The Big Screen’s Five Best Poker Scenes
The game of poker can bring out the best (and even the worst) in every player. And if you are a regular poker player or have played in a number of tables, surely you know that this is not just a test of skills, but of patience and character. Once on the table, there’s a big chance that chips will fly, cards are slammed on the table and beer bottles are rattled. And even if players and the spectators don’t say a word or thing, you know that the air is heavy with emotions and anticipation. But the drama and excitement not only happen in brick-and-mortar casinos. These emotionally-charged scenes are also dramatized in many Hollywood movies, resulting in memorable movies. There are now dozens of Hollywood movies that showcase the game of poker that is played by the heroes and villains, as if their fight are transformed to the poker tables. Although most of these poker-inspired scenes are dramatic and action-packed, only a few can be considered the best. We list down the big screen’s five best poker scenes, and why these scenes matter.
Timberlake plays poker and his life ‘In Time’
What we love about In Time is its set design and futuristic look at things. Will there be a time when the prevailing currency will be ‘time’? In this movie, playing poker gets a different meaning as the character played by Justin Timberlake literally puts his life on his cards. Just imagine a scenario where your future depends on your cards, on whether you win or go bust. In the movie, Timberlake goes all in and with the other players contributing centuries’ worth of time to the pot. It was poker table that’s full of suspense and drama, and in the end, Timberlake managed to pull it off in the most stylish manner.
Damon Returns to Play in Rounders
According to many fans and movie critics, Rounders which starred Matt Damon helped boost the popularity of poker as a game. In this movie, Matt Damon is a former experienced poker player who was motivated to return back to the game to help his friend cover his debt. This movie introduces the everyone to the high-stakes underground poker scene of New York. On paper, the movie received mixed reviews, with some saying that it was only Damon who carried the whole movie. But for poker players and experts, this is one movie worth watching.
Bond faces Le Chiffre in Casino Royale
There are a few Hollywood movies that can be mentioned in the same breathe with table games, and one of these is James Bond. And in the movie Casino Royale, poker once again gets the royal treatment as it was used in the movie to show the power struggle between Le Chiffre and Bond. In this famous scene, there are four men occupying the seats in the table and they are looking at more than $120 million in the pot. The first player reveals a flush, the second showing a full house, the third one (who happens to be Le Chiffre) delivers another full house but better. The last one, Bond, manages to come up with a much better hand, consuming the other players on the table.
Pitt Talking About Poker in Ocean’s Eleven (2011)
This movie offers a different take on poker. Instead of an active play of cards, this scene shows someone talking about poker, and giving the audience a decent tutorial on poker games. And it’s not just an ordinary talk on the game- what the audience witnesses is an intelligent take on poker. In fact, if you watch this scene, you may use this as complementary lesson when learning poker. Another reason why this scene clearly delivers is that it offers players and the audience a lesson in strategy. It talks about how ordinary players can tell if the other player is just bluffing, or just slow-playing a monstrous hand. Brad’s incorrect reading on Clooney is a way that’s not described or illustrated clearly before. In short, this scene from the movie gives showcases the evolution of a player, from an ordinary one into a thinking player. It does not only show players and exchange of bets on the table; it shows the maturity of the player.
California Split (1974)
The scene that’s considered for this list is almost 40 years old, but still looks and sounds new. There’s an educational voice-over that can be heard which will remind you of Rounders. In this scene, you can find Elliot Gould who would be later cast in Ocean’s Eleven. This scene is tastefully done and starts with a wide shot of a person walking through the playing room, and viewers can see all the tables and the sign-up board. You can feel the excitement of the player as he enters the room, and the shot is then redirected to the players on the table and their hands.
This is not a comprehensive list and can never be called the best list. The great thing about poker is that it can be appreciated in different levels- it can be a competition of skills and decisions, or it can be a test of one’s characters. And these scenes collected here clearly shows how the game of poker excites, educates and entertains different types of players and enthusiasts.
Garon Cockrell is the Founder and Editor of Pop Culture Beast and host of The Pop Culture Beast Show. He founded the site over seven years ago to have a place on the internet to write about the things he loved. Since then, Garon has become a best-selling author (Demonic and Other Tales), an award winning screenwriter (Best Screenplay 2013 Motor City Nightmares Film Festival), and a cast member on the top rated podcast, Never Not Funny.