There’s no denying that Poker is a pretty cinematic game. The mental showdown provides plenty of room for focused shots, staring contests and a fantastic battle of wits that’s very easy on the budget. Alright, so Hollywood takes some liberties with the concept – that much is a given, but there are some movies that put a lot of effort in and really nail how the game is played. Here are the three movies that we feel got it spot on – and if you want to try your hand at poker yourself, why not check out: https://poker.paddypower.com/poker-school/texas-holdem/ to get you started.
Rounders offers the most grounded take of the three movies on offer here – focusing on Mike McDermott, played by Matt Damon, with his dreams of winning the WSOP crushed by a gangster called KGB who beats him soundly in a game and depletes his entire bankroll. After a scummy friend of his returns and racks-up impressive debts for both of them, McDermott has to face off with KGB for one final showdown to win his way free. The poker itself is generally portrayed fairly accurately but the focus on ‘tells’ and on McDermott’s powers of observation start to stray into the somewhat fantastical, such as KGB’s eventual tell being something incredibly specific – even if the movie never outright states what it is.
This Mel Gibson fronted production features an old west tale of high-stakes poker with five-card draw being the game of choice. Gibson plays Bret Maverick, a wanderer and notorious gambler looking to enter a high-stakes tournament that will see him walk away with $500,000 should he survive the villainous Angel and the cunning Bransford. The movie focuses on a different form of poker than the cinematic staple, Texas Hold ‘em, but it still manages to get the rules and general gameplay spot on. However, the melodrama does somewhat detract from some of the realism of the game – Maverick loses for the first hour in one game then turns it all around afterwards, his final winning hand for the movie is a Royal Flush. While it may be a tad dramatic, the movie does capture what its like to play poker quite well.
Responsible for kick-starting the surge in Texas Hold ‘em’s popularity in the mid-2000s, Casino Royale probably needs little introduction but in case you haven’t seen it – MI6 agent James Bond is sent to Monte Carlo to take part in a high-stakes poker game in order to smoke out a renowned criminal known as Le Chiffre. There’s a certain amount of melodrama in the game still with a poisoned Bond nearly dying midway through and a bloody tear as a tell but it has the notable quality that just about everyone plays their hands perfectly. They do exactly what they should with the cards they’re dealt and it’s purely luck that decides the outcome.
What do you think? Is there a better poker movie that we missed? Let us know in the comments!