James Caan made the role look easy. Mark Wahlberg had to work at it. He tries hard but doesn't quite carry it off. On this I disagree with the German noir guy who brought this film to my attention: http://der-film-noir.de/v1/node/1138
The script doesn't help him any on his character. It's very one-note and the character arc is not clear.
The script has some high spots. In one sequence, Wahlberg, who is a professor, brings out to his class the inequality and unpredictability of the incidence of genius. The exposition is uncompromising. It's at the opposite pole from a politically correct version, and the latter gets but one brief comment from a student who thinks everyone has something to offer. In another high spot that's 79 minutes in, John Goodman expostulates on wealth. This is one place where f**k you actually makes a serious point in the dialog. This segment has some seriously good advice. (In most movies, it and its variations are uncomfortably gratuitous; and many actors actually have a hard time delivering the lines. Pacino in "Scarface" stands out as the major exception.)
There's another scene that tries for these high levels but doesn't make it. It's when Jessica Lange is pulling money out of the bank and hectors the bank clerk. A similar kind of scene occurs when Wahlberg attempts to sell his watch without enduring the bargaining of the owner of the pawn shop. This bullying and impatience with lesser folks doesn't really work in the movie and they're not needed.
I cannot remember what the Caan version made of the process of gambling itself. With Wahlberg, it has little or no emotional effect on him. His drive to lose is related to his philosophy of life, which is "To be or not to be". Maybe the next version should go back to the emotions depicted in the original novel. It's time to watch "The Great Sinner" again and see how Robert Siodmak handled this aspect of it. The most memorable such movie is the one with Anton Walbrook, "Queen of Spades", a great period noir.