Ocean’s Eleven Analysis

Ocean’s Eleven: revealing the mechanism of the land-based casinos

The word “land-based” refers to a casino that is a physical venue that people can visit in order to gamble, in comparison to online casinos that offer gambling opportunities without leaving the comfort of one’s home. Steven Soderbergh’s film Ocean’s Eleven shows the viewers the magnificent world of the Las Vegas Strip casinos. The extravagance and glamour of The Bellagio hotel, run by an entrepreneur Terry Benedict who also owns The Mirage and MGM Grand, has been captured throughout the film. Although the action is mainly concentrated on the plot to rob Benedict, a watchful eye can notice very important aspects that go hand-in-hand with the running of a land-based hotel. Soderbergh has managed to incorporate details in the script, action and background that might not, at first sight, seem meaningful but are vital for the success of a casino in real life.

Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends. – Walt Disney

In order for a land-based casino to keep on making profits, the players must want to keep on coming back. There are some obvious and not so obvious tricks and ways to attract people to the casinos. First of all, going to a grand casino, such as The Bellagio, is first and foremost a social experience. The three casinos incorporate both a casino and a hotel in order for guests to spend a weekend in Vegas and have a great time. Just like seen in the films, there are usually several people around a game table, which is a way to meet new people, interact and have a good time. Hotels are great locations for casinos since the guests can spend the night and therefore stay more than a day, which leaves more time for gambling in the casino. Ocean’s Eleven also has several scenes of Terry, Tess and Danny spending time at the hotel restaurant, which is another way to enhance the guests’ social experience as fine dining is considered a part of a hotel visit. In addition to restaurants, these hotel casinos also have several bars, where Danny tells Frank about the plan to rob the casino. Tess happens to be a curator in the museum that is located inside the hotel for the guests.

Las Vegas casinos are also well known for the evening entertainment. The film’s main action takes place on a boxing game night when Danny and his crew decide to rob the vault. Organising events is a way for casinos to gain an additional audience for the night as well as keep people coming back for more. In the film Danny explains to his crew the Nevada Gaming Committee’s law, according to which “casinos must hold a reserve of enough cash to cover every chip at the play on the floor” and explains that on a weekday that is anything between $60-$70 million, on weekends $80-$90 million and on fight nights $150 million. This shows how much more is spent on gaming during events such as a boxing fight.

Customer experience is not only about offering entertainment and a social venue. In order to make the visit memorable, a casino needs to trigger all the right senses. First of all, it can be seen in any scene filmed inside the casino’s main gambling hall that the décor is classic and even slightly vintage, making the space look timeless. However, sight is not the only sense that gets triggered in the film and in casinos. The sound of slot machines is a very distinguishable and is used to both please and manipulate with players. The machines play happy music in order to make the player feel accomplished even if the win has only been partial and an actual loss has been made. In the film, Terry Benedict can recognise the sound of these machines while talking on the phone to Rusty, making it easy to locate his whereabouts.

The rooms in the casinos have been designed to make the player feel comfortable rather than trapped and in a small room. The hall of The Bellagio in Ocean’s Eleven seems spacious, the tables are spread out to give the players room to move and feel free, creating a more relaxed atmosphere where players are more willing to make bigger bets. It also has high ceilings and wide walkways. This can all be seen while Terry leads Saul towards his vault to store a briefcase. Together with security guys, they walk through the spacious gaming hall.

Terry Benedict, being a smart businessman, knew that in order to get something done right, one needs to do it themselves. In the movie, he was the one that dealt with problems personally, spent time on the gaming floor to keep an eye on things and interact with players. Furthermore, he had paid special attention to the VIP guests as the ones who could potentially mean big money for the casino. Getting to know the players makes them feel more welcome and appreciated in the casino, making them want to come back in the future, regardless of the money lost in the games. Benedict made sure the know Saul’s background before approaching him, that way being able to get to a more personal level with the player.

Distrust and caution are the parents of security. – Benjamin Franklin

Casinos are required to have a hold of large amounts of money at one time, which makes these venues targets for robberies and scams. Casinos have invested a lot into the security and put many different systems in place to prevent crime, protect the players and their own secrets. The Bellagio has both a technology-based security systems as well as a physical security force in place. The cameras that have been installed all around the hotel and casino are the best example of the technological security, also known in casinos as the eye in the sky. These give an overview of everything that is happening and rarely miss anything. Benedict confirmed that when he told Tess “in my hotel there is always someone watching”. These cameras are being monitored from a security centre constantly. The Bellagio’s security centre can be best seen when Saul’s in the room to oversee his briefcase being taken into the vault. Another moment where the security room can be seen is when Rusty makes the call to Benedict to make sure he is watching the screens and following the events taking place in the vault at the same time.

The casino’s money reserves are kept in highly secure, top-notch vaults that can only be accessed by a small number of staff members. To access the vault in The Bellagio, Danny’s team had to come up with a smart plan. The vault in The Bellagio was kept 200 yards under ground and had an extremely complicated security system. Danny explained this to his crew that in order to get to the vault, they would need to get through the casino cages and doors that all have different 6 digit codes that get changed twice a day. The crew would then need to head to the elevator that only moves with an authorised fingerprint identification as well as vocal confirmation from The Bellagio’s security system and the vault. The Elevator shaft has motion detectors and there are heavily armed guards at the vault door. There are also sensors on the ground that detect any underground movement within a 100-yard radius. This all goes to show how much effort is put into guarding the money in the casinos.

In addition to the cameras, security room and vaults, casinos also use extra technological and a physical security team. In Ocean’s Eleven, in order to reach the casino cages, the team needed to get the door open without having a key card, which is another added security means. On the doors and on the casino floor, there are security guys keeping an eye on things, just like the ones guarding the door when the Malloy twins wanted to get into the cages and accompanying Benedict and Saul into the security centre. There is also a code of behaviour and rules put in place in casinos to make sure the place is as secure as possible. In Benedict’s casino, for example, no private security is allowed in the security centre. All these measures combined make these big land-based casinos extremely well protected and secure. In fact, as told by Reuben, there have only been three known robberies in the history of casino gambling and none of them made it very far before being caught due to the high levels of security.

Competition brings out the best in products and the worst in people. – David Sarnoff

When it comes to casinos, the competition is fierce. The Bellagio, The Mirage and MGM Grand are some of the most profitable casinos in Nevada yet even these venues have competition. Nevada operates a free market model, which means anyone could open up a casino. Nevertheless, in Ocean’s Eleven, Benedict was the owner of all 3 of the large casinos, making him not very afraid of competition. Nevertheless, to eliminate competition, people are willing to go out of their way and take extreme measures. Terry Benedict used force to “muscle out” Reuben from his own casino to then tear it town and build something else in its place. This practice is common with casinos. In the case of Ocean’s Eleven, Reuben was not up to robbing a casino until he learned that Benedict was involved, in which case he was motivated to hurt the competition to get revenge. This was a lesson to Benedict that one should never underestimate the competitors.There are also more subtle ways of beating competitions. Offering recreational activities and events, such as the fight night in Ocean’s Eleven, attracts more people to the casino, making the venues more profitable than the competitors’.

One of the methods of manipulation is to inoculate individuals with the bourgeois appetite for personal success. – Paulo Freire

Manipulation and playing with a person’s psychology is what gaming and casinos are all about. The very basic trick in poker, bluffing, is making the other players believe something that is not actually true. Manipulation is a skill that does not come naturally to everyone, which is why Rusty is teaching others how to play poker and how to spot when someone is bluffing. Manipulation is also used in other casino games as well as slot machines to keep people happy and spending money. As mentioned before, even the decor elements of the casino hall is designed to make the players feel comfortable and in the right mind set for making bets.

Soderbergh has managed to bring out the manipulation in every aspect of the film. The main idea of the film is a scam, which has been planned to deceive Benedict. Danny Ocean and his team managed to outsmart technology and get into the vault without anyone noticing. Even after Terry has found out about the robbery, they continue to manipulate with him, making him believe that he is on top of the situation when in reality he is getting even deeper into the mess. The art of deception and manipulation can get results when people are ignorant. Terry was certain his casino had the best possible security measures in place and thought it would never be possible to be robbed. Danny Ocean proved him wrong.


Soderbergh's Ocean Eleven has many very details that correspond well with how land-based casinos operate in real life. Danny Ocean’s team managed to work their way past the highly monitored and thought through casino security. Not only does the film show what casino security is like, Soderbergh has also managed to incorporate the player’s relationship with gambling and how it can be encouraged though manipulation of the mind. It shows what a casino can do to attract more visitors as well as top its competitors. The viewer can see and experience how a casino works as Danny and the crew work their way to getting their millions and deceiving the owner of some of the most profitable and successful casinos in the world.