It’s challenging to portray the tension, thrill, and adrenaline-rush of a real-life poker game on the silver screen, but some movies pull it off. Here is a look at four of the very best films that manage to capture the essence of poker in unforgettable scenes effectively.
In an early scene of this 2001 remake of the 1960 classic crime movie, Brad Pitt’s character Rusty Ryan shows a group of actors how to play five-card draw. The group isn’t familiar with the game and is struggling to learn, which leads Ryan to leave to grab a drink at the bar. When he returns, he finds his old con partner Danny Ocean at the table. Ocean, played by George Clooney, starts making high bets. As he does so, Ryan tells the group they need to draw out the bluff to stay in the hand. Clooney’s character then makes a substantial raise, and Ryan continues to urge the other players to stay in the game, as Ryan is undoubtedly bluffing. However, Danny Ocean finally reveals he has four nines with ace high, so he had not been bluffing at all. When Ryan doesn’t look upset at losing, it’s apparent that he had been aware of Ocean’s bluff all the time, and was going to get a cut from Ocean’s winnings. There’s plenty of other betting action in this entertaining movie about a group of crooks robbing three Las Vegas casinos. Fancy playing a game of five-card draw yourself? Well, you don’t need to go all the way to Las Vegas. There are plenty of online casinos in which you could bluff, such as Casumo Canada, which has nearly 2,000 table games, jackpots, and slots.
Cool Hand Luke
In one of his most iconic roles, Paul Newman plays war veteran Luke sentenced to two years in prison, in this 1967 classic movie. Cool Hand Luke includes many famous scenes, including one of the most accurate depictions of a poker game ever seen on film. Newman’s character is facing off against the tough man Koko in a single game of five-card stud. Koko has a pair of sevens, while Luke shows king high. Luke raises the pot back to Koko. A character called Dragline urges Koko to remain in the hand, but Luke raises again. That continues several times, as Luke cool-headedly doesn’t hesitate to keep raising, while Koko gets more and more nervous. Eventually, Dragline tells Koko to fold. When Dragline flips over Luke’s hand, he discovers Luke’s hand was worthless, and he had been bluffing his way through the game. That leads to Dragline nicknaming Newman’s character “Cool Hand Luke.”
In this 1994 movie based on the old western TV series, Mel Gibson plays the con artist Bret Maverick, who is trying to find the money to enter a high-stakes poker contest. In one of the most famous scenes from the movie, Maverick is playing poker against Angel and Commodore Duvall. But Maverick has fixed the game. When Angel beats Commodore’s four eights with a straight flush, Angel thinks he has the game won, but Maverick has spades from 10 to king. After the suspension builds, Maverick finally shows his fifth card: the ace of spades. He tosses it into the center of the table, to the amazement of Angel. Rigging the deck has allowed Maverick to be victorious with a royal flush. Although Maverick’s slow-roll move of showing his cards one by one is unrealistic poker-play, the scene is still a gripping one and continues to be very popular amongst lovers of poker.
A list of awesome poker scenes in movies would not be complete without a James Bond film. In Casino Royale, the whole film centers around a poker game. Bond, played by Daniel Craig, must defeat the baddie Le Chiffre in a high-stakes Texas Hold’em tournament. Although the Texas poker rules and etiquette are inaccurate, to say the least, the movie’s poker scene manages to show the intensity and grittiness of a real-life suspenseful game. With $100 million at stake and one bet of $40.5 million from Bond in one go, even viewers of this scene will be sweating in anticipation. Of course, it’s not giving away any spoilers to let you know that Mr. Bond wins the game. After all, he is James Bond.