Luck is an American dramatic television series created by David Milch and starring Dustin Hoffman. The pilot episode was directed by Michael Mann. The series premiered on January 29, 2012. HBO aired the first episode on December 11, 2011 as a preview
Luck stars Dustin Hoffman as Chester “Ace” Bernstein. In his late 60s, Bernstein has had a long and apparently profitable career in organized crime, primarily in gambling. His career has been interrupted by a three-year term in federal prison, from which he is released as the series opens. In the pilot episode, Ace’s longtime driver and factotum, Gus (Dennis Farina), picks him up at his release. On the drive to Los Angeles, Ace confirms that Gus has become the registered owner of a racehorse whose purchase was arranged by friends of Ace while Ace was in prison. The horse is being trained at the Santa Anita track by Turo Escalante (John Ortiz), a respected trainer whose career Ace has quietly followed for many years.  After changing clothes at the luxurious hotel where he lives, Ace visits his former associate DeRossi to discuss a plan to gain control of the racetrack in order to introduce casino gambling there.
Simultaneously, a group of four habitual gamblers and hangers-on at the track, Marcus, Lonnie, Renzo and Jerry, are planning to make a killing by pooling their money to bet on a “pick six” that could pay the winner over $2 million. Jerry, a brilliant handicapper of races who is perpetually broke due to his addiction to poker, has selected the six bets. The key to maximizing their chances is focusing on one horse that is a longshot in the 4th race – a horse that Jerry knows has been trained by Escalante, who he believes has been hiding the horse’s true potential in order to manipulate the odds. Jerry’s hunch proves accurate, and the four bettors find themselves splitting over $2.6 million.
Another major character is Walter Smith (Nick Nolte), an elderly trainer/owner from Kentucky. Walter is training his own horse at the track with the help of young Irish jockey Rosie (Kerry Condon) but so far has not entered any races. Only Walter knows that the horse was sired by a famous thoroughbred from Kentucky and has the potential to win the highest honors in the sport. Unknown to Walter, however, Joey Rathburn (Richard Kind), a jockey’s agent who is always at the track looking after his clients, has seen the horse on a morning practice run and also has an inkling of its tremendous potential.
“I hope it’s a love letter. By saying that, I’m not saying it’s a story coming through rose-colored glasses. To me, the track is what the river was to Mark Twain. Where you see the most life and interesting people, go there. That’s what I’ve done.”
Before creating Luck, David Milch had worked on television for three decades. He started off as a writer on the series Hill Street Blues before co-creating NYPD Blue with Steven Bochco and creating the HBO series Deadwood. Milch had been fascinated by horseracing from an early age as his father would take him to the track. “My dad started taking me to Saratoga at age 5 or 6. You have so many associations from childhood that stay with you.” He stated that he had been thinking creating the series for 25 years and always pictured that it would be set in Santa Anita. “It’s the most beautiful setting for horse racing that I’ve seen, and I’d include Saratoga,” he said.
“The pilot is about a bunch of intersecting lives in the world of horse racing … It’s a subject which has engaged and some might say has compelled me for 50 years. I find it as complicated and engaging a special world as any I’ve ever encountered, not only in what happens in the clubhouse and the grandstand, but also on the backside of the track, where the training is done and where they house the horses.”
- Dustin Hoffman as Chester “Ace” Bernstein
- Dennis Farina as Gus Economou
- John Ortiz as Turo Escalante
- Richard Kind as Joey Rathburn
- Kevin Dunn as Marcus
- Ian Hart as Lonnie
- Ritchie Coster as Renzo
- Jason Gedrick as Jerry
- Kerry Condon as Rosie
- Gary Stevens as Ronnie Jenkins
- Tom Payne as Leon Micheaux
- Jill Hennessy as Jo
- Nick Nolte as Walter Smith