Gambling movies don’t come around too often, and baccarat films are even more uncommon. Therefore, when a big-screen project checks both boxes, it’s worth writing about.

Actress Awkwafina has won the lead role in a film tentatively titled The Baccarat Machine. It tells the story of Cheung Yin “Kelly” Sun and Phil Ivey as they won millions playing baccarat at both the Borgata and Crockfords.

What’s the Story About?

In 2012, Phil Ivey and Kelly Sun cleaned up at baccarat tables around the world. They won $9.6 million at the Borgata in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Then, the duo took on Crockfords in London and earned nearly another $11 million.

Before playing at either casino, Ivey was able to convince the establishments to agree to a number of stipulations. These included:

  • Hands were played with cards manufactured by Gemaco.
  • High value cards were flipped before shuffling.
  • Hands were dealt before Ivey/Sun placed their wagers.

It turns out that Ivey and Sun were engaged in “edge sorting.” This occurs when a player finds imperfections on the back of cards that allows them to distinguish between high and low values. The Gemaco cards were flawed, and, along with the other demands, this allowed Sun and her partner to gain a major advantage.

Crockfords refused to pay the pair their winnings. This resulted in a court cases. Meanwhile, Borgata sued to get their money back. In both cases, Ivey and Sun wound up losing in court.

Who the Heck is Awkwafina?

Awkwafina is the stage name of Queens, New York native Nora Lum. Her father is Chinese American, and her late mother was Korean American.

She started rapping at 13, and her career took off after one of her songs, “My Vag,” went viral on YouTube. Her first solo rap album, Yellow Ranger, debuted in 2014.

Her acting career blossomed in 2014, as she landed a role on the MTV series Girl Code. More television roles have followed, and she even hosted Saturday Night Live in 2018. She currently stars in the Comedy Central series Awkwafina is Nora from Queens.

In addition to TV, Awkwafina has been appearing in a number of movie roles. These include projects such as Neighbours 2, Ocean’s 8, Crazy Rich Asians, and Jumanji: The Next Level.

Who’ll Play Phil Ivey?

Phil Ivey and Cheung Yin Sun go to court

Sure, the film may focus on Sun and her role in the Crockfords mess, but who’s going to play partner Phil Ivey? The WSOP champ and legendary prop gambler was 35 when the incident occurred, so a lot of promising actors should be eligible. Here are my five leading candidates to capture the role:

  • Michael B. Jordan – His stock is white hot at the moment, with roles in two Creed movies and a villainous turn in Black Panther.
  • Donald Glover – This multi-talented performer starred on the Community series and appeared as Lando in Solo. He’s also a best-selling rapper under the name Childish Gambino.
  • Michael Ealy – This handsome actor has appeared in films such as Think like a Man and the remake of Jacob’s Ladder.
  • John Boyega – This English actor played Finn in the latest Star Wars trilogy.
  • Brandon T. Jackson – A rapper, actor and writer. You might remember him as Alpa Chino in Tropic Thunder.

Not a Done Deal

Movies don’t get made overnight, and a lot of elements can derail a production. However, The Baccarat Machine is inching ever closer to the silver screen.

SK Global is involved with financing and producing the film. They’re best-known for producing Crazy Rich Asians, which also starred Awkwafina.

Currently, Andy Bellin is writing the film’s screenplay based on an article in Cigar Aficionado magazine. SK Global is looking at potential directors, and more casting hires are expected to be announced soon.

Further Reading

The world of gambling is constantly generating interesting stories and new articles. If you’d like to see more of them, I suggest the following: