Last Hand

by Sandra Jerome


Fifteen years ago, they threw her blackjack dealing, card counting father in jail for theft, but can his young adult daughter get revenge by becoming the thing the casino fears – a winner?


An anxious little girl dressed in her birthday finest waits in Circus Circus for her father, a blackjack dealer. Just as her mother starts to write him off as a “no show”, Kimi spots a clown struggling to climb the stairs in his size twenty shoes and jumps into his arms. Pretending that he’s frustrated that his little girl saw through his disguise, Flip is actually proud of his daughter’s keen ability to spot a poser. It’s a heartbreaking moment later when the local police arrest her father for cheating while dealing blackjack to cover his gambling debts.

Time passes and the little girl is now grown and one of the best blackjack dealers in town. Kimi is a genius at counting cards and has the unusual ability to “smell” the cheaters from the soap and shampoos that they use at the strip hotels. Although she’s working at an off-strip grind joint where her favorite regulars Sammy and Mort, hang out, she dreams of getting a job at one of the glamorous super casinos. But to get hired, you either need to know the right people or be able to afford to go to a dealer’s school. Kimi doesn’t even have enough for rent.

The two old men, let it slip that Kimi’s dad is now out of prison, but she wants nothing to do with Flip. Kimi’s best friend, Pokey helps her finally get her big audition but the casino manager sets her up for failure by hiring a drunk to harass her. Angry, she confronts Arnie and recognizes him from her childhood – he’s her father’s former boss who had Flip arrested. Arnie in return accuses her of hanging out at his new casino now that her father is out of jail.

Kimi hunts down her father and demands to know why he hasn’t tried to see her since he was released. When her temper cools, she decides to give her father a second chance in exchange for his help in getting her ready for her next audition at a super casino. The two start to bond as Flip teaches her the art of dealing, but Kimi doesn’t get another chance. Being Flip’s daughter in a town where Arnie has so much influence makes it hard to get a better job.

Flip comes up with another option – Arnie’s casino is having a blackjack tournament in two weeks and the winner walks away with a million dollars. The only problem is that Kimi doesn’t gamble. She doesn’t want to be like her father – addicted to gambling. After she loses her job and is desperate for the money, she agrees to enter the tournament and give Flip one more chance.

There are three interwoven stories:

The Tournament Story: It’s not as easy as it looks for Kimi to move through each round of play – and with every close call, she almost gives poor Mort and Sammy a heart attack. It’s a thousand players to one Kimi, but who else has her skill, training, or determination?

The Father/Daughter Story: Kimi doesn’t forgive her dad for ruining her childhood, but she knows Flip can teach her what she needs to win the million.

The Arnie Story: Kimi can’t figure out why Arnie would spend so much effort trying to keep her out of his casino and then prevent her from getting a fair chance in the tournament. He accuses her of seeking revenge, but for what?

The three stories come together as the first day of the tournament arrives and Kimi just barely makes it through the first round to advance to the second round. In the next round, it looks like Kimi has lost when Arnie stacks the cards, but she figures out what is going on and wins. Arnie takes her to another table to show her who she’ll be playing against in the finals – and there is Flip — in disguise. Kimi storms away, angry with Flip for deceiving her and she knows there is no way she can beat him. His gambling is ruining her life again.

Arnie takes Flip to his office where he makes a deal with Flip that lets him play the last round. The round begins with Kimi, Flip, and three other players. When it comes down to the last round, Flip tries to goad the other player, Slim, to put all his chips in, but Kimi does it instead and busts.

It looks like Slim has won until Kimi recognizes the smell of the citrus soap on his cards that they use in the employee restrooms. She exposes Slim to the gaming commission official who also suspected that the tournament was a money laundering scheme. Arnie had planned to use the tournament to clean a million dollars and Slim worked for him. Kimi finds out that her dad is also working for the gaming commission to expose how Arnie framed blackjack dealers to launder money in the past. Kimi asks why Flip never told her that he was innocent – and he replies that she would never have believed him – and would have thought him a liar and a gambling cheat. Even if she did believe him, she would have grown up seeking revenge and endangered her life. Kimi has one more surprise when the gaming commission determines that since Slim and Flip were ineligible players, Kimi was the last player with chips and wins the millions dollars. She uses the money to buy her old gambling joint. Although she and Flip have a ways to go before becoming father and daughter again, she decides there is always time for one last hand.

Review from Screencraft – 2023 SCREENWRITING FELLOWSHIP

Overall, “Last Hand” is a strong character-driven drama that is sure to appeal to a wide audience.
The film’s themes of family, legacy, and addiction are universal and relatable, and its well-crafted
plot and characters will keep viewers engaged from start to finish.


drama, female lead

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