Columbo is a popular police series that started in the 1970s. Actor Peter Falk plays a seemingly absent-minded homicide detective from the Los Angeles Police Department. The series is praised for its special structure, which is still used as a subject matter for psychologists.
Several of the 67 episodes deal directly or indirectly with gambling. In addition to his career as Columbo, Peter Falk played in several films , in which he also played a striking gambler.
Columbo: One more thing …
We can of course immediately discuss some episodes with games of chance. However, it is nice to first tell something about Frank Columbo’s characteristic working method. His questioning technique is interesting and educational. It is not without reason that it is still treated during the training of police officers and psychotherapists. And it may also be useful for poker players .
One of the techniques is ‘one more thing…’. Columbo also interviews a suspect in a relaxed manner. It is more of a friendly conversation, sometimes with some prickly questions. Then Columbo says goodbye. The suspect relaxes, that annoying detective is finally gone. However, Columbo is coming back. Sometimes he is still in the room, other times he is already outside. But he comes back and says “one more thing …” or something similar.
Then he asks an important question in which the now relaxed suspect betrays himself. Or Columbo makes a comment, increasing the tension. After which the desperate suspect, when Columbo has already left, takes an action so that he is later unmasked.
Columbo: Just talk …
Another technique is ‘just talk…’. Columbo starts with open questions to put the other at ease. Columbo’s somewhat scruffy clothing and somewhat distracted appearance contribute to this. He doesn’t seem like a threat. While chatting he talks about the case and peppered it with a lot of cows and calves. That insignificant chatter makes the suspect loose-lipped, in any case he or she is distracted from the murder case.
Sometimes the suspect will then provide details with which Columbo can continue to work. Then he can further investigate comments later. But sometimes he immediately uses the following technique, ‘insert the real question’.
Columbo: Insert the real question …
When the other is relaxed enough, Columbo gradually shifts to the topic he really wants an answer to. For example, if he wants to know whether the suspect has a blue car, he picks up something blue. Then he says that he used to have a car in that color. He may even name a brand and chatters to the point where the suspect says, ‘I have a blue BMW’.
Of course he will come back after the conversation: ‘one more thing. Your colleague said he borrowed your car last week… ”. With which he naturally carelessly makes a hole in an alibi or something.
In short, you could describe Frank Columbo as: a person who uses his seemingly absent-minded personality to give suspects a false sense of security. In fact, he is a bluffer. And that is something some gamblers (should) be good at too.
It has never become clear whether Peter Falk was a casino visitor in his private life. But it is striking how many episodes of Columbo played in the gambling environment or in which gambling played a role. In the films he made alongside and after Columbo, he regularly played a good bookmaker or poker player.
Before we discuss some episodes, one more thing. Another difference with the police series Columbo is that it is not always a so-called Whodunit. These are stories in which you gradually as a viewer, together with the detective, discover who the culprit is. At Columbo you often get to see who the culprit is in the beginning …
Like in the episode ‘Double Shock’. In it we see that a brother of twins commits murder. However, we don’t know which one. So it remains an authentic Whodunit. All kinds of things happen around the will of the murdered man, who turns out to be an uncle of the murderer.
In the episode we see that one of the twin brothers, a banker, is fond of gambling. He plays in a casino in Las Vegas and has accumulated gambling debts . It’s one of the reasons for killing the uncle.
A Friend in Deed
A man accidentally kills his wife. He asks his friendly neighbor, who works for the police, to help him cover up what happened. The neighbor only does that if they also kill his wife, a wealthy heiress. In the opening scene we already saw that the neighbor is a gambler in a casino in Las Vegas. He can use the money well.
Uneasy lies the Crown
In ‘Uneasy lies the Crown’ the culprit is a dentist who gambles fanatically. To get rid of his unfaithful wife and get some extra money, he kills her. He puts the crime on her lover’s shoes. But of course Columbo uses a few techniques to expose the dentist as the real murderer.
Death Hits the Jackpot
A variant of gambling in a casino is participating in a lottery . With that the murdered man in this episode wins 30 million. Because he is in a divorce, he confides in a family member. He asks if the uncle wants to pretend he won the lottery, until the divorce is finalized.
With a view of 30 million, the uncle is willing to do that. That will be at the expense of the nephew’s life, because he is murdered by the uncle. Naturally, Columbo also knows where to find the culprit here.
A Bird in the Hand …
In the episode referring to the phrase ‘better a bird in the hand than ten in the air’ we see a compulsive gambler. Under the pressure to pay off his gambling debts, he wants to kill his rich uncle. But due to all kinds of complications, that does not work and someone else dies. Ultimately, both the uncle and the gambler are murdered. Only at the end do both Columbo and the viewer know who was responsible for this.
It’s all-in the game
A poker player is the murder victim in ‘It’s all-in the game’. He is also a mother’s lover and her daughter. When the women find out about the doubles, they cunningly murder the man. It goes without saying that Columbo will unravel the true facts here too. In exchange for a confession about the mother, he gives the daughter the freedom to flee to Europe.
In ‘Strange Bedfellow’ a man murders his brother, who has gambling debts with a gangster. He wants to stage it in such a way that the mafioso seems guilty. In this episode, the murder has yet to be committed and the gangster will eventually also be killed. A two birds with one stone. The gangster’s boss wants to get even. Columbo prevents this by working with him. And he solves the crime with one of his questioning techniques and his almost absent-minded attitude.
Games of chance
Columbo has its own ideas about gambling. There are of course also episodes in which the well-known games of chance appear less prominently. For example, it is said that a person likes to gamble. When the stories don’t feature casinos or roulette tables , Columbo makes comments about gambling.
Because in normal life people also make choices that can hold a gamble. About his own experience with slots, he says in the episode ‘troubled water’: ‘I played 44 times. In the beginning I won once, then only lost ‘.