As poker aficionados, don’t we just love watching high-octane, high-stakes poker action in big-budget Hollywood movies? Do you Google ‘the best movies on poker’ or ‘best all-time movies on gambling’ now and then? If it’s an ‘Aye’, then we suggest you carry on reading this article because we’re looking at poker in movies from a different vantage point this time.
In this article, we’re going to analyse famous poker hands in movies and see how close they were to real-life scenarios or, alas, they were fiction after all. Well, they’re movies, so a little
‘poetic justice’ is allowed! We’ve listed a few interesting poker movies as well. Here goes:
Many movies have attempted to bring poker in its truest essence in movies. But, did they succeed in portraying realistic poker on the screen?
Let’s analyse some of the famous poker hands from movies and find out.
The biggest ever pot in poker movies has to be the final hand in Casino Royale for $115
Million. Bond, who’s the best poker player in MI6 according to ‘M’ faces-off with LeChiffre,
an account for the rich and a poker whiz. There’s also Mr. Infante and Mr. Fukutu, but we don’t know enough about the characters. Here’s the final hand:
4 players. Blinds: 500K/1M. Stack sizes:
Infante – 8♣ 8♥ 11 BBs. UTG.
LeChiffre – A♣ 6♥ 45 BBs. Dealer.
James Bond – 5♠ 7♠ 46.5 BBs. Small Blind.
Fukutu – K♠ Q♠ 12 BBs. Big Blind.
Infante is UTG with 8♣ 8♥. They didn’t show the action preflop or on the flop but there was $24 Million in the pot already. This means that Infante either opened 2x or limped. We feel both the decisions are wrong; with pocket 8s and only 11 BBs left, shoving should be the
only course of action. In this four-way hand, Infante was ~30% favourite to win. Also, by shoving, he denies equity to hands that outdraw him. Think about it, would Bond have called $11 Million preflop with 5♠ 7♠ from small blind?
Anyway, moving on, somehow Bond called $6 Million preflop or on the flop, out of position.
The betting isn’t shown but calling/raising to $6 Million preflop is a disaster with such
shallow stacks ahead; it makes more sense on the flop. The flop hits A♥ 8♠ 6♠. Bond has a
straight-flush draw with an open-ender straight draw and a flush draw. LeChiffre is on the button with A♣ 6♥ and hits two-pair on the flop. Fukutu has in BB with K♠ Q♠ a second-nut flush draw.
Flop – A♥ 8♠ 6♠ (24 BBs in the pot). There might’ve been some betting on the flop but it’s not shown, so let’s move to the turn.
Turn – 4♠ (24 BBs in the pot). Bond hits his straight flush and decides to slow play which is
the correct play with the nuts since there are two short stacks. He checks. Now, we don’t understand what Fukutu and Infante are up to. With the second-nut flush and only 6 BBs left behind, Fukutu checks for some god-awful reason. Why? Even more baffling is Infante who didn’t go all-in on the flop and is now staring at a possible flush against his set of 8s. Even if he had opened on the flop, it was a weak raise. LeChiffre checks and is justified to do so.
River – A♠ (24 BBs in the pot). The Ace of Spades is a bloody, spine-chilling cooler. Bond
slow plays and hides his nuts! Finally, Fukutu shoves $6 Million and Infante shoves $5
Million with his full-house. LeChiffre raises to $12 Million with his Aces full which is a
good value bet. Bond obviously jams and LeChiffre has to call. He wins a $114.5 Million pot,
making it the biggest ever. Probably, only Negreanu could’ve seen this and folded a full-house.
On a side note, the last hand would be forever etched in the memory of the dealer. Imagine,
witnessing the biggest hand in poker history and getting a 500K tip! Though this movie is a
work of fiction, still, Bond was a true gentleman and gave a befitting tip to the dealer.
Rounders has many hands worth analysing but we’ll be focusing on the final hand. Matt Damon delivered a brilliant performance playing the character of Mike McDermott and John Malkovich was equally good portraying Teddy KGB.
A little background; Mike and Teddy KGB were playing heads-up and Mike had made enough money to repay his debt. However, Teddy taunted him and sucked him back into the game.
The final hand has a flaw; though KGB is the dealer or small blind, Mike is still first to act preflop as well as postflop. As per the rules, the dealer is small blind and first to act preflop while the big blind is first to act on all streets.
Anyway, Mike gets dealt 8♠ 9♠ and raises to 2BBs and Teddy calls. We don’t get to see his
cards. The flop hits 6♦ 7♠ 10♥ and Mike flops the nuts on a rainbow board. Mike gives a
trap check which makes sense against Teddy KGB who is of course an aggro player. KGB
overbets 5x and Mike flat calls. Turn is a brick 2♣. Mike continues with his trap plan and checks. Teddy bets the pot, 4400 chips, which Mike simply calls again. It’s been 21 years since the movie was released, and poker strategy has grown leaps and bounds, still there isn’t much reason to raise on such a dry board. We don’t know Teddy KGB’s cards, so can’t comment more on this.
The river is A♥ and Mike checks again with his nuts. This is a good check because you want your opponent to keep betting their bluffs; if you lead it’s possible they might fold. Anyway, Teddy overbet jams the river and Mike says “You’re right Teddy the Ace of spades didn’t help me, I flopped the nut straight!”, and pushes his chips and shows his cards.
Lucky You could’ve been one of the best movies ever made on poker but the film makers
couldn’t capitalize on all the poker stars who were featured in it. The likes of Daniel Negreanu, Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, Antonio Esfandiari, Sam Farha and Robert Downey Jr. could’ve made a huge impact on the film. It would’ve been a treat to watch Robert Duvall’s character or Eric Bana’s character play against either Doyle Brunson or Daniel Negreanu. Anyway, that being said, Lucky You is still one of the best movies made on poker.
We could discuss the hand where Huck folds his pocket aces against his father’s pocket Kings, but that hand errs more on the emotional/filmy side. Instead, let’s look at the final table hand where only 4 players are left in the fray. LC is out of the pot while Jason is the dealer with Huck and Ralph in small blind and big blind respectively. Jason opens the button (his cards are never revealed) and Huck calls with pocket threes. Against a button open, both 3-betting and calling is fine with cards like 33. Ralph calls as well from BB with KJo.
Flop is J43 rainbow. Huck checks and Ralph leads out with 350,000 chips. Generally, you should not have a leading range here and check all your hands to the initial aggressor. Jason calls and Huck calls as well. This is a very dry board without any draws, so raising here doesn’t make much sense as it’s hard to find bluffs here for balance.
Turn is a K of Hearts. Huck checks, which is the right thing to do to trap his opponent. Ralph goes all-in for 950,000 with top two pair. Jason folds and Huck simply calls with his flopped set. The river is the Q of spades which is of no help to Ralph and he gets knocked out in 4 th place. We’ve all been there with such coolers and Ralph loses to our hero, Huck.
The following is a list of other notable movies made on poker. Have you seen them all?
- Molly’s Game
- Lock, Stock and Two
- Smoking Barrels
- The Cincinnati Kid
There have been other movies made on poker, however the ones listed above are our top favorites. If you feel we’ve missed out a great poker movie, leave a comment and we’ll update our list!