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LUCKY YOU

The Perfect Bluff
The filmmakers' dedication to verisimilitude was carried over into every aspect of the production, including the spot-on re-creation of the poker room at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino, which had been completely redecorated since 2003 when the story takes place.

The initial intention had been to shoot in the actual poker rooms, but the Bellagio's renovation made that impossible. Instead, the decision was made to build an exact replica of the Bellagio poker room, circa 2003, on a soundstage in Los Angeles. As it turned out, the timing of the Bellagio refurbishment could not have been more serendipitous. Production designer Clay A. Griffith reveals, "The hotel was auctioning off all the old murals, carpeting and furniture, so we just outbid everyone. The chandeliers, the drapes, the sconces—we got it all, which was fantastic because it was a very intricate set to build; there is so much latticework and detail, even on the ceiling. The Bellagio was also very cooperative. They even supplied copies of the original floor plans.”

The result was an uncanny re-creation of the Bellagio's original poker room, as those who knew best testify. "It blew me away,” says poker professional Daniel Negreanu. "It was surreal; it was the exact same Bellagio poker room that I remember. There was nothing at all different about it.”

Fellow pro Erick Lindgren agrees. "I was almost scared when I walked in and saw the Bellagio set. It was like traveling back in time.”

The pros had a similar reaction to Griffith's duplication of the famous "Benny's Bullpen,” the upstairs multi-purpose room at Binion's Gambling Hall, where the final table of the WSOP Main Event was played in 2003. Matt Savage recalls, "I got chills walking into that room in L.A. and seeing how realistic it looked. They did an amazing job.”

Griffith and his team could take particular pride in the observations of the one man whose opinion arguably mattered most: Jack Binion. "I couldn't believe the attention to detail to make everything so accurate,” he remarks. "It was just great.”

Remembering the humble beginnings of what is now the WSOP, Binion says no one could have predicted that Hollywood would someday come calling. "We weren't even thinking of it as a poker tournament; it was more of a poker ‘get together.' We started out with maybe 50 or 60 people, and it came down to a kind of consensus of opinion of who was the best poker player there. We never dreamed it would become this popular. I think the two things that really made the change were the hole card cam and the internet poker sites. It's just exploded, especially in the last few years.”

Hanson verifies, "There were 631 players in the 2002 World Series of Poker. By 2006, that number had mushroomed to more than 8,000. Veteran players now find themselves going up against players who cut their teeth staring at avatars on a screen. I think that's part of the enormous appeal of the game today. Unless you're deluded, you don't really think you could go one-on-one with Allen Iverson on the basketball court or compete against Tiger Woods on the golf course. But in poker, you can play against the best, and, with a little luck, you can even win.”

Apart from the replication of the Bellagio poker room and Benny's Bullpen, most of the principal photography on "Lucky You” was accomplished on location in Las Vegas, where, Denise Di Novi says, "Curtis wanted to show the Las Vegas that we haven't often seen on film—not the glitzy Vegas, but the diners and the shops and the neighborhoods where the people that live and work there hang out. Las Vegas exists in two parallel worlds: the modern tourist attraction Vegas and the old historic Vegas, which is more authentic.”

Griffith confirms, "We wanted to show Las Vegas from different points of view, to combine classic and conte

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