House of Games (1987)

House of Games (1987)

Taglines: Where the game is never over.

Margaret Ford is a psychiatrist who has achieved success with her recently published book, but who feels unfulfilled. During a session one day, Billy Hahn, a patient, informs her that his life is in danger because he owes money to a criminal figure named Mike and brandishes a gun, threatening to kill himself. Margaret persuades him to surrender the weapon to her and promises that she will help.

That night, Margaret visits a pool hall owned by Mike and confronts him. Mike says that he is willing to forgive Billy’s debt if Margaret accompanies him to a back room poker game and identifies the tell of George, another player. She agrees, and spots George playing with his ring when he bluffs. She discloses this to Mike, who calls the bluff.

However, George wins the hand and demands that Mike pay the $6,000 bet, which he is unable to do. George pulls a gun but Margaret intervenes and offers to pay the debt with a personal check. She then notices that the gun is actually a water pistol, and realizes that the entire game is a set-up to trick her out of her money. She is excited, however, and returns the next night to request that Mike teach her about cons so that she can write a book about the experience. Mike appears skeptical, but agrees.

Mike begins to enchant Margaret by showing her several small tricks. Eventually, the two steal a hotel room and make love. While in the room, he instructs her that all con artists take a small token from every “mark” to signify their dominance. While Mike is in the bathroom, she takes a small pocket knife from the table, believing that it belongs to the man who rented the room.

Afterwards, Mike says that he is late for another, large con with his associates at the same hotel. Margaret is eager to tag along and, reluctantly Mike allows it. The con involves Mike, his partner Joey and the “mark,” a businessman discovering a briefcase full of money, and taking it to a hotel room. There they will discuss whether to turn it in or split it among themselves.

In the hotel room, Margaret discovers that the businessman is actually an undercover policeman, and the trick is a sting operation. She tells Mike and they attempt to escape, but the policeman blocks their way and tries to arrest them. There is a struggle that ends with Mike accidentally shooting the officer dead.

The three leave via the stairwell and end up in the garage, where they force Margaret to steal a car, driving past two uniformed police officers, the con men concealed in the back seat. While abandoning the car, they realize that the briefcase, containing $80,000 borrowed from the Mafia for the con, has been lost. Margaret finally offers to pay Mike $80,000 of her own money so he can pay back the mob.

House of Games Movie Poster (1987)

House of Games (1987)

Directed by: David Mamet
Starring: Lindsay Crouse, Joe Mantegna, Mike Nussbaum, Lilia Skala, Willo Hausman, Karen Kohlhaas, Steven Goldstein, Jack Wallace, Rachel Cline
Screenplay by: David Mamet
Production Design by: Michael Merritt
Cinematography by: Juan Ruiz Anchía
Film Editing by: Trudy Ship
Costume Design by: Nan Cibula
Set Decoration by: Derek R. Hill
Music by: Alaric Jans
Distributed by: Orion Pictures
Release Date: October 11, 1987