I’ve never gone near Las Vegas’ Caesars Palace. The very idea of a gambling complex of such labyrinthine vastness, slick luxury, and relatively recent construction—especially given the ancient-Rome simulacrum it goes for here and there—frightens me. Then again, so does the idea of Las Vegas itself; I’ve never gone near the city either. Perhaps you feel the same way. The video above promises, by leading us straight into the belly of the beast, to alleviate such fears. Not only does it offer a view of the milder, somewhat less audiovisually aggressive casino of 1978 (though the era’s collars, lapels, and hairstyles compensate with an aggression of their own), it explains such popular games of chance as baccarat, craps, blackjack, roulette, and Keno. Give the Caesars Guide to Gaming with Orson Welles this: it certainly picks a striking Virgil.
“I’ve been asked by Caesars Palace to tell you a little about gaming,” Welles says. “I guess they’ve asked me because I know a little about cards, a little about history, and, well, because I’ve been known to take a long shot or two.” And indeed, he peppers his lessons on betting with anecdotes about Poseidon, Zeus, shield-spinning Greek soldiers, and the primitive bone-tossing games of ancient man. The Caesars Guide to Gaming with Orson Welles appeared five years after F for Fake, Welles’ final theatrical feature. I need hardly highlight the fact that F for Fake this ain’t, nor Welles’ abundance of awkward late-career projects and appearances. Still, you’ll learn a great deal more from it that you will from playing that frozen peas commercial recording session one more time.
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.