Poker Goes to Hollywood (Part 1)

Many movies incorporate the high-stakes, fast-action world of poker – hoping, perhaps, to spice up their plot and add edgy glamour to their characters. Unfortunately, many of those gambling scenes border on the ridiculous. Think of the downright ludicrous House of Games, the painfully stilted Honeymoon in Vegas, and the kitschy Maverick-all of which can make a serious gambler’s skin crawl, if only because of the way they completely dishonor the game and making it as tacky as the film themselves.

Others, on the other hand, are very well done, and should be on any poker aficionado’s list of Movies to Rent. So when you’re not online, winning the games yourself, you can unwind in front of the television and “catch” a game. Not all of them are about poker per se; some just incorporate a few good scenes-but the scenes are worth watching.

If you’re in the mood for an old movie, try California Spit. It’s a bit dated, having been made in 1974, and the circulating couples can have rather fuzzy audio. However, it documents the lives of poker players in search or the eternal rush. You’ll even see World Series of Poker Champion Amarillo Slim, though the main characters are played by George Segal and Elliot Gould. Watching the movie makes you realize how far some people would go for the game, and those of you who have a day job will sigh wistfully as you look at the gamble-till-you-drop, then sleep-until-noon lifestyle Mysport99 .

Paul Newman does justice to the role of a hardcore poker player in the 1973 movie, The Sting. The movie reveals that it’s not always a gentleman’s game – and the look on his opponent, Robert Shaw’s face when he sees that he’s been cheated is simply priceless. While the movie does tend to portray as no-good hustlers (unfair to those who spend years mastering the science and skill involved), we all fantasize about pulling a fast-one on someone who deserves to have a taste of his own nasty medicine.

Another classic is the Cincinnati Kid, made several decades ago (1965) but nevertheless considered one of the most enjoyable poker movies of all time. Unfortunately, the ending tends to disappoint most viewers (we won’t tell you anything, but it’s been known to inspire angry howls from poker fanatics) but if you’ve got Ann Margret and Steve McQueen, it’s almost worth it. Love the line, “That’s what it’s all about, doing the wrong thing at the right time”-which most gamblers will relate to.

The movie Kaleidoscope, made in 1966, is more obscure, unknown even to the most avid Warren Beatty fans. The plot revolves around his break-in of a factory that prints the cards that distributes to all the world’s biggest casinos. He marks them, then starts going on a poker and blackjack spree the moment that batch is released. At the climax, the casino suddenly hands him unmarked cards – and he’s forced to rely solely on his wits and skill. Grab the popcorn, it’s a fun ride.