The word casino conjures images of a flashy place where champagne glasses clink and locals and tourists mingle, all while trying their luck at various games of chance. Usually casinos add in other luxuries like restaurants, free drinks and stage shows to entice patrons into gambling. But a casino is, at its core, simply a place that offers the possibility of winning money by rolling the dice or spinning the wheel.

It’s also a place where people who would never dream of throwing hundreds or thousands of dollars away on the roll of the dice, a spin of the wheel or the draw of the cards do exactly that. Something about the atmosphere in a casino makes otherwise reasonable, hardworking people throw down their cash on an arbitrary basis.

Whether it’s the bright lights and flashing sounds, or the fact that you are playing with colorful little discs instead of actual cash, casino floors have a way of blurring the lines between money and play. Casinos don’t have windows or clocks on the house floor because they want you to lose track of time and continue playing for as long as possible. This strategy is why some casinos even prohibit dealers from wearing watches.

Robert De Niro’s Ace Rothstein isn’t a dashing underworld hero, but he does see himself as a principled old-school operator. He’s a gambler, not a philosopher, and his worldview is shaped by the sunk cost fallacy. In his quest to get Nicky out of jail, he reveals that he will not turn on the FBI even though he knows the mobster is in danger of getting caught for skimming cash from the casino’s money counting room.