Jake Green (Jason Statham) finds himself in prison for seven years. He spends this time in solitary confinement, but he has contact with the two mysterious characters also serving solitary in the cells on either side of him (one a con man , the other a chess master ). These two prisoners write messages in books while in solitary that Jake intercepts, he never actually sees these individuals, he just receives their concepts. One is a formula for the ultimate con, but Jake cant understand the depth of it. The two prisoners plan to break out of prison and agree to break Jake out as well. The next day they are gone, but they didn't take Jake with them. He feels cheated. While Jake is still in prison the escaped prisoners steal all the money Jake has hidden on the outside, they trusted Jake with the formula and he trusted them to let them know of his moneys whereabouts. They leave a message where his money once lay. The first rule of any game. YOU CAN ONLY GET SMARTER BY PLAYING A SMARTER OPPONENT. Cut to two years later. When Jake gets out of prison, broke and penniless, he starts to practice what he understands of the formula and of the con he learned from his time in solitary. Its very successful and he does very well in world of gambling, he seemingly learned a valuable lesson from the two conmen inside. Once Jake is up on his feet again (financially speaking), he takes on his nemesis the power hungry Dorothy Macha (Ray Liotta). Jake beats him in a game of chance, humiliating Macha. Fearing more of the same, Macha wants revenge and orders a hit on Jake. A mysterious man approaches Jake and informs him that he is in desperate physical trouble from an internal disease. He tells Jake he and his partner can save him from both Macha and his physical aliment. Simultaneously, Macha is trying to get into business with the infamous, but apparently invisible Sam Gold. He makes a deal with his female representative Lily Walker (who represents the queen on the chess board). Macha is warned if he does not come through on the deal that Sam Gold will be very disappointed. Macha is after the reward of being in business with Gold (who represents the opponent) and foresees no problem. The deal is for some white powder, which represents vice of multiple manifestations, in other words, false ways to get away from Gold or win the game, but perversely these just bring you closer to him. Jake agrees to do whatever the two mysterious characters tell him to do (a gun to the head so to speak - he has three days to live), there is no time to haggle, and he is prepared to do whatever hes told by these characters. Avi (André Benjamin) and Zach (Vincent Pastore) appear to be loan sharks and gradually force Jake to give away all his money that he made using the con, much to his despair. This is so painful that it seems to be killing a part of him and it gets even worse for Jake. Avi and Zach force him to do whatever he hates to do. Jake suffers from claustrophobia and is forced into elevators, generally Jake goes on a physiological ride from hell. They also sabotage Machas deal with Gold, putting Macha in jeopardy with Gold. To make matters worse, they make it look like an opposing crime boss is responsible this sabotage, Lord Jon (Tom Wu). These two gangs destroy one another through their ignorance and greed. Jake's journey climaxes when Avi and Zach, now his masters, ask Jake to shoot a man that didn't pay a debt. Jake refuses, going against the voice in his head. This is the turning point and just when Jake has had enough he forces the two mysterious characters to reveal their game. Is he ready for the answer? What is the point of putting him through all this pain? Avi and Zach simply repeat the treasured formula that he learnt in prison and which we are told at the start of the film. The first rule of any game. YOU CAN ONLY GET SMARTER BY PLAYING A SMARTER OPPONENT. Jake now realizes that he has fallen victim to this formula, that he is actually in the game, and the opponent or Sam Gold, is hiding in his own head, the last place he would ever look. How does this happen? Because Sam Gold hides behind Jakes pain, the last place he would ever look. We realize Sam Gold is a metaphor for the ego, Devil, the opponent. Now armed with this information, which has been so elusive, Jake really goes to war with himself. He realizes the game Avi and Zach have made him play has been to diminish the Sam Gold within him and that is why he felt like he was dying, because a part of him was. This game it seems is back to front. Jake gives away his remaining money to a charity in Dorothy Machas name and Macha takes the credit. At this point we understand that the voice we hear in the film as a voice over is not a voice over at all, its the Sam Gold in each of our characters heads. Macha is being fattened up by the voice in his head who encourages Macha to take the credit. To conquer the game Jake now realizes he is in, he goes to Macha and humiliates himself, begging for forgiveness at the foot of his bed. This goes completely against the voice in Jakes head, which is now in major agony. Jake then takes an elevator that gets stuck, its his worst nightmare, but here is where a real battle takes place. Jake induces the pain Sam Gold hides behind. Sam Gold tries every technique to control Jake, but Jake is now detached enough from the voice to fall for it. Embrace the pain and you will win this game, Jake sheds himself from Sam Gold completely and the elevator starts up as soon as Jake has control. He realizes he was still in prison and that he had never left the prison of the mind, now he is free. As the elevator doors open, there stands a confused and angry Macha with a gun in his hand. He cant understand what game Jake is playing, but Jake no longer cares about Macha, gun or no gun, he walks straight past him. Macha loses control, because Jake doesn't fear him, his ego cant handle this, he breaks down from the voice that has got complete control over him. He knows Sam Gold is going to come and get him, what he doesnt realize is that Sam Gold is already getting him from the inside. Jake, now understanding that the mysterious characters Avi and Zach are not who he thought they were, finishes a game of chess in Macha's casino with Avi. Here it is revealed that Avi could have beaten him at any time. Avi tells him one of the rules again, the art is for the opponent to feed pieces to the victim to make them believe they took those pieces because they are smarter and you are dumber. Jake realizes that these are the two associates from Solitary confinement that he spent seven years living between while in prison. They promised they would break him out of prison and they did, its just Jake didn't realize it was the prison of his mind and how big that prison was. In the end its a story about realizing that the prison is the mind and the ego is the master of that environment. The only real enemy to have ever existed is an internal one and he controls the external world. This is the opponent you need to test you, as you get smarter so does he. The ego or Satan is your coach. Once its recognized for what it is, it can be mastered, but without recognition of this situation, you are simply an unconscious slave and the game hasn't revolved.