Poker scenes in movies

The movies love poker – but poker fans don’t always love the way it is portrayed on the silver screen. Writers and directors have often taken what can generously be described as ‘artistic license’ in order to rack the tension up. These scenes all work brilliantly on cinema terms, even if they sometimes have poker fans wanting to attack the filmmakers with a red-hot one.

Casino Royale

This is a prime example of that, as Bond and Le Chiffre trade a serious of absurd poker hands while facing off at Texas Hold’em at a swanky casino. It is the sort of scene that will have any dedicated poker player shaking his or head, while the rest of use are too glued to the OTT drama of it all to notice.

Goodfellas

To be fair, a lot of people don’t remember the poker scene from this 1990 Martin Scorsese epic, which is not because it is not memorable – it’s just that it’s hard to get the scenes of bodies being hacked up and stuffed in car trunks out of your mind. If you can see past such lovely mental images, the poker scene is not notable so much for the actual gaming, as the stream of foulmouthed comments from Joe Pesci during the course of the game. Of course, for Spider (played by Michael Imperioli) the game ends up being memorable in very bad ways – no spoilers here.

Tombstone

One of many fine western movie poker scenes, again the sequence featuring Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer) in a 36-hour marathon game, is remembered as much for his behaviour as the game itself. Doc knows he is dying, gets progressively drunker throughout the game (thanks to his scheming lady friend), but still comes out on top in game and wit. It proves to be something of a last hurrah, but it’s surely the way this particular character would have wanted to go out.