Poker has now become the game that everyone wants to learn to play. Poker itself has a long history but, only recently, and since the increase in availability of online games, has poker become more acceptable in main stream culture.
Gone are the days when poker was seen as played by those with a shady character; when cowboys frequented saloons, looking to hustle and use their guile to win money from anyone brave enough to enter a game against them! Then poker, gun-slinging and hustling used to go hand in hand. Now things are slightly different.
Around 2 million people play poker online every month across some 250 online poker sites. Around $2.8 billion is spent on online gambling itself in America alone; though this figure will soon drop drastically as the new laws prohibiting banks and credit card companies from making payments to online gambling sites is now in place.
The Poker World Series is now riding high amongst other sporting events, with prize money to equal that of the biggest sporting occasions. With the many TV poker channels that are available in America and Europe, it seems that poker is now becoming more acceptable in main stream society. Perhaps this is because poker is seen more as a skill game and not so much the gambling game of old. Attempting to read an opponents play and strategy is all part of the game and an element that makes poker great to play and watch.
Poker has also been a great subject for films to centre a plot or character around. Many a scene has graced our TVs and cinemas where poker has been the backdrop of a murder scene, scheming criminals, or introduction to an on-screen hero. Poker requires a cool head, a controlling of emotions and expressions, and the ability to understand the same traits in the opponents. Perhaps this is why poker has been a great catalyst to help characterise an on-screen actor.
The list of films or TV programs where poker was played and how it was used to define a character is way too long to list in an article. However, below is a list of my top ten great TV or film moments that have involved the game of poker. Not everyone will remember or agree with the order of the list, but I am sure you will all agree they are all worth a mention.
1. Cool Hand Luke (1965). Luke beating an inmate at poker with a hand of nothing typifies the cool head required for a game of poker.
2. The poker scene from The Sting (1973). Still one of the best acted and directed poker games ever filmed – even if the two main players were cheating.
3. The opening card game in David Mamet’s House of Games (1987). The whole film itself is a sequence of bluffs, tells and cons and has the audience hooked from start to finish.
4. Casino (1995). When Joe Pesci’s character Tommy shoots Spider during a poker game. A violent scene, but worth mentioning for the comedy element.
5. “The” poker game in Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (2000). A slick and direct approach to the filming of a game of brag. The dialogue as Eddie goes from smelling victory to tasting defeat is worth a mention in any poker list.
6. Maverick (1994). Maverick losing for an hour and then proceeding to win every game with his ability to read poker tells. Not the greatest poker film but a good adage to poker nonetheless.
7. Big Hand for a Little Lady (1966). When the Mary takes her winning hand to ask the bank manager for a loan… excellent.
8. The final showdown in Cincinnati Kid (1965). Well directed filming of a poker game and renowned for that famous line… “making the wrong move at the right time”.
9. Rounders (1998). This film is noted for its many goofs and gaffs, but also worth a mention for re-introducing viewers to the world of poker in its many forms and, how the main character is drawn in and out of the world of poker gambling. The final poker game is true Holywood.
10. Stephen Hawking’s cameo role during a poker game in episode “Second Chances” of Star Trek next Generation.
By Morgan Collins
Written by Morgan Collins living and Spain and working for VIP Poker Club, a UK online Poker site. Article must be reproduced in full with authors name and links retained.