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Those who like movies about blackjack and other card gambling games will appreciate The Card Counter. This 2021 movie stars Oscar Issac from the Star Wars franchise alongside Tiffany Haddish and Tye Sheridan.

 The Card Counter movie garnered high ratings from critics and Rotten Tomatoes. Here is a look at the plot of the film and more in our The Card Counter review.

The Card Counter Plot

The movie tells the story of professional gambler William Tell. Tell became an expert card counter while he was serving a stint in military prison. He uses a philosophy that we have often promoted on Counting Edge. This is to win slowly and modestly. In this way, William Tell is able to avoid detection by casino officials.

Even though he gambles every day for a living, William Tell does not stay in casino hotels. He prefers cheap motels instead, and he carries all of his belongings in two simple suitcases. Tell also has peculiar quirks on how he maintains his motel rooms, often wrapping the furniture in plain sheets which are covered with twine.

A chance encounter with a woman named La Linda puts Tell on a new path. La Linda represents a stable of gamblers who are staked by rich investors. The investors receive large portions of the gamblers’ winnings. Knowing that William Tell is proficient as a card counter, La Linda wishes to add him to her team.

Tell initially refuses, but a series of events that call back to Tell’s military days change the gambler’s mind. He becomes deeply involved in a revenge plot with a man named Cirk. Before long, Tell is also associated with La Linda and her band of gamblers as they try to take down a WSOP circuit event.

Even though most people associate card counting with blackjack, the main gambling game represented in this film is Texas Hold ‘Em poker. The World Series of Poker brand is also prominent.

Stars of the Film


Most people will recognize the star of the film, Oscar Issac, from his portrayal of the rebel hero Poe Dameron in the Star Wars franchise. Issac brings a brooding aura to the character of William Tell which suits the lifestyle that the gambler lives.




Playing opposite the seriousness of Issac is comedian Tiffany Haddish as La Linda. Haddish is mostly known for her comedic roles, but she shows in this film that she is also capable of serious acting. Her occasional wit and humor brings some relief against the film’s dramatic backdrop.



Tye Sheridan shot to fame as the lead actor in Ready Player One and as a character in the X-Men franchise. Here he plays the character Cirk, a young man on a dark path of revenge. Despite the efforts of Tell, Cirk seems destined for trouble.




A cameo from legendary actor Willem Dafoe rounds out the primary cast of the film. Dafoe makes the most of his screen time by delivering another classic performance.




Critical Reception and Earnings

The Card Counter earned gross revenues of just $5 million at the box office. It was filmed primarily in Mississippi. The initial production was halted when it was discovered that one of the minor actors in the film had tested positive for Covid-19.

Critics were mostly supportive of the movie. It garnered a rating of 87% on the fan review site Rotten Tomatoes. Film critic Richard Roeper gave the film 4 stars in a review for the Chicago Sun-Times. Other publications followed suit, praising the film’s depiction of the gritty world of casino gambling in addition to the dark side of war.

What Can Blackjack Players and Poker Players learn from The Card Counter

It is interesting to note that the film used verbatim portions of a Wired article on card counting for its script. Overall, there is a sense of realism about the card games depicted in the movie.

Blackjack players and those who have an interest in card counting and gambling professionally could benefit from the overall approach of William Tell to his gambling career. He makes a dedicated effort to avoid suspicion from casino bosses and security. Rather than trying to make large wins, Tell takes modest gains in his gambling wins.

Another thing Tell does is avoid the loyalty programs and free hotel rooms from the casinos he chooses to play at. He stays instead in cheap motels, some of which don’t even require an ID for a night’s stay. In this way he is able to stay off the radar of those who would try to bring an end to his gambling career.

At Counting Edge we have long advocated an approach to blackjack which we call small ball. It encourages the player to set smaller win goals for each session. The idea is to string together more small winning sessions to produce large profits. The player risks less to achieve their daily win goal.

Our Opinion of The Card Counter

This movie is pure fun for those who like gambling movies about blackjack and card counting. It is also sure to appeal to those who like action movies.

Some players will find small discrepancies with the nature of card counting and how it can be applied to Texas Hold ‘Em poker. Card counting is a skill that is mostly reserved for blackjack instead of poker. Even so, the way that the film explains things makes sense. Tell is a blackjack player as well, but he focuses on poker for the story of this film.

We would give the movie 4 out of 5 stars. It is a good diversion when you need a break from playing blackjack online for real money.

To play blackjack for money online we recommend that you try one of the recommended casinos. You can read the Lucky Red Casino review, Casino Max review, Miami Club review, or Roaring 21 review to name a few.

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