Following his release from prison, Danny Ocean violates his parole by traveling to California to meet his partner-in-crime and friend Rusty Ryan to propose a heist. The two go to Las Vegas to pitch the plan to wealthy friend and former casino owner Reuben Tishkoff. The plan consists of simultaneously robbing the Bellagio, the Mirage, and the MGM Grand casinos. Reuben’s familiarity with casino security makes him very reluctant to get involved, but when he starts to think of it as a good way to get back at his rival, Terry Benedict, who owns all three casinos, Reuben agrees to finance the operation. Because the casinos are required by the Nevada Gaming Commission to have enough cash on hand to cover all their patrons’ bets, the three predict that on the upcoming night of a highly anticipated boxing match, the Bellagio vault will contain more than $150,000,000.
Danny and Rusty recruit eight former colleagues and criminal specialists: Linus Caldwell, a young and talented pickpocket; Frank Catton, a casino worker and con man; Virgil and Turk Malloy, a pair of gifted mechanics; Livingston Dell, an electronics and surveillance expert; Basher Tarr, an explosives expert; Saul Bloom, an elderly con man; and “The Amazing” Yen, an accomplished acrobat. Several team members carry out reconnaissance at the Bellagio to learn as much as possible about the security, the routines, the behaviors of the casino staff, and the building itself. Other members create a precise replica of the vault with which to practice maneuvering through its formidable security systems. During this planning phase, the team discovers that Danny’s ex-wife, Tess, is Benedict’s girlfriend. Rusty urges Danny to give up on the plan, believing Danny incapable of sound judgment while Tess is involved, but Danny refuses.
On the night of the fight, the plan is put into motion. Danny shows up at the Bellagio purposely to be seen by Benedict, who, as predicted, locks him in a storeroom with Bruiser, a bouncer. However, Bruiser is on Danny’s payroll and allows him to access the vent system and join his team as they seize the vault, coincident with activities of their other team members in and around the casino. Rusty calls Benedict on a cell phone Danny dropped in Tess’s coat earlier and tells him that unless he lets them have half of the money in the vault, they will blow it up; Benedict sees video footage confirming Rusty’s claim. Benedict complies, having his bodyguards take the loaded duffel bags to a waiting van driven by remote control. Benedict has his men follow the van, while he calls in a SWAT team to try to secure the vault. The SWAT team’s arrival causes a shootout that sets off the explosives and incinerates the remaining cash. After affirming the premises otherwise secure, the SWAT team collects their gear and departs.
As Benedict heads to examine the ruined vault himself, his men stop the van and find the bags were only loaded with flyers for prostitutes. Benedict studies the video footage and recognizes that the flooring in the vault on the video lacks the Bellagio logo, which had been added only recently to the vault. It is shown that Danny’s team used their practice vault to create fake footage to fool Benedict. Furthermore, they themselves were the SWAT team and used their gear bags to take all of the money from the vault right under Benedict’s nose. Benedict goes to see that Danny has seemingly been locked up in the storeroom throughout the heist and thus innocent of any crime. As Tess watches via CCTV, Danny tricks Benedict into saying he would give up Tess in exchange for the money. Benedict, unsatisfied with Danny’s plan to get back the money, orders his men to escort Danny off the premises and inform the police that he is violating his parole by being in Las Vegas. Tess leaves Benedict and exits the hotel just in time to see Danny arrested. The rest of the team bask in the victory in front of the Fountains of the Bellagio, silently going their separate ways one-by-one. When Danny is released after serving time for his parole violation, he is met by Rusty and Tess. They drive off, closely followed by Benedict’s bodyguards.