Robert De Niro as Sam “Ace” Rothstein, Vegas casino executive and mob associate
Las Vegas, Spring 1973
Release Date: November 22, 1995
Director: Martin Scorsese
Costume Design: Rita Ryack & John A. Dunn
It does absolutely nothing to advance the plot and it’s unnecessary to establish the traits an already well-established character, but the sequence of Ace Rothstein’s brand of justice for two men caught cheating at blackjack under his watch in the Tangiers casino is one of the most entertaining and memorable in the film.
True to his name, Ace has tremendous gambling instincts and is thus able to spot “two yokels” trying to run a scam on a blackjack table purely from watching the way they bet. He does some first-hand investigating and discovers that a gruff, bearded man and his twerpish confederate have spotted a weak dealer who isn’t protecting his hole card well enough. Ace calls in two of his security team – Armstrong and Friday – and instructs the one armed with a cattle prod to zap “BJ 19, second base, the beard” (indicating the bearded man sitting at the second seat at blackjack table #19). When he calls in an order for “Mr. Happy… loud”, the casino is distracted by cocktail waitresses singing about a dealer’s birthday while Armstrong uses the aforementioned prod to down one of the cheaters in a fit presumed to be cardiac arrest.
The bearded man is taken to a frightening bare back room straight out of Orwell, and Rothstein calmly asks which hand the man uses to “shuffle your checks”. Upon finding out that the man uses his right hand, Rothstein nods to one of his officers and a hammer comes out of nowhere, smashing the man’s right hand. “Now you’re gonna have to learn with your left hand,” Rothstein duly informs him.
The affable Billy Sherbert (Don Rickles) is dispatched to rope in the twerpish man, who is immediately confronted with the sight of his co-cheater’s mangled hand. He agrees never to cheat at the Tangiers again and thanks Rothstein (likely for letting him keep his life) before he leaves. “Throw him in the alley and tell the cops he got hit by a car,” Rothstein orders.
It shows just how much trust studios have in Martin Scorsese that he could keep a relatively superfluous scene running several minutes in a movie that was already just a few seconds shy of three hours long… all set to the sounds of Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart covering Willie Dixon’s 1961 blues ballad “I Ain’t Superstitious”.
What’d He Wear?
Ace Rothstein decks himself out in all light and dark shades of azure for one of the most memorable sequences, from his Yale blue suit to the more sky-toned matching shirt, tie, and pocket square. Why so much blue? On Breaking Bad, Vince Gilligan used blue clothing to indicate moral corruption in Walter and Skyler White’s characters in reference to Heisenberg’s blue meth product.
Perhaps in Casino, Ace’s all blue suit is a nod to his role in this scene specifically as the casino’s “police”, investigating criminal activity and doling out justice as he sees fit. Perhaps it’s Ace asserting his masculine dominance over two men trying to cheat him over by sporting the most traditionally masculine-associated color.
The slubbing of Ace’s dark blue suiting indicates either raw silk, linen, or a blend of both. The silk would be more “on brand” for Ace Rothstein, but a linen suit would certainly breathe coolly and comfortably during Las Vegas’s dry, hot nights… especially if one is inclined to wear a dark suit.
Ace’s single-breasted suit jacket closes with only a single button. Not much is seen of the flat front trousers as Ace keeps his jacket buttoned throughout the scene, but the slightly flared bottoms are plain-hemmed and he definitely has side pockets where he often slips his hands.
The suit jacket’s wide peak lapels have a full belly, a convex break line, and a shorter gorge seam despite the ’70s-appropriate lapel width. The wide shoulders are well-padded with strongly roped sleeveheads. Like the front of the jacket, each cuff closes with one button. The jacket appears to have double vents and patch hip pockets. The breast pocket is welted with a sky blue silk display kerchief neatly folded inside, made by Anto to perfectly match the shirt and tie.
Anto created all of Ace’s shirts, ties, and pocket square, allowing for each set to perfectly match in a manner that a fastidious and detail-oriented dressed like Ace would appreciate. The sky blue silk shirt that Ace wears in this scene has a large point collar with edge stitching about a half-inch in. It buttons up a plain front and has single cuffs for links, which appear to be 14-carat white gold with a half bezel set emerald cut blue aquamarine in the center. Naturally, his silk tie is the same shade of sky azure as his shirt.
Anto has confirmed that the satin tie was made on the shiny side while the charmeuse silk shirt was made on the dull side. Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, the real-life gambler that Rothstein was based on, was an Anto client in real life and the shirtmaker was able to revisit Rosenthal’s original shirt orders – and even some fabric replications – to create accurate shirts for the film.
When conducting surveillance on the two cheaters in his casino, Ace bends down to ostensibly tie his shoelace. The cheaters should have been suspicious: Ace’s shoes don’t have any laces. In fact, he is wearing a pair of black leather loafers with raised heels and a silver horsebit detail. His dark socks are probably blue to continue the trouser leg line into his shoes.
Ace being who he is, his ring perfectly matches his cuff links. The 14-carat white gold ring on his right pinky has an emerald cut blue aquamarine stone, set in a geometric polished shank. Though his wristwatch is barely seen through most of the sequence, it would be very uncharacteristic for Ace to switch metals now; he’s appears to be wearing an 18-carat white gold Bueche Girod vintage watch.
This iconic outfit was naturally featured on Ibraheem Youssef’s poster depicting Ace’s Casino suits, shown second from the right on the second row but featured with the light blue leather shoes that he would later wear when meeting county commissioner Pat Webb in his office.
How to Get the Look
Ace exudes luxury and power as he dispenses his brand of Las Vegas justice while wearing all blue silk.
- Dark blue lightweight raw silk tailored suit, consisting of:
- Single-breasted 1-button jacket with wide peak lapels, welted breast pocket, patch hip pockets, 1-button cuffs, and double vents
- Flat front trousers with side pockets and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Sky blue charmeuse silk dress shirt with long point collar, plain front, and single cuffs
- Sky blue satin silk tie
- White gold 14-carat cuff links with half bezel set, emerald cut aquamarine stone
- Black leather horsebit slip-on loafers with silver horsebit detail and black raised heels
- Dark blue dress socks
- Bueche Girod 14-carat white gold vintage wristwatch
- White gold 14-carat pinky ring with emerald cut, geometric shank-set aquamarine stone
Of course, it’s little details like the matching sky blue pocket square – perfectly folded into his breast pocket – that help set Ace Rothstein’s distinctive style apart from any wannabe wiseguys in his circle.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Buy the movie.
They never know what hit ’em. And if and when they do find out they just got zapped by a cattle prod, they wish they really did have a heart attack.