Shortly after being released from a New Jersey prison, Danny Ocean breaks parole and travels to Los Angeles to meet up with his former partner in crime and close friend Rusty Ryan to propose a new scheme he has in mind. The two head to Las Vegas to approach wealthy friend and former casino owner Reuben Tishkoff with a plan to rob the vaults of the Bellagio, The Mirage and the MGM Grand casinos. At first Reuben is very reluctant, knowing himself how much security there is in every casino. Seeing this as a way to get back at his rival, Terry Benedict , owner of the 3 casinos, Reuben eventually finances the operation. By Nevada Gaming Commission rules, the casinos must maintain adequate funds in their vaults to cover all bets, and during the busy casino night coinciding with a boxing match, more than $150 million is expected to be stored in the Bellagio vault. Danny and Rusty begin to recruit former colleagues and other criminal masterminds into their group. The team plans and carries out a series of reconnaissance missions at the Bellagio to learn as much as possible about the security, the lay of the land, and the routines and behaviors of the casino staff. At the same time, they recreate a perfect replica of the Bellagio vault to practice evasion of the vault's formidable security systems. During this planning phase, the team discovers that Danny's ex-wife, Tess Ocean , is currently Terry's lover. Rusty urges Danny to drop the plan, saying that “Tess does not split 11 ways”, aware that Tess may warn Terry that something is afoot if she sees Danny, but Danny figures this into the plan.
On the night of the fight, the plan is put into effect. Danny himself goes to the casino in order to be seen by Terry, who, as he expects, has him locked up in a storeroom to be beaten up by one of his bouncers. The bouncer, however, is in Danny's pocket, and he allows Danny to escape through a ventilation shaft and meet with his team in the vault. The team activates a stolen pinch device to temporarily disable power from the city, allowing them to breach the vault undetected. As Terry tries to restore order in the casino after the power outage, Rusty anonymously calls him via a cell phone that Danny planted earlier in Tess's coat. He lets him know that his vaults are being robbed and that all the money will be blown up if Terry does not cooperate to load half the money from the vault into a van waiting outside. Terry observes video footage of the vault that confirms Rusty's demands, and concedes to help move the money, but orders his men to follow the van when it departs while also calling a S.W.A.T. team to attack the vault. The S.W.A.T. team's arrival causes a shootout and the explosion of the other half of the money. The S.W.A.T. assures the situation is secure and departs with their equipment, leaving Terry to contemplate the ruins.
Terry realizes that the vault video feed was faked when he notices that the vault's marble-inlay floors are missing the Bellagio logos, which were only very recently installed in the vault. His men following the van find that it is being driven remotely, and is only filled with “flyers for hookers”. A flashback reveals that Danny used his vault replica to create the fake video feed. The rest of Danny's team posed as the S.W.A.T. team, and took all of the vault money unchecked. Terry returns to the room where he left Danny, finding that Danny is still there, leaving Terry no way to connect him to the theft. Danny offers to assist Terry in finding the money on the condition that he give up Tess, to which Terry agrees. However, the team routes the live security feed of this conversation to Tess's suite. Angry at being used by Benedict, she leaves him and returns to Danny. Danny is still arrested for violating parole, the police having been tipped off by Benedict, and spends some months in prison. When Danny is released, he is met by Rusty and Tess, and the three drive off, closely followed by Benedict's bodyguards.
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