of thirty-two, Walter?
WALTER Along time ago.
Without another word he goes to the table where the money is and starts counting it. The others pat Darryl on the back. Ken drapes an arm over Darryl’s shoulder. KEN Sammy’s suite. You bastard.
INT. SAMMY’S SUITE - MORNING
Darryl is alone, packing to go, the place a mess of empty food tables and wine bottles. The champagne bottles are gone. A disembodied conversation begins here and carries over the next few scenes. From the sounds accompanying it (eating and drinking noises) the conversation is probably from the party the night before, though it could be from any celebration. DARRYL (V.O., PARTY CONVERSATION) What would you do if you had a million dollars? JOE (V.O., PARTY CONVERSATION) You mean when we each get to a million dollars -- what will we do? Now we see the champagne bottles. They’re in a suitcase, wrapped in towels. More items are dropped in with them. Soaps. Shampoos. The shower cap. The plush white robe. PAT (V.O., PARTY CONVERSATION) First of all, a million isn’t enough to live the rest of your life on... THE PHONE GOES IN.
Darryl shuts the bag.
TROPICANA’S PREMIERE RESTAURANT - NIGHT
Darryl approaches the Maitre d’, passing in front of the waiting crowds. The disembodied party conversation continues. PAT (V.O., PARTY CONVERSATION) ... You'd have to invest it or you’d spend it down to nothing eventually. DARRYL (to Maitre D’) Johnny Mitchell. MAITRE D’ Of course Mr. Mitchell, right this way. JOE (V.O., PARTY CONVERSATION) You’re not getting into the spirit of the question.
MAITRE D’ You’re dining alone this evening sir? Very good. JOE (V.O., PARTY CONVERSATION) What money buys you is freedom. The Freedom to do whatever you want. CUT TO: Darryl at a table alone, but filled to the edges with delicious foods: Roast duck, shrimp cocktail, lobster, caviar -LYLE (V.O., PARTY CONVERSATION) I'd go into professional sports.
INT. TEAM HOUSE - MORNING
Darryl opens the fridge in the team house, Lyle looking over his shoulder. LYLE (V.O., PARTY CONVERSATION) Not pitching, something else. Or else become a famous actor. The only thing inside is a box of oatmeal and a rotting onion. PAT (V.O., PARTY CONVERSATION) That’s absurd. You can’t buy fame or an acting career. LYLE (V.O., PARTY CONVERSATION) Pia Zadora did it. VICTOR (V.O., PARTY CONVERSATION) You want to be the next Pia Zadora? LYLE (V.O., PARTY CONVERSATION) I could be. Why not? Lyle takes the oatmeal box and shakes it. It’s empty.
JOE (V.O., PARTY CONVERSATION) You’re a moron, you know that? DARRYL (V.O., PARTY CONVERSATION) Leave him alone. We’re dreaming here.
INT. STARDUST - NIGHT
Sitting at a blackjack table pretending not to know each other, Victor watches a host greet Darryl. HOST Mr. Garfunkle, how are you? DARRYL Simon, please.
DARRYL (V.O., PARTY CONVERSATION) Victor, what about you? HOST Nancy taking good care of you, Simon? DARRYL Absolutely. VICTOR (V.O., PARTY CONVERSATION) I don’t know. Doesn’t matter to me.
INT. HILTON - DAY
The same woman pit boss Ken had sex with hands Darryl two tickets to a show. Darryl bows graciously. JOE (V.O., PARTY CONVERSATION) If you don’t want anything, why are you even doing what we’re doing? WOMAN PIT BOSS Here’s two tickets to the show, Mr. Lennon. I thought you might like to take someone with you. She smiles flirtatiously. Darryl looks at her.
VICTOR (V.O., PARTY CONVERSATION) I don’t know. Why not?
INT. HILTON SHOWROOM - NIGHT
Elvis is on stage. The Obese, On-Drugs Elvis. Mumbling ‘Love me Tender.’ Darryl watches, an empty seat next to him. JOE (V.O., PARTY CONVERSATION) You make no sense to me at all. VICTOR (V.O., PARTY CONVERSATION) Okay, so what about you?
INT. DRY CLEANERS - DAY
Joe and Darryl are together at the dry cleaners. The guy behind the counter is giving Darryl a weird look. DARRYL Steven Nicks? The man looks for the name on the receipts board, then looks at Darryl and shakes his head. No. Darryl thinks. JOE (V.O., PARTY CONVERSATION) Me? What do I want? Just your basic American dream.
DARRYL Jack Browne? The guy looks for the name, then at Darryl. Shakes his head.
JOE (V.O., PARTY CONVERSATION) A house for my wife and a condo for my mistress. IN THE V.O. party conversation, everyone laughs. Here at the dry cleaners, Darryl tries to think. idea-- wait a sec. DARRYL Darryl Purpose? The guy looks for the receipt.
INT. SANDS - NIGHT
He has no
Here it is.
He yanks it out.
Darryl is stopped and gladhanded by a pit boss. Pat passes. Not looking at each other, they scratch their heads in greeting. PAT (V.O., PARTY CONVERSATION) What you guys don’t get is that the American dream requires scrimping, some saving and some smart investing.
INT./EXT. BUS - DAY
Pat and Darryl get off a bus. PAT (V.O., PARTY CONVERSATION) I’ll take half my million and invest in micro computers. The micro computer thing is set to explode. JOE (V.O., PARTY CONVERSATION) Who the fuck needs their own computer? Everyone in the V.O. voices their agreement with that. Here on the street, Pat points to Darryl’s back as they both realize something. The bus pulls out. They chase after it. PAT (V.O., PARTY CONVERSATION) (talking over them) Then, when it’s two million, I buy my dream house on a beach in Hawaii.
Bus riders have opened up a knapsack and discovered thousands in cash inside. Darryl and Pat get back on and start arguing and cajoling and collecting it all back.
PAT (V.O., PARTY CONVERSATION) The kind of house that would attract beautiful women. DARRYL (V.O., PARTY CONVERSATION) Who you can stay up all night doing the chores with. In the V.O., everyone laughs.
INT. WALTER’S CADILLAC - STOPPED AT A LIGHT - DAY
Darryl is in the back seat, sandwiched in with the team. PAT (V.O., PARTY CONVERSATION) Okay dickhead, what about you? LYLE (V.O., PARTY CONVERSATION) Yeah, Darryl, what do you want? The ambient sounds of the disembodied conversation fades out as Darryl looks out the car window and sees: A BEAUTIFUL YOUNG WOMAN stopped at the light in a car right next to him. They’re no more than five feet away. She notices him and smiles. She seems sweet and accessible. Darryl smiles back. The light changes. Walter takes the turn as she goes straight, a playful look of disappointment on her face. Darryl watches her go, a “Save the Whales” sticker on her bumper.
INT. SANDS - HOTEL AREA - NIGHT
Darryl walks in. A beat and A MAN walks in behind him. Following him. Darryl sees Pat and scratches his head hello -PAT GRABS HIM AND PULLS HIM DOWN A HALL. What--? DARRYL The guy gives chase.
PAT Ken’s here playing. DARRYL I thought Ken was laying low! (Pat just looks at him) Shit. PAT He’s been coming with Victor and Lyle. The whole place is on fire. There’s heat everywhere. There’s an exit. They make for it. Two security guards move to block their way. Fuck. Darryl pulls Pat a different way.
MAIN CASINO AREA
Ken is surrounded by a crowd. He’s winning. A lot. A jazz trio plays at the nearby cocktail bar. Ken snaps his fingers and taps his feet. He’s in his element. Happy. And oblivious. You can feel the heat. Salt and Pepper stands next to Will Vickman, both watching Ken. Every pit boss looks grim. Lyle is signalling “end of play.” Ken doesn’t notice or doesn’t want to. A phone rings. The Jovial pit boss answers, none too jovial.
JOVIAL (anger barely contained) It’s for you. Your table’s ready. KEN I’m on a streak. Tell them to bring me a bottle of Cordon Bleu in the meantime. A beat and the pit boss talks into the phone. Victor puts a hand to his cheek and Ken moves over there. Salt and Pepper looks at Vickman, who nods. He saw it. Lyle signals “heat” and “end of play.” Vickman looks right at him. KEN C’mon, gimme a blackjack! His prayer is answered -- and the crowd cheers. As the dealer pays off a laughing Ken, the heat rises twenty degrees. PAT AND DARRYL are corralled into the main casino area by security. Their way through is blocked, too. Deciding what the hell, they go to the bar. Security looks to Vickman for instructions. Vickman holds up his hand to them -- wait. PAT Scotch, neat. Same for my friend. DARRYL (watching Ken play) He knows it’s over. He just refuses to go quietly. He wants to go out with style. Yeah. PAT Or he’s drunk.
Darryl nods. A headwaiter in formal attire hurries to Ken with a bucket and a towel over his arm. He uncorks the wine. Ken sniffs the cork, approves it and the waiter pours. Ken looks at Vickman as if noticing him for the first time. He raises his glass to him and sips. Vickman’s had enough. He nods to the pit boss, who taps the dealer, who refuses to deal.
KEN What’s up, Mike? You guys run out of money? Can’t cover my bet? The crowd watches, confused. The Young Pit Boss stares at Ken, hatred in his eyes. Joe gets up and heads out. Lyle too, in a different direction. Both find their way blocked by security. Victor sips his soda, unconcerned. KEN It’s okay. I need a break anyway. (takes wine to bandstand) Mind if I sit in boys? They don’t. Ken’s fans are charmed as he sits at the piano.
KEN This one’s for you, Will. Vickman just watches him. Ken plays, the band accompanying. Around the pit, all play stops as people watch Ken. All eyes on him, security moves in on the others, who are strong-armed across the casino floor to a back door. Darryl is manhandled through it.
INT. CASINO OFFICES
Behind the curtain is a stark contrast to the casino. They’re pulled along chipped linoleum floors, past file cabinets and trash cans that look like they haven’t been cleaned in years. Darryl’s security guard is twisting his arm. DARRYL Not mean enough to get a job as a Vegas cop, huh? He twists it more.
INT. SANDS CASINO MAIN FLOOR
Ken finishes playing. Impressed, players, dealers -- even a few pit bosses -- applaud. Ken stands and takes a bow.
INT. BACK ROOM - NIGHT
Darryl and the others sit in chairs across from a smug Salt and Pepper. Darryl looks to the corner -- AT POMPADOUR -whose paternal inklings have been replaced by a dark look. They hear Ken being dragged through the hallway. KEN (O.S.) Phil, man, how’s it going? Julie, hey, how’s things? We should get together. This last is to the pit boss who Ken slept with, passing the open door as Vickman pulls Ken into the room -- in handcuffs.
VICKMAN Now tell me you don’t know them. KEN I’ve never seen them before. come on, you know me. We’re friends. Will,
Salt and Pepper tosses photos onto the desk one by one. They start with the least damning: them playing at the same tables. They get worse: Pat handing money to Darryl in a parking lot. All of them having dinner at Big Buddha restaurant. LYLE (points to himself in photo) That doesn’t even look like me. More photos come down. Having breakfast at the diner. Leaving the team house. Vickman shoves a photo in Ken’s face. KEN Touché Will. But I think you know there’s fault on both sides here. I may have been less than honest but only because of the absurd policy of barring expert players like myself. No hard feelings? Ken reaches around with a handcuffed hand to try to shake, but Vickman gives him an ugly glare and walks out. CUT TO: Ken against a wall as a security guard takes two Polaroids. He hands one to Pompadour, the other to Salt and Pepper. QUICK CUTS of each teammates having a Polaroid taken, then CUT TO: A security guard uncuffing Ken. The team gathers to go.
KEN You can be sure I’ll be contacting my lawyer about this treatment. JOVIAL Yeah? I’m sure you two will have plenty to talk about... He opens the door. Cops come in. They handcuff everyone again.
COP Gentlemen, you’re under arrest for cheat at play.
JOVIAL ... but since it’s Friday night, it might be hard to reach him ‘til Monday. Pompadour whispers to one of the cops while looking at Darryl.
INT. PRECINCT JAIL - MONDAY MORNING
Worse for wear after a weekend in jail, Darryl retrieves his belongings at a counter, including the gold watch Ken gave him. As he heads for the exit, the cop from Friday night steps up. COP Oh, yeah, message from a friend. (thinks) I forget what he said. But there was also this. He punches Darryl.
EXT. PRECINCT JAIL
Another cop catches him as he falls back.
The team is waiting outside as the two cops shove Darryl out. Darryl falls down the steps, landing hard on one shoulder. The team rushes over to him. Ken starts up the stairs. Pigs! KEN You goddamn pigs! They laugh.
The cops feint toward Ken -- who runs away.
INT. EMERGENCY ROOM - DAY
Darryl sits on a bed, shirt off, big bruise on his shoulder. DOCTOR Hairline fracture. immobilize it. We’ll need to
He walks off to get the materials -- REVEALING A BEAUTIFUL YOUNG WOMAN ON THE BED BEHIND HIM, HAVING HER VITALS CHECKED. It’s the woman Darryl saw in the car. They recognize each other immediately and smile -- as Lyle, Joe, Pat and Victor walk in. PAT How’re you feeling? Darryl shrugs -- which hurts his shoulder. PAT That sucks. VICTOR The good news is the charges won’t stick. The bad news is bad. Salt and Pepper isn’t Sands security. He belongs to something called the Griffin Detective agency.
JOE They’re using us to sign up clients all over town, giving them copies of our photos and a thick report on team play, and all of us. VICTOR Everywhere we try to walk in, we’re barred immediately. PAT It’s over. Team play has been blown. And we’re shy of our million bucks. They all look at each other, bummed. CUT TO: Arm in a sling, Darryl heads out with his teammates. But he stop by the woman. Pat smiles as he and the others wait. You okay? DARRYL
WOMAN Just routine. You? DARRYL Got thrown down some stairs by a cop. WOMAN My cousin’s a cop here. Oh no. Did he just put his foot in it? WOMAN He’s a real asshole. They laugh. Maybe it was him. They both feel it.
There’s a spark here. WOMAN DARRYL
INT. HELEN’S APARTMENT - NIGHT
Political posters and books fill the walls. Nuclear Freeze movement. Equal Rights Amendment. Greenpeace. A.S.P.C.A. Darryl and Helen make out on the couch, working around his arm. They’ve moved past foreplay toward pulling each other’s clothes off. Darryl notices a medical alert tag around her neck. DARRYL What’s this?
HELEN (having trouble with bra) Nothing, forget it. Help me. DARRYL It says to dial 911 in an emergency. She yanks off the medical alert tag and throws it across the room. He tries to help with the bra with his one hand. DARRYL What kind of emergency? your visit was routine. HELEN Routine for me. As it comes off, he’s amazed at the revelation of her beauty. She loves the look on his face. HELEN The odds are really small, okay? She kisses him, he kisses her back. DARRYL Odds of what? She pushes him down, climbs on him, takes his hand and puts it on her breast. All thought of his question disappears. HELEN That I’ll die while having sex. That gives Darryl pause. He looks at her a beat. Then registers her words. I thought
DARRYL (V.O.) Helen was so beautiful, so alive. She’d been born with an ‘atrial septal defect,’ basically a hole in her heart, the last living person not to have it corrected at birth. Every time she ran up a flight of stairs or went for a swim or chose to make love to a man, she risked her life. (beat) What a turn-on. They lock lips, continue pulling each other’s pants off. CUT TO: They’ve ended up on the floor between coffee table and couch. Seventeen. HELEN Give or take.
DARRYL I don’t think I can count myself as ever actually having had sex. Per se. HELEN Oh my God. (laughs -- then stops, awesome responsibility) I deflowered you. I never would have known. Never. I’d have said... third time. They laugh, but he’s embarrassed. Hey. HELEN Inexperience has its remedy.
She kisses him sweetly -- and they move to make love again.
MONTAGE OF DARRYL AND HELEN HAVING SEX IN VARIOUS PLACES
IN THE DESERT, putting suntan lotion on each other -DARRYL (V.O.) We made love everywhere, three times a day for two weeks. Helen lived every moment as if it were her last and it was intoxicating. IN THE DEEP END OF A HOTEL POOL, people around them oblivious -DARRYL (V.O.) The doctors had said she wouldn’t make it out of childhood. ON A BUILDING’S ROOF. CRANE DOWN. It’s the police station --
DARRYL (V.O.) Then that she’d never make it to her twenties. IN HER BED, while eating birthday cake. Helium balloons cover the ceiling. He pops a cork on champagne from Sammy’s suite. DARRYL (V.O.) And the week after we met, we celebrated her 20th with a big fuck you to that kind of negative thinking.
EXT. VEGAS STREET - DAY
Darryl walks with Helen, holding her hand.
DARRYL The guys are gonna love you. He stops. Goes back. He’s looking at a bookstore window, the display filled with ONE BOOK: “THE BIG PLAYER,” subtitle: “HOW A TEAM OF BLACKJACK PLAYERS MADE A MILLION DOLLARS.” BY KEN USTON
EXT. TEAM HOUSE - DAY
Victor is walking out with a small suitcase as Darryl runs up. Victor? DARRYL
VICTOR Team split up, so I’ll catch you later. He walks off, completely unaffected.
INT. TEAM HOUSE
Darryl watches him go.
A bare space, unwanted detritus all that’s left. Everyone is gone. Darryl can’t believe it. Then Pat comes out of a room with a bag, giving the place a final once over. PAT Where the hell have you been? DARRYL I was... where is everybody? PAT Victor’s going back to his underwater welding job, Lyle’s on the road looking for Evel, Joe’s on an extended vacation with his wife - and George. How, I don’t know. I see you’ve got a copy of the great man’s work. Have you read it? (takes book from Darryl) Here, this is typical: ‘Other players loved his grand showmanship, which was quickly building his reputation as the most daring and successful blackjack player ever to hit Las Vegas.’ Walter. DARRYL
QUICK CUT-AWAY TO THE SAME LOCATION, A FEW DAYS EARLIER:
Walter holds the book, in shock, as Ken arrives -- drunk.
PAT (O.S.) He’d just seen it when Ken shows up. Walter holds the book out at Ken accusatorially. Ken takes it, then AUTOGRAPHS IT and hands it back. Walter lunges at him. The team has to restrain him. PAT (O.S.) We had to talk him out of killing Ken. I’m still not sure that was the right thing to do.
BACK TO SCENE
PAT He must have had it ready to go to press, just waiting for the bust. Or maybe he got tired of waiting and got us busted on purpose. Pat hands the book back, zips up his bag. DARRYL So that’s it? It’s over? them run us out of town? We just let
PAT Death, taxes and casino profits. (heads for the door) Our faces are all over Nevada and Nevada’s the only show in town. Well. DARRYL Good-bye. I guess.
PAT I guess. (opens door to go, stops, turns back) Then again, America’s not the only town in town. DARRYL Where are you thinking? PAT Korea. Flight 602 out of L.A. on Friday. You wanna come? Sure. DARRYL
PAT Good. Then you might as well use the ticket I left for you on your bed. He grins at Darryl -- and walks out.
INT. KEN USTON’S APARTMENT - DAY
Darryl walks in on a hubbub of activity. Ken’s PUBLICIST is on the phone. His AGENT is on the couch. PUBLICIST (INTO PHONE) ... he’ll only be in L.A. a few days. You can interview him or not, nobody’s twisting your arm... A PERSONAL ASSISTANT hovers. A TAILOR fits Ken for a jacket. Darryl watches Ken with a mix of feelings. KEN’S AGENT That’s good, very Hollywood. You want to try to blend in. (laughs) Look who I’m talking to. The master. Ken spots Darryl and is genuinely happy to see him. KEN Darryl! Can you believe it? The best seller list! Hollywood chomping at the bit to make a movie of my life? People love me! Is this crazy or what? Crazy. DARRYL He’s sober. Thoughtful.
Ken laughs, then pulls Darryl aside.
KEN I know how you feel. Nobody cared about the team more than you. But team play was blown, Darryl. We knew it was going to happen sometime. Everything I put in my book the casinos already had. Darryl nods. That’s true. He wants to forgive Ken.
KEN C’mon, is it really so wrong for me to write about the experience from my point of view? DARRYL I guess not. KEN You may not realize it now, but this is a good thing for you. It’s time for you to broaden your experiences, do something new.
DARRYL Pat suggested an international play. KEN Yes! See the world! There’s a lot more to this life than Vegas! Ken is making sense. It makes Darryl feel like sharing.
DARRYL I met a girl. KEN Yeah? The way you say that, it sounds like she’s special. (Darryl nods shyly) Look at you! That’s great. (pours them both drinks) Be careful, though. Guys like us aren’t meant to be tied down. When she starts making you fold napkins cornerwise or wash the cat, it’s time to hit the road. Cats don’t need to be washed. They wash themselves. Ken shakes his head. Women. Darryl laughs and nods: no need to worry about me. Ken grips his shoulder affectionately. KEN I want you to do something for me. I’m worried about Walter. Can you talk to him, make sure he’s okay? He won’t talk to me. Tell him... he can have half the money from the book. Shit, half from the movie, I don’t care, it’s not about the money. And tell him I’m suing the fuckers. The Sands. See that guy? My lawyer. A guy with comb-over hair picks at a catering spread. KEN They can’t kick us out because we win. It’s goddamn un-American and I’m not letting them get away with it. (sips his drink) You tell him that.
EXT. RUN-DOWN VEGAS HOUSE - DAY
Darryl knocks at a run-down Vegas house. knock. He peeks in a window. There’s a light deep inside.
He tries the team
INT. BACK OF RUN-DOWN VEGAS HOUSE - SUN ROOM - DAY
Darryl comes in through a sun room where the windows have been blackened. Piles of dusty chips are stacked on a rusty desk.
INT. LIVING ROOM
The house is dark, dank, neglected. Walter sits in a ratty armchair with a glass of something amber, bottle on the table. Neat piles of cash and chips collect dust on various surfaces. Walter? DARRYL
WALTER (looks up, focuses on him) You were right. Darryl doesn’t know what he means. WALTER There is no number you’d ever stand on soft eighteen with downtown rules. Braun published a corrected set of numbers. I have the paper somewhere... DARRYL That’s okay. I can see it later. WALTER You want to sit? Have a drink? DARRYL (surprised by the invitation) Sure. WALTER I think there’s ice in the fridge.
INT. WALTER’S KITCHEN - DAY
Darryl opens the freezer. There’s ice -- but mostly it’s filled with casino chips. Darryl picks one up, “$1,000” printed on it. He opens the fridge. It’s filled with cash. He opens a kitchen cabinet. Then another and another. them are filled with $50,000 bricks and casino chips. All of
CUT TO: On his way back, ice in his glass, Darryl passes a closet. He stops. Opens it. IT’S FILLED TO THE TOP WITH MILLIONS OF DOLLARS FROM YEARS OF PLAYING, layers of dust over most of it.
INT. LIVING ROOM - DAY
Walter is in his chair. Darryl sits across from him. their drink. Darryl doesn’t say anything.
Neither does Walter. FADE OUT. FADE IN:
EXT. NEW CAR - DAY
Darryl and Helen get out of his new BMW. In an expensive suit and shoes and a new haircut, Darryl looks sharp. More mature. DARRYL How do I look? She unbuttons a button on his shirt.
MAGGIE AND NEW STEPFATHER’S HOME - DAY
MAGGIE OPENS THE DOOR on Darryl and Helen. Mom. DARRYL This is Hel--
Maggie pulls him in for a smothering hug, happy tears in her eyes. Then pushes him back to get a good look at him. MAGGIE Look at you in that suit. He looks great, except... she buttons the button we saw Helen unbutton, then pats his chest. There. Perfect. She remembers her manners, taking Helen’s hand warmly. I’m sorry. Helen, hi. MAGGIE Maggie. HELEN
INT. MAGGIE’S AND NEW STEPFATHER’S HOUSE - DAY
Helen and Darryl are on the couch, the center of the family’s attention. Maggie pours tea. The older of his two younger sisters is next to Darryl, holding his hand -- and patting the couch next to her trying to get the youngest to come over. The youngest -- eight years old -- shakes her head, looking at Darryl as if he were a stranger. His older sisters are here too. Deanna holds up a New York Times Magazine, the cover a photo of Ken playing piano, the title: “Winning (Habitually) in Vegas”. DEANNA This is him, right? cute. He’s really
Dori has a copy of “The Big Player” open, leafing through it.
DORI So which of these guys is you? DARRYL Jack Baker. DEANNA This is so cool. You’re practically famous. MAGGIE Of course he is. He’s a big success. The sister holding Darryl’s hand pats the couch hard and loud to get the youngest to come over, but she still shakes her head. MAGGIE It’s alright, she’ll come around eventually. Dan’s coming from the office for lunch. We’re having pot roast. DARRYL Mom, I told you when I called, we can’t stay. We just stopped by to say hello. MAGGIE Not even for lunch? Maggie is deeply disappointed. DARRYL Well, the thing is, we have a plane to catch. ... I’m sorry. Dori and Deanna watch Maggie. The rejection she feels is palpable to Helen, too. Maggie and Darryl are looking at each other, unresolved emotions charging the air. Maggie puts on her happy face. MAGGIE Well, it was certainly good of you to stop by on your way. More tea? Darryl holds out his cup.
EXT. MAGGIE’S HOUSE - DAY
Darryl and Helen are leaving.
Helen darts back, hugs Maggie.
HELEN Don’t worry. Things will get better. Maggie looks at her gratefully. Helen catches up to Darryl.
DARRYL That wasn’t so bad.
HELEN You know, she just wants to be a part of your life. What’s wrong with that? Darryl looks at her, then at Maggie, who’s waving goodbye from the doorway. He thinks about it as they get into the car.
INT. LOS ANGELES INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT - GATE 9 - DAY
Pat smiles when he sees Darryl walk up with Helen. Both are lugging large suitcases. Pat has a tiny travel bag. DARRYL That’s all you’re bringing? PAT You’ll find it helps to travel light.
INT. PLANE - DAY
Like a child with a new toy, Darryl plays with buttons on his armrest. He turns the light on and off. He lowers and raises the tray. He pushes a button. Bing! It’s the call light. He looks at Pat and Helen in wonder. They look back deadpan.
INT. WALKER HILL CASINO - KOREA - NIGHT
A playground for the world’s elite. Asians. Arabs. Indians. A Latin American dictator with bodyguards. Darryl and Pat play at a table, Helen hugging Darryl from behind. DARRYL (V.O.) Walker Hill in Seoul, the largest, most profitable casino in the history of the world. So much cash flowed in, there was a time they didn’t care about counters and we came from all over the world to play. Darryl notices a group of contemptuous-looking players with bad teeth and unwashed hair, holding cigarettes in the eastern European manner. The leader sneers at him. DARRYL They’d take all the action we gave them and smile. DARRYL’S POV of a smiling Korean pit boss -- AS ANOTHER PIT BOSS STEPS INTO FRAME -- NOT SMILING. HE HOLDS UP A GRIFFIN AGENCY ADVISORY WITH DARRYL’S FACE ON IT. DARRYL (V.O.) But that time had come and gone.
INT. CRAPPY KOREAN HOTEL ROOM - DAY
PAN the hotel room. Wires run outside the walls. winter wind whistles in through a cracked window. DARRYL (V.O.) But we’d come this far and were determined to make the most of it.
The PAN comes to Darryl and Helen making love in the bed. DARRYL (V.O.) We went looking for new games.
EXT. AIRPORT - DAY
Hurrying to catch a plane, Pat moves comfortably with his small bag as Helen and Darryl look tired dragging their luggage. DARRYL (V.O.) We got a cheap flight and a fantastic deal on a hotel in Sri Lanka.
INT. AIRPLANE - DAY
Reading a travel book, Darryl sits next to a Sri Lankan man. DARRYL It says here that in Sri Lanka when people shake their heads side to side it means yes. Is that true? The man shakes his head side to side. DARRYL Yeah I didn’t think so. DARRYL (V.O.) Ken was right. There was a whole world out there, and not all of it was like Vegas.
EXT. POOL AREA - SRI LANKAN LUXURY HOTEL - DAY
Darryl sits down to relax in the deserted pool area with a cup of coffee and an English paper, which he opens to the middle. We see the paper’s headline: “REBELS APPROACH CITY!” In the hills behind him there’s an explosion!
INT. GAMBLING BOAT - DAY
He jumps up --
Darryl has his guitar with him. At a nearby table, those same Eastern European players smoke and sneer. Darryl, Pat and Helen flatbet ten dollars at their table.
DARRYL (V.O.) We played a boat between Singapore and Thailand where the Chinese owners believed only in luck. They let us do whatever we wanted. Darryl, Helen and Pat jump their bets from $10 to $500. DARRYL (V.O.) And they had a special way of dealing with what they thought were unlucky tables. CUT TO: THE DECK -- as two workers throw a blackjack table overboard. DOLLY BACK. Another two workers throw another table over. KEEP DOLLYING BACK -- as another table is tossed over. DARRYL (V.O.) In Poland, we won 92 Billion Zloties.
INT. POLISH CASINO CAGE - NIGHT
Darryl, Pat and Helen are amazed as stacks and stacks of currency -- their winnings -- are piled in front of them. DARRYL (V.O.) Or about four thousand dollars.
INT. MONTE CARLO - NIGHT
In a tux, Darryl walks down marble steps under crystal chandeliers, Helen’s arm in his. Pat is also in a tux. DARRYL (V.O.) In Monte Carlo, I had a martini, shaken not stirred. CUT TO: Slipping cooly into a blackjack table, martini in hand, Darryl goes to make a bet --- as a pit boss shoves the Griffin advisory on him into his face. And one on Pat into his. They both sigh, bummed out. Helen grabs the advisories and with great dignity rips them up. She tosses the pieces into the snooty european pit boss’s face. Pat and Darryl smile, their moods much improved. She takes their arms and leads them out, their heads all held high, patrons watching, the pit boss actually embarrassed. DARRYL (V.O.) But in all our travels it was through Helen’s eyes that I saw most clearly.
EXT. VARIOUS SPOTS AROUND PRAGUE, CZECHOSLOVAKIA - DAY
Helen drags Darryl through the streets of the city of the "hundred turns,” overwhelmed by its beauty. She’s exhausted, but refuses to stop -- pulling him across the Charles bridge.
EXT. NICE, FRANCE - THE MEDITERRANEAN - DAY
Darryl chases her into the Mediterranean as she tosses her clothes off. She dives in naked -- Darryl right behind her.
INT. TAXI - INDONESIA - DAY
Beggars surround their taxi, slowing it down, touching the windows with empty palms. Afraid for the money, Pat moves his bag safely toward the middle of the seat, away from the window. Helen puts her palm to the window glass, a beggar on the other side putting his palm to her. She turns to look at Pat’s bag, now right next to her -EXT. TAXI
The window rolls down. Hey!
A burst of money comes flying out.
PAT (O.S., IN TAXI) What a gift!
The beggars scramble to pick it up, happy.
EXT. RIO DE JANEIRO STREETS - NIGHT
Darryl tries to keep up with Helen as she dances through the streets in the midst of Carnival. They laugh and kiss. Pat watches them, enviously. He feels alone. CUT TO: Pat at a pay phone, yelling into it, Carnival all around him. PAT Susan! Hi, it’s Pat! ... Pat! I’m in Rio. Yeah. So. How are you? CUT TO: Helen and Darryl move onto a less-crowded side street where they suddenly find themselves face to face with: THE EASTERN EUROPEANS. The Leader sneers. His men await orders. He stamps out a cigarette and motions with his head. Nothing happens. Darryl realizes he’s gesturing to the guitar he’s got on his back. One of them holds up a Balalaika. Another pulls out a flute. Another a violin. They want to jam.
EXT. RIO DE JANEIRO PARK - NIGHT
Darryl plays music with the Eastern Europeans. Helen holds the Balalaika, taking a lesson from one of them. Their Leader still seems to sneer, but it’s just the way he looks. He has his own dog-eared copy of ‘The Big Player’ open to a page. DARRYL ‘Jack Baker.’ That’s me. EASTERN EUROPEAN LEADER (pointing to him) Big Player! Big Player! Ah! EASTERN EUROPEAN TEAM Big player! Helen laughs.
Darryl shakes his head, but it’s too late.
DARRYL (V.O.) For all the fun we had, travel was starting to become a drag.
INT. ST. MARTIN ISLAND - CASINO - NIGHT
In a St. Martin casino, a pair of hard-looking Italian mobsters with unhappy expressions watch Darryl winning.
INT. ST. MARTIN ISLAND - HOTEL ROOM - DAY
Darryl, Pat and Helen scramble to drop their suitcases over the balcony, then go over themselves as -BAM! THE DOOR BURSTS OPEN. It’s the police and the mobsters. ONE CARRIES A GRIFFIN ADVISORY WITH DARRYL’S FACE ON IT. They look around. One goes out to the balcony and looks out.
EXT. HOTEL - UNDER THE BALCONY
They’re hiding under the balcony.
EXT. BEACH - MINUTES LATER
The guy above goes back in.
Pat easily carries his travel bag as Darryl and Helen struggle to drag their luggage across the sand. DARRYL (V.O.) It was time to go home.
INT. L.A. AIRPORT - DAY
Susan -- the woman Pat stole out from under Darryl at the bar -is waiting at the gate as Pat, Darryl and Helen come off the plane. She and Pat embrace as Darryl and Helen watch, smiling. Pat turns and looks at them. He hugs Helen goodbye. Then shakes Darryl’s hand. Darryl pulls him in for a hug. Pat looks at them fondly -- then walks off, his arm around Susan.
DARRYL (V.O.) I was nineteen, I had two hundred and sixty thousand dollars in my pocket and I was in love. Darryl turns to Helen. She smiles and they kiss.
DARRYL (V.O.) We had six more months together.
INT. BEAUTIFUL HOUSE ON LAKE TAHOE HILLSIDE - DAY
They look out on a breathtaking view of Lake Tahoe. Helen nods. Darryl hands a $50,000 brick to the real estate agent. DARRYL (V.O.) We hung out, made love, spent money. A love song, a guitar ballad, plays over CROSS FADES: Movers set down a queen size bed... Helen puts down a rug... A dog appears. A cat appears. The dog chases the cat.
Darryl and Helen make love -- He knows exactly what to do to make her happy. She nods; that’s it -They eat a fancy meal in an expensive restaurant. the cork on a bottle of Cordon Bleu -Darryl pops
On the street, Darryl hands a wad of cash to a poor street musician who protests it’s too much, but Darryl insists -Darryl buys a boat, handing the owner another wad of cash -Helen pilots it across the lake, laughing as she pushes them faster and faster, her novice abilities threatening to overturn them. Darryl grips the rail, his knuckles white -The last cut is to Darryl, on the house’s deck, guitar on his lap. He’s been singing the ballad for Helen. He stops. DARRYL That’s all I’ve got so far. She sits next to him, rests her hand softly on his neck and whispers in his ear: I love it. HELEN
INT. LAKE TAHOE HOUSE - DAY
Darryl comes in to find Helen crying and goes to her, concerned. HELEN I went to the doctor.
DARRYL What... what did he say? HELEN He said I was going to live. She cries harder. She’s disconsolate.
DARRYL He said you’re going to live? That you’re not going to die? That’s what he said? She nods, bawling. Darryl laughs, relieved. He hugs her.
INT. LAKE TAHOE HOUSE - NIGHT
Lying in bed, after making love, Helen lost in thought as Darryl strokes her hair. DARRYL So now you start thinking about the long run. What’s wrong with that? She sighs and relaxes deeply into him. A new look begins to appear on Darryl’s face. A thoughtful look. DARRYL It’ll just take some getting used to. MOVE IN ON Darryl as he holds her and thinks about that himself.
INT. LAKE TAHOE HOUSE - NIGHT
Darryl sits on the couch. Helen brings teas for them, then sits and snuggles against him. The dog goes onto his lap. The cat into hers. He uses the bulky remote to turn on the TV. HELEN I think Lulu needs a bath. Darryl’s not listening. sound on the TV AS A TALK SHOW COMES ON Ken is on, debating WILL VICKMAN and SALT AND PEPPER. A woman is sitting on the edge of Ken’s chair, playing with his hair. The MODERATOR is amused as he looks from her to the camera. MODERATOR (ON TV) Good morning. We’re live at the state capitol with Ken Uston, world champion blackjack player -recently featured in Playboy and the October People Magazine. (MORE) He’s distracted as he turns up the
MODERATOR (ON TV) (cont'd) And two members of the gaming industry: the Sands’ Will Vickman and Steven Stevenson of the Griffin Detective Agency. Ken, you’re suing for the right to play. What’s the basis of the suit? KEN (ON TV) The casinos offer a game of skill to the public but only let the unskilled, drunk or compulsive play, while arbitrarily excluding the skilled. So basically you can play, but only if you lose. MODERATOR (ON TV) What about it, gentlemen? If he’s not cheating, or doing anything illegal, why can’t he play? The woman picks up Ken’s drink and hands it to him. HELEN Look at that, she’s like his pet. Darryl nods, smiling. Helen looks at him. He drops the smile.
VICKMAN (ON TV) (overlapping) It’s a state law. As a private establishment, we can ask anybody to leave. We’re a business. We have the right to protect our bottom line -KEN (ON TV) That’s bull. The moderator starts at the use of that word. He shoots Ken a look. Ken nods; he’ll cool it. He leans forward, all business. KEN Card counting’s been good for the casinos, Jim. People know the game can be beaten, but most don’t have the skills. Our existence has made them millions. But the real point is: they say anyone can win, then they bar people who win. MODERATOR (ON TV) Doesn’t exactly seem fair, does it? Salt and Pepper leans forward. We finally get to hear from him.
SALT AND PEPPER (ON TV) And what about Tommy over here from Kokomo Indiana with his ten dollars? (MORE)
SALT AND PEPPER (ON TV) (cont'd) Is it fair that Mr. Uston goes into a casino and wins when Tommy, just because he’s not as good as him in math, is it fair for him to win but not Tommy? You think that’s fair. That's what you think -- correct or incorrect? KEN (ON TV) Of course. I don’t play against Tommy or take his money. You do. SALT AND PEPPER (ON TV) So Tommy’s not as smart as you, so therefore does not deserve to win. That’s what you’re saying -correct or incorrect? Ken and the moderator just look at him. HELEN This is the guy who caught you? Darryl can’t believe it either. SALT AND PEPPER (ON TV) Well we say it is not fair and therefore we say you cannot play. He gives Ken a triumphant, got-you-now smirk. KEN (ON TV) Jim, I think I know what we’ve got here. Yes? MODERATOR (ON TV) Please, explain it to me.
KEN (ON TV) A bunch of greedy fucking morons. Salt and Pepper’s back goes up. Somebody off camera says ‘shit, Jesus, did he just say Fuck?’ The camera is jostled. It cuts to nothing. Then to a commercial.
INT. LAKE TAHOE HOUSE - NIGHT
Darryl lies in bed awake, thinking, Helen asleep beside him. DARRYL (V.O.) Since I was a child I’d always felt there are hidden patterns in the universe. He closes his eyes AND FINDS HIMSELF IN A DREAM OR VISION:
INT. CASINO - DAY
He’s in a casino in Australia. Outside a wall of windows, a kangaroo hops by. He watches as a dealer shuffles multiple decks of cards:
The dealer grabs sections of cards and combines them. SFX: THE COMBINED SECTIONS GLOW IN DISTINCT COLORS. THE FINAL ASSEMBLED SHOE ENDS UP WITH A BLUE SECTION, RED SECTION, GREEN SECTION... DARRYL (V.O.) ... patterns that exist just beyond our conscious mind’s ability to grasp. A pit boss walks up and holds up a Griffin Advisory with Darryl’s face. THE CASINO DISSOLVES AROUND DARRYL -- AND IS REPLACED BY ANOTHER CASINO. DARRYL And when I played blackjack I felt that way even more... This new casino is exactly the same except for the color scheme and the signs, which are now in Finnish. Outside, the sun has been replaced by a blizzard. Darryl is in the same spot. The shoe of cards is the same. The dealer offers Darryl the cut card. He cuts where one section ends and another begins. DARRYL I felt sometimes that I could see them. The dealer moves the green glowing section to the front. deals. Darryl gets a blackjack on all seven spots -INT. LAKE TAHOE HOUSE - MORNING
His eyes pop open.
He sits up, thinking about the dream.
INT. LIVING ROOM - DAY
Darryl has multiple decks out, and paper and pen. He takes sections of the decks and combines and recombines them as a dealer would in a shuffle. DARRYL (V.O.) But if there are hidden patterns in the universe, patterns we only glimpse from the corner of an eye... In the b.g., Helen is on the phone. HELEN ... We’d love to have you over. How’s Thursday night? DARRYL (V.O.) ... are they patterns that have been crafted for us by an unseen hand? ...
INT. LAKE TAHOE HOUSE - NIGHT
Darryl is still at it, drawing diagrams at the table. unshaven, unwashed.
DARRYL (V.O.) ... or are they webs woven in the toss of some universal dice? Helen comes from the kitchen where she’s making a big meal and puts some silverware down on the dining table. Darryl? HELEN
He looks up from his trance and nods to her silent request. CUT TO: Darryl, still thinking about his puzzle as he sets the table. DARRYL (V.O.) Or perhaps what we glimpse are just the patterns we weave for ourselves deep within our own subconscious minds. He’s folding napkins edge to edge. Helen comes by and corrects him, taking a napkin and folding it corner to corner. He nods and starts to do it that way as she kisses his cheek and goes. Then he freezes, realizing what he’s doing.
INT. LAKE TAHOE HOUSE - NIGHT
HOLD ON HIS FACE.
The dinner party. Helen and the invited couple laugh and talk, MOS. Darryl nods, pretends to smile, but he’s lost in his own world, wheels turning in his mind. The woman smiles at him flirtatiously as Helen and her man talk, oblivious. She sips her wine, lightly licks her lips.
INT. LAKE TAHOE HOUSE - DAY
Darryl packs as Helen watches. Everything reminds us of his father leaving Maggie: how they stand, the position of the dresser. His suitcase. Her dignity. HELEN Why can’t I go with you? DARRYL This isn’t travelling around the world. It’ll be hard work, long hours. It’ll be boring. HELEN I just want to be with you. He tries not to look at her as he packs, but can’t help himself. She looks so sad. He goes to her and hugs her. WE HOLD ON THEM HUGGING TIGHTLY, THEN CUT TO:
INT./EXT. CAR - OUTSIDE AIRPORT - DAY
Helen is crying as she pulls over to the curb to drop Darryl off. He opens his mouth to speak, but can’t find the words. DARRYL (V.O.) I was too young for commitment. That’s what I I told myself. She was my first love, there would be others and if not, if this was right, then we would find each other again. In the car, Darryl looks at her face. DARRYL (V.O.) I didn’t know. HELEN I love you. Tears well up in Darryl’s eyes. He struggles not to cry. She reaches out to him -- but he grabs his bag and gets out. As he starts off, she pops her head out of the window. HELEN You have to play. (he nods, points to airport, he’s going...) No stupid. Music. For people, in front of audiences. Reward lies in the house of risk. You wouldn’t really be much of a gambler if you don’t try, now would you? Hey! She throws something. He catches it and looks at it. Memorizing her.
IT’S HER MEDICAL ALERT TAG. She blasts a smile at him through her tears, ducks back in and pulls recklessly into traffic, nearly colliding with a car. Darryl watches her go.
INT. WALTER’S HOUSE - DAY
Darryl walks through Walter’s house. It’s empty. No belongings. No furniture. He opens the closet. Empty. In the kitchen, the cabinets are open and bare. So is the fridge. He starts out and stops. Something peeks from under the stove. He crouches and flicks it out with a finger. It’s a $5,000 casino chip.
INT. KEN’S APARTMENT - NIGHT
CLOSE ON A TV AS AN INSTRUCTIONAL VIDEO PLAYS: Ken at a blackjack table, flanked by two sexy women in tight shirts.
KEN (ON INSTRUCTIONAL VIDEO) And with the Uston Advanced Point Count, you can increase your advantage even more ... Ken is showing it to Darryl. His apartment is full of Ken Uston mail-order paraphernalia. A woman from the video comes out of the bedroom in her underwear and a Ken Uston T-shirt. KEN Inga, this is Darryl. She says something in Swedish as they shake. She kisses Ken, fills her coffee cup and goes back into the bedroom. KEN Isn’t she amazing? And I can’t have sex with her. It’s driving me nuts. (off his look) The clap. Which means I’m taking penicillin, so I’m totally out of it. I can’t drink, I can’t screw and I can’t play blackjack. DARRYL Well I think I can solve at least one of your problems. He hands Ken the papers with the diagrams we saw him make. KEN What’s this? DARRYL A new way to play. CUT TO DARRYL AND KEN ROUNDING UP A COUPLE OF TEAM MEMBERS:
EXT. JOE’S HOUSE - DAY
Joe leaving his house, kissing his wife on the cheek. The waste burning plant looms over them. Joe’s wife waves to a man in a car at the curb in a fedora. The man waves back.
INT. THE CAR - MOMENTS LATER
Joe gets into the car. The man in the hat is George. looks up to see: Ken and Darryl across the street. Darryl scratches his head.
EXT. STADIUM - DAY
Joe smiles and does the same.
Now a member of Evel Knievel’s crew, LYLE pumps air into the back tire of Evel’s motorcycle, Evel’s American-flag-clad leg next to his face.
The audience in the stadium is cheering. Lyle sees Ken and Darryl down front of the stands. They scratch their heads at him. Lyle stands and waves. Evel -- thinking Lyle is done -- takes off. AND THE TIRE’S INFLATION VALVE SNAPS OFF. Air leaks out as Evel accelerates toward a row of 25 buses. The crowd roars! ON LYLE’S FACE as he realizes. air... a hush... and a crash. WE HEAR the bike fly into the Off Lyle flinching --
INT. KEN USTON’S APARTMENT - DAY
The whole team is here now, sans Walter, supposedly listening to Darryl explain his method -- he has a drawing of a shoe of cards on a whiteboard -- but instead they’re distracted by: INGA -- who’s in her underwear, dancing to music she’s got on headphones as she cooks for them. DARRYL Casinos introduced multiple decks to defeat counters, but to get the cards into play fast they’re not shuffling enough, not randomizing the cards... He sees them looking at Inga, not him. He looks at Inga, too.
DARRYL ... You can count ... a shoe in sections then track them through the shuffle ... and combine counts of the sections that get shuffled together. KEN We call it shuffle tracking. They make impressed noises, but aren’t paying attention. Pat glances at the board -- and now it grabs him. He leans forward. PAT ... that’s brilliant. VICTOR So it’s brilliant. There’s only one problem. None of us can play. We’re still getting picked off just walking into the casinos. We’ll never get near a big-money play. PAT He’s right. I hate to say it, but you guys don’t want us, what you need are fresh faces. DARRYL Funny, that’s what Ken said. They look at Ken nervously. Ken smiles.
INT. HOLLYWOOD MAKUP STUDIO - DAY
Movie stills on the wall. Brando as the aged Godfather. Sissy Spacek covered in pig’s blood. Linda Blair possessed. A Hollywood make-up artist and assistants work on the team: Joe is becoming a bohemian with thick beard and glasses. Lyle is in a fat suit and an Art Garfunkle afro wig. Victor, blonde hair now brown, learns to put on a fake nose. Ken’s AGENT and a PRODUCER hover. PRODUCER This’ll be great in the movie. The studio loves this project. They’re thinking October to shoot. We’re already talking to actors. Great. AGENT How’s the script coming?
PRODUCER (shrugs) We’ll get to it. Darryl is fitted with a wig and big teeth as Ken is transformed into a distinguished gentleman. They talk privately. KEN Betting black used to take heat off. Now anytime the casinos see black they think it’s a counter. DARRYL Can we bet purple? KEN Five hundred minimum? (whistles) No counter has ever bet at that level before. We’d have to raise a huge bank. Couple of million at least. A beat. Then they look over at the same time to the Producer and the Agent. KEN I am the world’s greatest blackjack player, after all. DARRYL And who wouldn’t want a piece of that?
INT. BIG BUDDHA RESTAURANT - DAY
The team walks into their old haunt in disguise. Ken has a cane. Lyle waddles in his fat suit. Darryl uses an accent. DARRYL Five for dinner please. JAPANESE WAITRESS Long time no see. Usual table? They all look at each other, concerned. The sushi chef waves hello from behind the counter and holds up the Unagi for Joe’s approval along with a thumbs up. CUT TO: The guys at the usual table. DARRYL The disguises might still work if we’re just counting and betting low, but none of us can B.P. Ken frowns. He doesn’t like the sound of that.
PAT And whoever B.P.’s can’t hop tables either. They’re onto that. DARRYL What if we seat civilians at first base who we signal everything to? What to bet. How to play the hand. JOE They wouldn’t need to know anything. DARRYL Just how to follow instructions. Everyone nods. They like it. Except Ken.
KEN But... the B.P.’s the quarterback of the whole operation. He’s got to know the game, have an act -DARRYL Not in this scenario. KEN So what, now the B.P.’s just a trained monkey? They all nod, the idea growing on them more.
DARRYL This way we can use anybody, even... Darryl points randomly at the 50-ish sushi chef -- then freezes, staring at him. Off Darryl’s staring -INT. CAESARS PALACE - NIGHT
The sushi chef walks purposefully through Caesars in an expensive suit and haircut, a bellhop carrying his bag. CASINO HOST Mr. Tashigi? Guy Linden, Caesars’ host services. The sushi chef doesn’t acknowledge him or speak. He just keeping walking -- an arrow on path to its target. CASINO HOST My card. If you need anything... (sushi chef pockets card, says nothing) We got your bank transfer. Just ask for a marker at the table. (sushi chef just walks) Well. Good luck. (offers hand) SUSHI CHEF (shakes it) Okay for you, okay for me. The sushi chef walks on. The befuddled host watches him go.
INT. CAESARS PALACE - BLACKJACK TABLE - NIGHT
The sushi chef has a $500 chip bet. In disguise, Darryl bets low and signals him. All Pit Boss eyes are on sushi chef. Darryl moves his arm. Sushi chef takes a hit. Darryl closes his fist. Sushi chef tucks his cards. DARRYL (V.O.) Our rich, inscrutable Japanese businessman played perfectly off casino prejudices and expectations. Darryl puts a chip in his circle -- off center. Sushi chef jumps to two hands of a thousand. The bosses don’t even flinch. DARRYL (V.O.) This became our operational strategy.
INT. THE NEW TEAM HOUSE - DAY
A dinner party. Inga and Ken introduces Inga’s brother SVEN -who looks a lot like her -- to the team. Darryl introduces Burke, his supervisor from the telemarketing company...
DARRYL (V.O.) We showed them the oil man from Texas...
INT. HILTON - DAY
Burke in a cowboy hat plays, cowboy-boot-clad feet up on the table. Ken signals him in his gentleman disguise. And watches jealously as he charms a waitress. BURKE ‘Wovoka,’ what’s that? Polish?
WAITRESS Native American, actually. BURKE No kidding? I’m a quarter Cherokee myself. DARRYL (V.O.) ... the spoiled daughter of a famous thoracic surgeon...
INT. RIVIERA - NIGHT
Pat’s girlfriend Susan, wearing long false nails and an attitude of privilege. She drops her compact. A pit boss picks it up. She smiles a thank you. DARRYL (V.O.) ... the European from a country of unspecified origin...
INT. FLAMINGO - NIGHT
Inga’s brother Sven, in dark sunglasses, scruffy and unwashed. He holds a cigarette in the Eastern European fashion. DARRYL (V.O.) ... with an endless supply of cash of unspecified origin. A small canister hangs around his neck on a chain. He touches his nose and sniffs, as if getting some powder remaining there. DARRYL (V.O.) Team play was back in business and business was better than ever.
EXT. THE SANDS - NIGHT
Ken, Pat and Darryl, Victor and Lyle stare at the Sands. PAT Okay, but if we really want to whack ‘em, we need one more B.P. VICTOR Maybe an older woman this time?
KEN I like it, a cheerful matronly type. PAT But crafty. She’s got to be able to handle people and to keep the mask up no matter what’s going on around her. Darryl looks thoughtful. What? He smiles.
KEN You know somebody?
INT. TROPICANA - REGISTRATION DESK - DAY
A host approaches a woman from behind. CASINO HOST #2 Mrs. Cruthers? Tom Goddard.
MAGGIE You’re the nice man I talked to on the phone. CASINO HOST #2 Yes ma’am, welcome to -MAGGIE I love your casino! It’s so colorful. So fruity. It makes me feel like I’m on a tropical island. (takes his arm, they walk) They tell me I have a nice room. CASINO HOST #2 Yes, ma’am, it’s -MAGGIE But not a suite. CASINO HOST #2 Well... let me see... (checks clipboard) You’ve put a lot of money on account, but haven’t actually played yet. MAGGIE I see. I didn’t realize just how businesslike you all are about this. CASINO HOST #2 Mrs. Cruthers -MAGGIE Maggie, please.
CASINO HOST #2 I want you to feel at home, Maggie. Tropicana Resorts wants you to feel at home. Let me put you in a suite. MAGGIE Tom, that is so nice of you. She notices something O.S.: DARRYL, across the casino. He scratches his head hello. She smiles and scratches hers.
INT. NEW TEAM HOUSE - DAY
Darryl introduces his mother to the team. MAGGIE I recognize you from your picture in New York Times magazine last year, Mr. Uston. It didn’t do you justice. KEN Ken, please. I see now where Darryl gets his charm and his charisma. MAGGIE You’re something of a charmer yourself, aren’t you? KEN Darryl, why have you kept this woman hidden from us for so long? Explain yourself. MAGGIE You never said he was so sweet, dear. Darryl looks back and forth between them, unnerved. TIME CUT TO: Darryl trains Maggie at the blackjack table. DARRYL When I go like this, you stand. He does the gesture -- and she gets off her chair, standing. DARRYL No, mom, ‘stand’ means you don’t take another card, you just tuck them. He tucks her cards under her chips. Of course. MAGGIE She laughs at herself. She’s clueless.
DARRYL Okay. And if I go like this, that means you take a hit. She looks at him nervously. DARRYL (V.O.) Mom was hopeless at blackjack but she took to Vegas like she’d invented the place.
INT. THE SANDS - NIGHT
WILL VICKMAN strolls through his kingdom. Confident. In charge. Puffed up as much as the man’s five foot, two-inch frame allows. He passes a series of blackjack tables. At every one, a team member in disguise calls plays for a B.P. Pat for Burke, Victor for Sven, Ken for the sushi chef. Darryl watches Vickman go by. He’s calling plays for Maggie, who’s chatting with the Young Pit Boss. MAGGIE There’s nothing like a tailored suit to really bring out the man. YOUNG PIT BOSS You really think it makes me look older? MAGGIE Definitely. But you’re, what, 30? YOUNG PIT BOSS Twenty-six. No! MAGGIE I don’t believe you. YOUNG PIT BOSS
It’s true. Darryl signals.
She starts to double down. It’s a
YOUNG PIT BOSS You don’t want to do that. bad bet. Maggie pulls back her cards.
Darryl insists with his signal.
MAGGIE I have a philosophy, Mike. Go with your instincts. Like with you. I knew you’d be an interesting person to talk to the moment I saw you. He straightens at the compliment. busts and pays the table. She doubles. The dealer
THE JOVIAL PIT BOSS WALKS UP with two tickets to a show. Oh thanks. YOUNG PIT BOSS They’re for Mrs. Cruthers. Mike
JOVIAL They’re not easy to come by. here must like you.
He smiles and gives them to her as he glances at everyone at the table. He pauses a second when he sees Darryl. Darryl grins at his cards REVEALING THOSE BIG, CROOKED TEETH. Jovial moves on. DARRYL (V.O.) As any magician will tell you: we don’t believe what we see. We see what we believe...
INT. BIG BUDDHA RESTAURANT - DAY
It’s a celebration. Everyone holds up their champagne glasses, clinks them and drinks. They whacked the Sands. DARRYL (V.O.) I believed that we were one big happy family and that’s what I saw. Darryl is content as he watches everyone talking and laughing. Joe and Victor are teaching Inga to use “fucking” as an adjective. She points to a tall man. INGA Fucking tall. Fucking good wine. They nod. She’s got it. Maggie pretends not to hear.
Inga’s brother, into his persona, still wears the sunglasses and holds a cigarette between thumb and forefinger. Inga takes the cigarette away from him and ruffles his hair. INGA Fucking ridiculous. Everyone laughs. Hey. Even Maggie, though she tries to hide it. DARRYL Where’s Ken? Nobody knows.
Everyone looks at everyone.
INT. NEW TEAM HOUSE - DARRYL’S BEDROOM - MORNING
A ringing phone wakes Darryl.
He answers it.
KEN (OVER PHONE) Time to get up lazybones!
DARRYL Ken, where are you? You were supposed to call plays last night. KEN (OVER PHONE) How’d we do? DARRYL We won ten thousand. KEN (OVER PHONE) Right on! Up ten thousand! (to somebody there) I made a grand last night and I didn’t even step into a casino! DARRYL Ken, who are you talking to? INTERCUT WITH:
INT. KZ104.5 - RADIO STUDIO
Ken in an interview with two wide-eyed radio hosts. KEN Tim and Lisa on the morning show! Giving the listeners a little update on what’s happening with me. TIM So you’re actually out there now with a team, playing right under the casinos’ noses? How do you do that? DARRYL (OVER SPEAKERS) Ken, I don’t think this is a good --
Ken flips a switch on the console, hanging up on Darryl. KEN Disguises. Pit bosses who know me, standing as close to me as you are now and they don’t have a clue! LISA That is so cool. Ken smiles at her flirtatiously. She blushes. Tim notices.
Darryl turns on the radio as the team -- just up -- opens his door and walk in with a radio of their own. They just now starting hearing this and they’re pissed. KEN (OVER THE RADIO) I can’t really say any more. It’s top secret stuff. Okay, one thing: we don’t even have to hop tables, so it looks really great to the pit bosses!
PAT What the fuck is he doing? TIM (OVER RADIO) You’re on the air.
CALLER (OVER RADIO) My question is are you going to play yourself in the movie? KEN (OVER RADIO) No, they need a star like Hoffman or Pacino to so people will go see it. I could though. I mean, nobody knows the part better than me, right? Who knows? Maybe for this role I’d be better than Pacino. TIM (ON RADIO) Alright... that was Ken Uston, the world’s greatest blackjack player... They stare at Darryl. DARRYL It’s okay. I think we’re fine. I’ll talk to him. JOE You better talk to him. PAT Put a leash on him. DARRYL I’ll talk to him. They look at each other, still unhappy. But Darryl’s word is enough for them. They nod and file out.
INT. SAMMY’S SUITE - NIGHT
The marble floors. in the ivory vase.
The bottles of champagne. The white roses MAGGIE STEPS INTO FRAME and adjusts them.
A WIDER ANGLE reveals that Darryl’s whole family is here. His youngest sister -- who stared at him as if he were a stranger -- plays the piano. Darryl sits down to play with her. She smiles at him. He smiles back. Maggie watches them, happy. Deanna runs in. DEANNA He’s coming! She runs out again. Dori and Maggie run out after her.
INT. SANDS LOBBY - NIGHT
Maggie and her daughters are in a crowd by the entrance. Photographers start snapping pictures as a man walks into the hotel, his face obscured by one or another member of the crowd. PHOTOGRAPHER Mr. Sinatra, over here! MAGGIE We love you blue eyes! FRANK SINATRA (O.S.) Thank you honey. Dori and Deanna squeal. He spoke to Maggie! A short black man whose face we also never quite get to see is with Sinatra. CASINO HOST I’m sorry, sir, we didn’t know you were coming to town today -SAMMY DAVIS’S VOICE It’s alright Larry, just get me something nice, okay?
INT. SANDS CASINO - NIGHT
The team calls plays at various tables. All is quiet. we see Lyle’s face registering something wrong.
CLOSE ON THE ELASTIC BAND OF HIS WIG INCHING UP HIS SCALP. Lyle reaches up -- too late -- THE WIG POPS OFF, FLIES UP, AND LANDS ON THE TABLE. He grabs it, expecting to be caught. But no one notices. The dealer continues shuffling. The pit boss is writing a note. Fellow players fiddle with chips. A cocktail waitress brings him a coffee, sets it down and goes. Lyle puts the wig back on. AT ANOTHER TABLE In wig and false teeth, Darryl calls plays for Maggie. He signals and she puts out a big bet of six chips -- $3,000. DEALER Betting table max! The Young Pit Boss nods, watching the action as A COUPLE WALKS UP They’re friends of Maggie’s. Maggie! WOMAN Hi! They’re surprised to see her.
MAN We didn’t know you come to Vegas! Sheryl. MAGGIE Jim.
SHERYL’S jaw drops as she sees the bet Maggie has out. JIM (MAN) Darryl! I didn’t see you there. You look different. You gain weight or something? Maggie, who’s trying to keep it together, watches in horror as Darryl gets up with his chips and goes, leaving her alone at the table. The Young Pit Boss is watching Maggie and her friends. JIM What’s with him? MAGGIE That wasn’t anyone I know. you two? How are
JIM That wasn’t Darryl? (sees Maggie’s bet now) Jesus! Wow! Since when do you have that kind of dough? The young pit boss shifts uncomfortably.
This is weird.
JIM What? I’m impressed, that’s all. Is it okay if we watch? Of course. MAGGIE
Maggie has never played a hand by herself and has no idea what to do. But everyone is watching and that’s $3,000 out there. She looks down at her hand. MAGGIE Let’s see... I have one red lady with a Q here in the corner. And one is a black seven with these clovers. (looks at dealer for clue) And... I’m going to hit it. DEALER You want to hit your hard seventeen? No, no. MAGGIE I’ll double down.
The dealer smiles at her joke. Maggie takes the smile as confirmation and puts out another three thousand. Maggie’s friends are in shock. So is the dealer. DEALER Doubling hard seventeen, table max! The head of every Pit Boss in earshot whips around. Uh oh. They converge. Pompadour is the head pit boss. He looks at the bet, then at Maggie. A beat and he nods. The dealer deals her... A FOUR! The friends gasp. Twentyone. The dealer turns over his hole card. He’s got twenty. The pit bosses all stare at Maggie. YOUNG PIT BOSS Those are some instincts. Pompadour’s stare is the hardest of them all.
INT. SAMMY’S SUITE - NIGHT
Maggie pushes furniture in front of the door as her daughters watch, not sure if they should help or talk her out of it. There’s a knock. Two raps. Then a third. TIME CUT TO: Darryl and Maggie sit on the bed. I’m sorry. Darryl is laughing.
DARRYL It’s just funny.
MAGGIE It is not funny. They stared at me. He’s still laughing. She sighs, then gives in to laughter too. After a few moments they stop. DARRYL You want to go home now? okay. She nods. Darryl nods. It’s
They hug, comfortable with each other.
INT. NEW TEAM HOUSE - NIGHT
Lyle eats pizza and watches TV as the others play backgammon. A ticking stopwatch appears on the TV. It’s “60 Minutes.” Archival footage of the actual show. HARRY REASONER comes on, a large picture of a blackjack table behind him.
HARRY REASONER (ON TV) When it comes to gambling, everybody wants to beat the house. There are thousands of gamblers in this country who think they have a sure-fire system to beat the system, and the casinos love them because they know the systems don’t work. THE TV CUTS TO KEN USTON PLAYING AT A TABLE. This grainy video footage matches the archival footage of Reasoner. Lyle stops chewing. The others remain oblivious. HARRY REASONER (O.S., ON TV) But we found one man with a system so good the casinos won’t let him play. His name is Ken Uston... Hearing Ken’s name, the others look over. HARRY REASONER (O.S., ON TV) ... and he’s made a fortune playing blackjack with an almost complete certainty of winning. He is what is known as a card counter. TIME CUT TO: The whole team in front of the TV, eating Lyle’s pizza. TV cuts to hidden camera footage in a casino. REASONER (V.O., ON TV) This film, shot with a hidden camera, shows what usually happens when Ken tries to play blackjack in Las Vegas. PIT BOSS (ON TV) We do not want your business! Okay. KEN (ON TV) Thank you. Good night. The
HARRY REASONER (V.O., ON TV) Ken has sued for the right to play, but the wheels of Nevada justice turn slowly. So Ken has resorted to using a disguise. The TV cuts to Ken putting on his distinguished gentleman disguise. ON NATIONAL TV. The guys can’t believe it. HARRY REASONER (V.O., ON TV) One night he took 60 minutes producer Lucy Spiegel -- who had never played before -- into several casinos. On TV, Ken calls plays for the woman producer in a casino.
HARRY REASONER (V.O., ON TV) Lucy won about a thousand dollars. LUCY (ON TV) (laughs, enjoying herself) I’m going to double again! HARRY REASONER (V.O., ON TV) She played with his money and he took her winnings because before they started out he taught her signals. It cuts to Ken training her in the team signals. The guys curse, put their heads in their hands. Only Victor keeps eating, as unaffected as always. KEN (ON TV) Now If I go like this, that means you should take a hit. If I go like this you should stand, and if I do this you should double down or split.
INT. CASINO HOTEL HALLWAY - DAY
Darryl and Ken walk toward a hotel room. smiling. Darryl is seething.
Ken can’t help
DARRYL At least try to be conciliatory. The guys are very upset. KEN Are you upset? DARRYL Of course I’m upset! Jesus Ken, what were you thinking?! Darryl does the team knock on a hotel room door. KEN C’mon, how often do you get a chance to go on national television? Do you know what my Nielsens were? Twenty two points. Twenty two million people watching me. They loved me! Before Darryl can respond, Lyle opens the door on a serious situation unfolding inside. JOE (O.S.) Just sit there! Don’t fucking move!
INT. HOTEL ROOM
The core of the team is here, PLUS SVEN, who’s slouched in a chair. There are piles of cash and chips on a table. KEN What’s going on? JOE He’s been stealing. KEN What do you mean? How do you know?
PAT We kept having to remind him to stack chips before leaving the table so we could see what he had. We thought he was just lazy... VICTOR ... but we started paying attention. There were discrepancies in his reported wins. A few hundred to start -KEN You could have make the mistake at those amounts. You’re doing your own thing. You’re distracted. JOE And he knows that! KEN Sven, did you steal from the team? (Sven shakes his head) That’s good enough for me. VICTOR You haven’t heard the whole story. KEN I’ve made my decision. PAT Ken, you need to hear it. He motions for Ken and Darryl to follow. closet for privacy.
They step into the
PAT I know he’s your girlfriend’s brother, but he’s been stealing. KEN Where’s your proof?
Pat leans out, motions for Victor, who steps inside. VICTOR He walked from his table tonight with four thousand and change. I followed. He stopped at casino services -PAT He’s got a safety deposit box. when he got here, he reported three. Darryl is pissed now. IN THE ROOM Joe is looking at Sven, who’s sweating. Clammy. Shaky. looks at that small cocaine canister around Sven’s neck. IN THE CLOSET KEN He’s a good kid. forget about it. We let him go and Joe And
Ken is shaking his head, resisting.
PAT This isn’t your decision to make, Ken. Who knows how much he stole? We need to give him a polygraph. Joe steps into the closet. JOE This fucking guy’s taken his role seriously. He’s feeding a habit on our dime. KEN Stop jumping to conclusions! PAT This is a team decision! Lyle peeks in to see what the arguing is about. Victor motions and he steps inside, sliding the door shut. To Lyle: PAT Here’s the situation. Ken thinks ... Everyone but
He trails off as they realize they’re ALL in the closet. IN THE ROOM Sven is already running out the door with as much cash and chips as he can carry. The team tumbles out and goes after him.
Sven makes it out the door, but Pat and Lyle barrel into him. The money goes flying. A couple in the hall stop and watch. Joe hits Sven in the face. Sven screams. JOE I’ll fucking kill you! Ken tries to grab Joe, but Pat pushes him up against the wall. Victor and Lyle grab Sven and Joe hits him again. DARRYL Stop it Joe! Stop! Darryl tries to hold Joe back, but Joe hits Sven again. We hear a crack. Sven screams again as blood pours from his nose. Joe pulls back to hit him again, but Darryl grabs him in a halfNelson. Joe looks at Darryl, face red, murder in his eyes. Enough. DARRYL
The moment extends. Lyle and Victor holding Sven. Pat pinning Ken against the wall. Darryl and Joe facing off. Sven crying. DARRYL It’s not worth it. money. It’s just
JOE Just money! (tries to struggle free so he can hit Sven again) DARRYL We’ll go over his records! Get an estimate. Then Ken will make good on the money. Ken invited Sven to B.P. Ken’s responsible. Darryl looks at Ken. A beat and Ken nods. A long beat. Joe really wants to hit Sven again, but he looks at Darryl. He nods. Pat lets go of Ken. Victor and Lyle let go of Sven.
INT. HOTEL ROOM - NIGHT
Darryl stares out the window. Joe, Lyle, Pat and Victor sit behind him, talking to his back. PAT You’re the reason we’re here, not him, Darryl. VICTOR He’s brought this on himself. We know he’s your friend, but he’s got to go.
DARRYL He’s all of our friend. than our friend.
LYLE But you know we’re right. Darryl nods. He does.
INT. KEN USTON’S APARTMENT - NIGHT
The door is open, dance music blasting. Darryl walks in to find Ken dancing with Inga and another woman, both with their shirts off. Cocaine and quaaludes lie on top of the piano. Darryl! KEN Join the party!
DARRYL Ken, we need to talk. Ken cups his ear. He can’t hear him. Darryl practically yells.
DARRYL We need to talk! Ken waves him over to dance with them, his attention returning to the women. Darryl’s anger -- combined with the distraction of the half-naked women -- bring him to a boil. DARRYL You selfish fucking infant! You’re not dancing your way out of this! The women look at Darryl. INGA Fucking infant. Ken looks at Darryl, his expression neutral as he dances. DARRYL You’re off the team Ken! Ken turns away, keeps dancing. DARRYL That’s it, huh? Tell me something: What happened to “watching each others’ backs,” huh Ken? We trusted you and you sold us out! You sell everything out -- and for what? Your name in the paper?! Some woman you don’t really give a shit about?! Darryl positions himself in front of Ken. We voted! Inga giggles.
DARRYL For once I want an answer to this question! Tell me why this (points back and forth between himself and Ken) doesn’t matter to you at all. Darryl is near tears. Ken holds up a finger. He stumbles drunkenly to the stereo. He turns it off AND TAKES THE EARPLUGS OUT OF HIS EARS. KEN I get the feeling you want to talk. Darryl can’t believe it. Ken didn’t hear a word. We see now how fucked up Ken is as he shoos the women toward the bedroom. Shoo! KEN
He laughs, then puts on a serious face for Darryl and pulls him unsteadily to the couch. They sit. Darryl just shakes his head and sighs. He can’t do it again. KEN I’m thinking of marrying Inga. you think I should? Do
Darryl looks at him, then toward the bedroom, where Inga and the woman are dancing -- and kissing. DARRYL Do you love her? KEN I don’t know. She loves me. She says she loves me. Do you think she loves me? Because I don’t know if she really loves me. Ken sips his drink, his eyes filled with tears. his cheeks, but he doesn’t even seem to notice. Darryl’s anger dissipate. DARRYL Maybe you should wait. it a little more. Ken nods. Think about Some roll down All vestiges of
He seems profoundly sad. DARRYL Ken, about the team, the thing is-KEN The thing is, and I hope you’re not offended, but I’ve decided to form a new team. I’m going to leave you in charge here. I think you’re ready. (MORE)
KEN (cont'd) And that means I need to step aside and give you the room to lead. DARRYL (a beat) Okay. Thanks Ken. KEN You’re welcome. settled. Glad that’s
DARRYL There’s still the issue of the money. We think it’s about 16 K. Ken takes money from his pockets in thousand dollar folds. He hands them to Darryl. Ken is looking at Darryl as he counts the folds -- finds two too many -- and hands some back. KEN It’s you, you know. What’s me? DARRYL
KEN The man you’ve been looking for your whole life. You are that man. We hold on them a moment, then CUT TO:
INT. DINER - MORNING
Maggie and Darryl have stopped on the way to the airport. Darryl looks deeply disappointed. He isn’t eating his food. MAGGIE It’s not the bad things we do that define us you know. (he looks at her) It’s the good things, our better selves, that make us who we are. That’s what I like to think anyway. This isn’t just about Ken. DARRYL You were a good mom. MAGGIE Thank you for making me a part of your team, Darryl. You’re a good man. DARRYL (V.O.) That seemed to be the general consensus.
INT. NEW TEAM HOUSE - NIGHT
A family demonstrates a tiny computer you wear on your leg. It’s an older man, a middle-aged man, and a young woman. OLDER MAN ... You input every card you see using your toes on this pedal here in your right shoe... DARRYL (V.O.) (overlapping) The team looked to me to make decisions now, so I made them. OLDER MAN ... then this pedal in your left shoe tells you how to play the hand. One tap for hit, two for stand, three for double or split... DARRYL (V.O.) We met with the Krafts, a family of technical geniuses known for their card-counting computers... The team looks to Darryl -- who does his best to look confident as he holds out his hand. The older man shakes it. DARRYL (V.O.) ... and for their religious devotion. MIDDLE-AGED MAN Every dollar we take will help undermine the evils of gambling. God willing, we will make a difference. JOE Amen to that. Joe clearly couldn’t care less. Watchtower magazine. The young woman shows Lyle a
YOUNG WOMAN Do you know the true Jesus?
EXT. NEW TEAM HOUSE - BACK PATIO - DAY
Darryl is cooking at the barbecue, wielding Ken’s spatula. In a moment reminiscent of Ken, he serves a sliced onion with a burger to Lyle -- who’s engrossed in a Watchtower Magazine. LYLE Did you know Jesus wasn’t crucified on the cross at all? He was crucified on a stake.
Darryl is concerned about him, but just nods, humoring him. Lyle walks off reading the magazine. DARRYL (V.O.) But I wasn’t a man at all and had no business pretending to be one.
INT. TEAM HOUSE - KITCHEN - DAY
It’s the middle of the night, Darryl sitting at the kitchen table, AN UNFOLDED NAPKIN lying there in front of him. Somewhere a PHONE RINGS.
EXT. CEMETARY - DAY
A funeral as A CASKET is lowered into the ground. among the mourners as the service breaks up.
A WOMAN -- an older version of Helen -- notices him and stops. WOMAN Are you Darryl? I’m Helen’s mother. Here it comes. Ugly words. Recrimination. He’s ready. deserves it. But she kisses his cheek. Hugs him. Thank you. HELEN’S MOTHER He’s racked with guilt. He
He doesn’t understand.
HELEN’S MOTHER Helen told me that because of you she knew what love was. I’m so glad she felt that before she died. He starts to cry. So does she. They hug. DISSOLVE TO:
INT. HOTEL ROOM - NIGHT
Darryl lies on a hotel room bed, alone. He holds Helen’s medical alert tag in his hand, looking at it. DARRYL (V.O.) I left Helen, but she never left me. He puts her tag around his neck, lies there quietly. DARRYL (V.O.) I hear her in the silence of the room.
INT. AIRPLANE - DAY
He sits in his seat as the plane flies him back to Vegas.
DARRYL (V.O.) And behind the noise of the engines. Talking to me.
EXT. BALBOA STREET HOUSE - DAY
He steps out of a taxi with his small travel bag. On the way toward the front door, a cat watches him silently. DARRYL (V.O.) Looking at me with her quiet insistence.
INT. TEAM HOUSE - DAY
Darryl pulls out his guitar case, takes out the guitar. DARRYL (V.O.) Urging me to embrace my life every day, to love as deeply as she did. He pulls out the lyrics to the song he started for her, sits with a pen and tries to work on it. He closes his eyes. DARRYL (V.O.) She whispers in my ear: Take risks, because life is chance. take them for the things that matter. Darryl opens his eyes, sees: LYLE, lying on the couch reading Watchtower Magazine. Lyle notices him looking and turns the magazine to show Darryl a picture of Jesus -- the same exact gesture he made with the Evel Knievel fanzine when they first met. Darryl goes over, snatches the magazine from Lyle and tosses it away. He reaches down and yanks a startled Lyle to his feet-INT. MEN’S STORE - DAY
Darryl helps Lyle try on new clothes. DARRYL (V.O.) I told Lyle that a purpose in life isn’t something we look to others to provide for us. Lyle holds up a shirt for Darryl’s approval. Darryl looks back, noncommittal. Lyle looks at himself in the mirror, holding up the shirt. He smiles. He likes it.
INT. HAIR STYLIST - DAY
Lyle gets a haircut, giving instructions to the barber. He looks to Darryl, but then continues on his own with the barber.
DARRYL (V.O.) That we have no chose but to make our own path. And maybe if he did a little of that, if he become a bit more of himself ... The barber looks at Darryl as he points to a chair. nods and sits. The barber lathers up his stubble.
EXT. HOOVER DAM - DAY
MOS -- Darryl and Lyle look out at the beauty of the lake and the hills, Lyle talking and Darryl listening. DARRYL ... whatever that was...
INT. BIG BUDDHA RESTAURANT - NIGHT
The team out drinking, eating, laughing. Lyle says something and everyone laughs. Darryl drapes an arm over his shoulder. DARRYL ... maybe the world would notice. Lyle motions to the waitress -- who comes right over. Pat looks surprised. Lyle orders another round for the table. DARRYL (V.O.) For a while, we continued more or less as we had before...
INT. TEAM HOUSE - DAY
Everyone carves out bottoms of shoes to put the switches in. Victor holds a shoe against his chest, using a knife to dig. THE KNIFE SLIPS AND PLUNGES INTO HIS CHEST. He frowns. The others panic, yelling, scrambling for a phone to call 911. Victor is calm. Unaffected. VICTOR It’s okay. I’ll just drive to the hospital and take care of it, you guys keep working. He zips up his jacket to where the knife is embedded and walks out before anyone can react. DARRYL (V.O.) We had our successes...
INT. HILTON CASINO - DAY
AN ANKLE -- a wire running from the shoe into the pants leg. It’s Darryl at the table, calling plays for the sushi chef, whose pile of purple chips is the largest we’ve ever seen.
INT. HARRAH’S LAKE TAHOE - DAY
Darryl is placing a stack of TEN $100 CHIPS out onto a TABLE FILLED WITH STACKS OF $100 CHIPS. He’s got a bet on every circle, many splits and doubles, thousands in black all riding on one play, the dealer a woman. This is the moment that opened the film. DARRYL (V.O.) And we had our failures. DARRYL And double down on this one. The dealer carefully tucks a card under his last stack, turns over her hole card, A FICE, FOR ELEVEN, reaches for a card --- AND PULLS A TEN. Twenty-one. She scoops up all of Darryl’s chips. It takes a while. Darryl frowns. How the hell...? Then notices that SMOKE IS POURING OUT HIS PANTS FROM THE COMPUTER ON HIS LEG -The pit bosses notice -EXT. HILTON CASINO - DAY
Darryl is ejected -- barefoot. DARRYL (V.O.) As time went on, it did get harder to play.
EXT. GAMBLERS BOOK SHOP - DAY
The team, outside, staring at something. DARRYL (V.O.) Information about computers and play calling managed to spread and casinos took countermeasures. It’s a bookstore window display filled with ONE BOOK: “MILLION DOLLAR BLACKJACK” By Ken Uston.
INT. SAHARA - NIGHT
Lyle, in disguise, calls plays for Burke. DARRYL (V.O.) But mostly we just became too wellknown. A pit boss walks up -- looks right at Lyle and pushes his bet off the circle. Lyle looks around. Who, me? Two beefy guys grab him and drag him toward an exit.
INT. TEAM HOUSE - DAY
Pat has a bag packed. He shows Darryl a ledger. Pages of meticulous entries, earnings in one column, expenses in the other. We move across the page to a total: “$1,000,026.24” DARRYL (V.O.) Pat made his million and retired. Susan steps into frame with two small travel bags. DARRYL (V.O.) He and Susan settled in her home town in Ohio someplace. Darryl shakes Pat’s hand.
Pat pulls him in for a hug.
HOUSE - BY A POOL - DAY
Joe’s wife has a bandage on her head. She lies in a lounge chair, a far off look in her eyes. Joe brings her a sandwich. DARRYL (V.O.) Joe finally got that new house for his wife. The week they moved in she slipped on the Italian tile and suffered a head injury. Joe stayed close to home to take care of her. She doesn’t seem to recognize Joe. He kisses her forehead. George comes out of the house with the drinks. DARRYL (V.O.) George stayed too. George hands the wife a drink and pats her arm affectionately. DARRYL (V.O.) We moved on.
EXT. MOVIE SET - HOLLYWOOD - DAY
The Producer from earlier watches a scene as a film crew rolls camera. A gasoline tanker is parked by the side of a road... DARRYL (V.O.) Last I heard, Victor was in Hollywood trying his luck as a stunt man. A PLANE CRASHES INTO THE GASOLINE TRUCK. BOTH EXPLODE IN A FIREBALL. Victor stumbles out of the wreckage in flames -INT. AUDITORIUM - DAY
A thin, nervous man practices a speech at a podium. THIN, NERVOUS MAN ... earnings this year, while not as large as projected, are still ...
DARRYL (V.O.) While Lyle started a consulting business. LYLE (O.S.) No, no, stop! The only person watching is Lyle, in suite and tie. LYLE Mr. Tanner, is your life in danger? THIN, NERVOUS MAN Well, no... LYLE Are you travelling at a hundred miles an hour on a motorcycle toward a ramp to jump a row of buses, where there’s a good chance you will break most of your bones or even lose your life? He shakes his head. LYLE Then relax, take some risks. have you got to lose? The thin, nervous man nods and smiles. What Yeah. He’s right.
DARRYL (V.O.) As for me, I took Helen’s -- and Lyle’s -- advice.
INT. GREEN ROOM - NIGHT
Darryl is in a green room, backstage at a theatre, with his guitar. It’s a folk music contest. Other contestants wait their turn, tuning instruments, munching on finger food. You’re up. CONTEST MANAGER
We follow Darryl as he moves out of the room and down a long, narrow hallway... the sounds of a crowd builds... and up onto:
The lights are near blinding, but he can see there are a COUPLE THOUSAND PEOPLE IN THIS AUDIENCE. They all go quiet as Darryl sits on a stool. In the expectant silence, he adjusts his microphone, he clears his throat. DARRYL (V.O.) But before we went our separate ways, we did have one last play together.
EXT. ATLANTIC CITY, NEW JERSEY - DAY
A hotel/casino -- RESORTS INTERNATIONAL -- on the boardwalk. DARRYL (V.O.) Atlantic City, at the opening of the first casino in the U.S. outside of Nevada.
INT. RESORTS INTERNATIONAL - DAY
The place is packed.
Long lines to get a seat at every table.
DARRYL (V.O.) The New Jersey gambling commission, in a temporary fit of fairmindedness, decreed that the casino could not bar counters, that it wasn’t fair. We see a group of Chinese players at a table. DARRYL (V.O.) We descended on them from all over the world. The Czechs were there. The Eastern Europeans sneer at the camera. We see the Krafts, and people we’ve never seen before. Smart-looking people. DARRYL (V.O.) ... The Krafts, Chuck Stone... ... and a group of smug college kids... DARRYL (V.O.) ... the beginnings of the M.I.T. team. Late to the game, already they thought they’d invented it. Ken walks through. Patrons whisper his name. Card counters nudge each other. Pit Bosses come over and shake his hand. DARRYL (V.O.) And there was Ken, at the center of it all, with a new team. Ken drapes an arm over the shoulder of a young man. something -- and the young man laughs. DARRYL (V.O.) For a few short days, Ken’s vision came true. We didn’t have to hide. We didn’t have to act like criminals. Darryl and Pat greet the Czechs out in the open. DARRYL (V.O.) We were experts engaged openly in a game of skill for fun and profit. He says
Darryl and Ken run into each other.
They greet warmly.
DARRYL (V.O.) Free men deserving of respect. DISSOLVE TO:
INT. CONTEST STAGE - NIGHT
Darryl plays and sings.
It’s Helen’s song.
He’s finished it.
WHITE LETTERS APPEAR ON SCREEN: Ken Uston continued to play blackjack and write books. His suit to prevent the casinos from barring counters lost in the Nevada Supreme Court. And also: A suit Ken filed in New Jersey prevailed and today casinos in that state cannot bar card counters, relying on unfavorable rules to protect their earnings. THESE WORDS ALL DISAPPEAR AND ARE REPLACED BY: Darryl and Ken remained friends until Ken’s death of a drug overdose in Paris in 1987. Ken was 52. THESE WORDS DISAPPEAR AND ARE REPLACED BY: Darryl Purpose became a singersongwriter and retired from blackjack. THEN: Or so he says. But that house in Colorado wasn’t bought with singersongwriter money. As the song ends, audience applause for Darryl takes us out... THE END