Comedic actress Nora Lum, better known by her stage name Awkwafina, has been tapped to play Cheung Yin ‘Kelly’ Sun in the upcoming film, The Baccarat Machine.
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The film will be produced by SK Global, which also came up with the smash hit film Crazy Rich Asians.
The Baccarat Machine will follow the unlikely partnership between Kelly Sun and the so-called “King of Poker” Phil Ivey and focus on how they used an edge-sorting strategy that was described by Cigar Aficionado as “one of the most ingenious legal gambling runs ever documented. “
Who is Awkwafina?
Awkwafina is the stage name of the Asian-American comedian Nora Lum. Lum rose to prominence by releasing comedy rap songs onto YouTube and following up with a comedy album, titled Yellow Ranger, in 2014.
The album’s title was a reference to the Asian-American character from the American version of Saban Entertainment’s Power Rangers.
Lum started her career in film with supporting roles in comedies such as Neighbours 2: Sorority Rising, and the all-female version of Ocean’s 11, Ocean’s 8 in 2018. On the merit acquired from these performances, she was given bigger roles in Jumanji: The Next Level and worked with Baccarat Machine producers SK Global on Crazy Rich Asians in 2018.
Crazy Rich Asians, which was based on the books by Singaporean novelist Kevin Kwan, went on to be hugely successful and was seen as a film that cemented Lum’s talents as an actor.
Off the back of Crazy Rich Asians, Lum was given the lead role in the comedy-drama The Farewell, which led to her being awarded the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical Motion Picture.
The award made Lum the first woman of Asian descent to win a Golden Globe in any lead actress film category. This secured her TV show, Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens, and no doubt contributed to her being selected to play the lead in The Baccarat Machine.
Who is Kelly Sun?
Cheung Yin “Kelly” Sun’s history is a riches to rags to riches again story.
It’s a story of a family that lost everything during the cultural revolution, and lived in such poverty that they used cardboard boxes as shoes. The privation installed a killer instinct into a young woman that would see her being courted by some of the biggest casinos and players in the world and even opening her own school to teach students baccarat strategy tips.
Sun’s name was relatively unknown in gambling circles until she partnered with world-renowned poker player Phil Ivey to go on a significant gambling spree using a technique called edge-sorting.
The technique allowed Sun to convince the dealers to use a certain deck and turn certain cards for ‘good luck’ to then allow her to predict whether the card was going to be high or low.
Because Sun herself was not sufficiently well known for such a request to be honored, she partnered up with Phil “King of Poker” Ivey, who the casinos were more than happy to humor.
Between the two of them, they embarked on an ostensibly legal gambling spree that cost casinos, notably the New Jersey casino Borgata and the U.K. casino Crockford’s, upwards of $20 million.
The spree ended when Crockford’s refused to pay Ivey’s $11 million in winnings, and now both casinos, card manufacturer, Sun, and Ivey are involved in a convoluted series of lawsuits that are still ongoing.
Why is it called The Baccarat Machine?
Perhaps the most bizarre part of this story is how the film came to get the name, The Baccarat Machine.
The name is taken from the title of a Cigar Aficionado magazine article written by Michael Kaplan and published in the same edition of Cigar Aficionado that featured Arnold Schwarzenegger riding in a tank on the cover, of course.
The article did much to draw attention to Sun and the role she played in the edge-sorting scandal, with most of the news coverage so far being focussed on Ivey. The popularity of the article brought Sun into the limelight. It also prompted SK Global to produce a film focussed on her and cast a bright upcoming actor like Nora “Awkwafina” Lum in the title role.