Poker on the Silver and Small Screen

 

In Poker has inspired many films across the globe over the years.  Starting as far back as 1899 and the very beginnings of cinema, poker has been a topic of entertainment and interest.  In keeping up with the times and technology, shorts on poker can even be found on the internet at sites like You Tube in which we the people create the content. 

We’ve put together a comprehensive list of films featuring poker.  Here you’ll find recordings of recent tournaments where the pros battle it out in high stakes games as well as informative videos on playing the sport, documentaries that take you into the heart of the game and fictional films purely for entertainment. 

Real Play Videos

World Poker Tour (tv series) – 2003,
High Stakes Poker (tv series) – 2006
Celebrity Poker Showdown (tv series) – 2003
Poker After Dark (tv series) – 2007
Black Poker Stars Invitational (tv series) – 2008
Poker Superstars I-III (tv series) 2004-2006
Professional Poker Tour (tv series)- 2006
The Ultimate Poker Challenge (tv series) – 2004
The World Series of Poker – 2005 and 2006
All Star Poker (tv series) – 2005
Best Damn Poker Challenge (tv series) – 2008
Canadian Poker Championship (tv series) – 2006
European Poker Tour I-IV (tv series) – 2005-2008

 

 

Documentaries

No Limit:  A Search for the American Dream on the Poker Tournament Trail

This documentary was created by a couple and follows them and their 4 year-old son across the country for 8 months as they play in poker tournaments in hopes of winning big.  Along the way viewers get an inside look at what poker tournaments are really about and the characters who play them. 

Both pros and unknown players weight in on poker’s connection to the American dream with surprising insightfulness.  This film gives a unique perspective on the global view of that dream as well as poker.
The themes and subjects of the film are many, with poker right at the heart of it.  No Limit is an entertaining film that brings you into the world of poker as many will never see it.

 

Poker Kings

This documentary follows 5 top players over the course of a year as they fight their way to the ultimate poker goal, to be the last one standing at the World Series of Poker’s final table.  This 2004 film brings you through the glamorous and not so glamorous life of a pro poker player.

The Poker Movie

 

How To Films

 

Mastering Bluffs and Tells in Poker – 2004
Hosted by Vince Van Pattern and Ken Warren

Poker for Dummies – 2004
Hosted by numerous players, is really for beginners only

Win Big Playing Poker – 2004
Hosted by 4 pros, The Hendon Mob, this film goes through the game of Texas Hold’em

Masters of Poker – Phil Hellmuth
There are a number of these how-to videos teaching players techniques used by the pros

 

Fictional – Drama/Comedy

 

The Cincinnati Kid

Possibly the most famous of all poker films this classic 1965 movie stars Steve McQueen in the title role of a pro poker player.  This period piece takes place during the great depression as The Kid fights to prove himself the best in poker by taking down a player simply known as “The Man” (Edward G. Robinson). 

Giving performances that are still talked about this film brings true realty of an age when poker was more than entertainment it was a way of life.  With true grit they bout it out in a tournament of 5-card stud.

 

California Split

Directed by the late, great Robert Altman 1974’s California Split follows two poker playing friends that get down on their luck and up in debt.  Looking for their winning streak they make their way to Reno for a big time tournament that will get them back in the green.  This film is truly focused on poker and gambling and depicts the hard knock life those making it with cards.

 

Maverick

Poker has been an American obsession for years as displayed in the film Maverick.  With Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster taking on the lead roles we follow two players, Maverick and  , through the Old West as they try to finagle their way into a big prize tournament. 

This comedy isn’t really centered on the poker as much as the journey to the tournament, but it does feature 5 card draw in the tournament which is becoming a thing of the past.  If you like action films with a steady pace throughout and Gibson when he was closer to his prime then this film is worth watching.

 

Dr. Mabuse – The Gambler

A fantastic foreign film with poker at the center is the result of Fritz Lang’s 1922 interpretation of a man with telepathic powers in Dr. Mabuse, which saw its fair share of sequels.  The criminal Dr. Mabuse has found a way to control the minds of other to his own advantage.  And there’s no better place than the card table.  Racking up a healthy sum draws the attention of Detective Wenk who doggedly begins pursuing Dr. Maabuse.

 

Rounders

This 1998 film stars Matt Damon and Edward Norton who give fantastic performances as two friends who don’t have much more in common than poker.  When one friend uses the other’s credit only to be in debt to a Russian thug (played by John Malkovich) they have mere days to make the money before the Russian Teddy KGB has his way with them. 

Rounders has been hailed as one of poker’s great films and is credited with helping to bring Texas Hold’em to the forefront of American poker.  With great acting, a great story and great poker this one should be on your list of films to watch.

 

The Sting

Another period piece with poker as its subject, The Sting brings Paul Newman and Robert Redford together again in another note worthy performance as Henry Gondorff and Johnny Hooker respectively.  This crime caper comedy based in the 1930’s starts with con man Hooker conning another con man.  Big mistake when the other guy works for crime boss Doyle Lonnegan. 

When Lonnegan kills Hooker’s con man partner and puts a hit out on Hooker as a result Hooker is determined to pay Lonnegan back with the help of his partner’s mentor Gondorff.  Under Gondorff’s apt guidance they put together a plan to con Lonnegan out of much more than he originally lost as they assemble a team for the con of the century.  The Sting is one of poker’s finest films.

 

Freeze Out

An independent film that did well on the festival circuit, Freeze Out takes on the subject of friendly low stakes poker in a garage that turns serious.  The lead character John wants to gain the respect of his friends and fellow poker players with a freeze out tournament for stakes much higher than normal.  The tournament is what brings this film together and is a good representation of real life action, including pocketing your friends’ hard earned cash at the end.

If you’re looking for a film that depicts true poker playing and manages a good story out of it then Freeze Out is a great pick.  There’s no better way to get to know characters than a tournament where they really have something on the line.

 

Poker Nights

Those looking for a saucier poker film will enjoy this Irish short.  The story revolves around a group of couples that are all friends.  When the couples get bored they decide they’re going to wife swap based on the outcome of the guy’s poker game.  With stakes that high you know things could go downhill fast.  Making poker the subject in a totally new way this short is worth a watch.

 

Kaleidoscope

Set in Europe Warren Beatty in one of his earliest lead roles plays poker swindler Barry Lincoln.   After breaking into the factory that makes the cards for most all of Europe’s gambling houses and marking the original plates, Lincoln is able to get a rush only he can explain. 

His impressive playing attracts the attention of a lovely young woman who wants to recruit Lincoln into a scheme her Scotland Yard Inspector father is hatching.  Lincoln is pulled into a high stakes con to help financially ruin a man on the outs with Scotland Yard.

 

High Roller:  The Stu Ungar Story

Based on the life of one of poker’s greats this film follows the life and demise of Stu Ungar.  Viewers watch as Ungar goes from the highest of highest to the lowest of lows winning 3 World Series of Poker Tournament and becoming addicted to drugs along the way.

 

A Big Hand for the Little Lady

This film shows the real seriousness with which some people play poker as well as what the stakes can really mean to a player’s future.  Though this western is a comedy every character is anything but joking as the 5 wealthiest and somewhat ruthless men in the area convene for their annual no limit, winner takes all card game.  The whole town where they meet is wrapped up in the game, including a couple and their son who are making their way west with their life savings.

Though the husband Meredith, played by Henry Fonda, is a bad player he worms his way in on the game.  When his money almost gone Meredith is dealt a great hand, but doesn’t get to play it out after he has a heart attack in the middle of the hand.  With their life savings on the line his wife has to step in and take his seat, though she’s never played.  This is a unique poker tale that speaks of the vast array of players out there taking part in the game, and what it means to lay everything on the line.

 

Run

A case of mistaken identity leads Charlie Farrow, Patrick Dempsey, into a high stakes game of poker.  While driving his bosses Porche from Boston to Atlantic City car troubles force him to stop not far from the destination.  Due to the flashy wheels Farrow is thought to be a well off high roller invited to play a hand of poker with a local big-time mob boss’s son and wins big. 

But the boss’s son doesn’t like losing money.  Farrow has to protect himself when a fight ensues and the boss’s son is accidently killed.

The incident starts an intense game of cat and mouse as Farrow tries to escape the mob boss pursuing him.  Little does Farrow know that the boss has the entire town eating out of his hand, including the police.  With no one to turn to and nowhere to hide as more and more people are killed to get at him Farrow has only a young woman who witnessed the poker game to help him escape.