Casinos are closed around the world, and there are no sports to watch, let alone play. While there are plenty of online poker options to keep you in action, some of us are jonesing for the bright lights of Vegas or the sweat that comes with a high-stakes roll of the dice. Rather than watch another rerun of ‘FRIENDS’ or ‘THE OFFICE’ for the 119th time, here are our top picks in poker cinema that’ll help your boredom and the pains that come with #socialdistancing.
There are several movies, documentaries, tv series and biopics on poker with extraordinary and poor execution both. It is our job to give you the best in poker and we want you to completely focus on the best of poker that ever appeared on TV. Indeed, a movie like ‘Rounders’ is something a poker player must watch once in his lifetime, but there are other masterpieces we could talk about apart from the classics:
- THE GRAND: This 2007 flick is an improv poker comedy about a group of players gathering to play a 10,000,000-poker tournament taking place at the Golden Nugget. Fun fact? The movie’s script was left open-ended as the cast was only given simple character directions and they played REAL poker on set! The writer himself didn’t know who the eventual winner was. Although this one received an amount of mixed criticism from the audience, this movie in fact features a lot of poker; it isn’t as much about poker hands but more on how a single tournament can change someone’s entire life and anyone can win in an event. Many of the actors in real life play poker for live stakes on the side. This very aspect helps give the film an air of authenticity.
- MOLLY’S GAME: One of the latest true poker movies till date, Molly’s Game is based on the real story of Molly Bloom , the ‘Poker Queen’ who used to run private high-stakes games involving some of the biggest Hollywood A-listers, businessmen and poker pros. Molly was an aspiring Olympic skier until an accident crushed all dreams once and for all. Eventually, she finds herself in good money by organising high-stakes games. The story teaches players and poker fanatics alike to rebuild themselves even when life puts you down time and again. And no matter what, persistence and hard work can get you places you’ve never been.
- THE CINCINNATI KID: Let’s put this one on the pedestal along with ‘Rounders’, since it is one of the oldest and the best titles listed here. The story revolves around a young kid, played by Steve McQueen who sets off on a journey to prove he is the best poker player, concluding in his match with Lancey Howard who holds the unofficial title of the best in poker.
The card game shown in this film is the Five Card Stud – a poker variation which is played with 5 cards, the first card dealt face down and other four dealt face up. The key scene involves a crazy “bad beat” (a hand when someone loses a very strong hand to a very unlikely stronger hand) which many poker players would be familiar with. Although the games shown in this movie were rarely played with table stakes, and the rules being whatever players agreed to, we can’t say if the portrayal is highly accurate. But it’s the best one of its kind!
- ALL IN: THE POKER MOVIE: All In is one of the best documentaries on poker for the new era and is in fact an award-winning documentary, unlike the rest of the picks on this list. The story revolves around the early days of poker, including Moneymaker’s 2003 win in the Main Event, to infamous Black Friday. It features many well-known players like Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth, Moneymaker, Chris Ferguson among others and talks about how poker came to be one of the favourite hobbies for Americans, and for many, a way to live their dream lifestyle. It’s a must-watch if you want to take a trip down memory lane or a serious player wanting to catch up with events that led to the poker boom. All In also advocates strongly for poker’s skill dimension so you might walk away with some new insights about the game towards the end of it.
- HIGH ROLLER: THE STU UNGAR STORY: Stu ‘The Kid’ Ungar might not be known by some of the new players of this era but he’s considered as one of the best players to have ever lived. Ungar’s career ended abruptly as he died at the age of 45, having won 5 WSOP bracelets before. High Roller talks about the rise and fall of Stu, right from his early days playing gin rummy, over transitioning to Texas Hold’em and ruling the game for years after. The poker aspect is well covered since there are plenty of cards being played in the movie. Along with this, Stu had an eventful career, so this movie is more like an account of a poker player’s life and reflects well on his poker greatness.