Huck Cheever (Eric Bana) is a smooth-talking, full-time career gambler who can read people even better than the cards. Employing his skills at various casinos in Las Vegas, the young man has the ability to work his way up from nothing. Unfortunately, he also has a habit of putting all his chips on the table every time he gets a big enough pile -- and that doesn't always prove lucrative. Winning and losing fortunes almost daily, the poker player sometimes uses his talents to beg, borrow and (if necessary) steal the funds needed to perpetuate his "work."
One evening, in between games, Huck meets Billie Offer (Drew Barrymore), an attractive single who is the sister of an acquaintance (Debra Messing). Learning she is new in Sin City and looking for a gig as a lounge singer, Huck takes time out of his busy schedule to show her the town. This includes sightseeing, a turn at the tables (where he plays with her money) and an offer to sleep over at his house (only some kissing and bare shoulders are shown). It's a perfect night for the lonely woman -- until she wakes up the next morning to discover both Huck and her wallet are gone.
In his defense, or so he later explains, he needs the cash to get a seat at the World Poker Championships -- and an opportunity to settle the score between himself and his father. Although L.C. Cheever (Robert Duvall), two-time winner of the aforementioned tournament, is a legend in Vegas, he is just a scoundrel in his son's eyes. Unwilling to forgive the heartache he has caused his mother, Huck hopes to humble the man by beating him in his own game.
You may have a difficult time following the logic behind his ambition. For instance, how can becoming just like his Dad teach the old man anything new? And how can Billie hope to become romantically involved in this hustler's life without having her life mirror that of his poor, exploited Mom? Don't expect the script to answer these questions.
Instead, this movie paints a picture of Huck's life where he is wearing out his welcome with friends who are tired of being asked for hand-outs, enduring threats for not paying overdue debts (which include rough-handling resulting in a scraped up face) and surrounded by other uncontrollable gamblers (such as a man who takes a bet to have breast implant surgery done and live with the physical alteration to his physique for six months). It is not a glamorous existence. Yet, the same cannot be said for the allure of competitive gambling.
As the storyline moves into the depiction of the World Poker Championships, tension and excitement grow with each new hand. Using amazing bluffs, clever strategies, luck of the draw and even real-life celebrity poker players to push the plot along, the film starts to feel like the typical football flick.
However, unlike sports movies, where passion drives the athletes, it's hard to cheer for the card sharks depicted here. After watching the compulsion that drives them to play without remorse, rationalize lying and be willing to manipulate others, you are more likely to feel you are encouraging an addict.
So where does healthy competition end and dangerous obsession begin? For those blinded by the glitz and exhilaration of the game, the demarcation line may be as hard to see as it is for the characters in Lucky You.