Hollywood Mixes Fisticuffs With Poker Table Suspense
I’ve long been a poker player. Never a very good one but I’ve always enjoyed it. There’s so much intensity and action happening while seated at a table trying to act cool as a cucumber.
After recently re-watching Casino Royale (for about the 10th time) I started thinking… “I wonder how often the game of poker has played into the plot of an action movie.” I could only think of a couple examples off the top of my head so I started doing some digging and decided to share what I found.
This is arguably the best poker/action movie combo ever. The poker scenes are decently realistic and the action is present in spades. M calls James a blunt object rather than a razor-sharp weapon that she feels she needs. I know from experience that pure aggression is not the answer in poker. “The more you understand about… the overall action and the possibilities, the more you will be ready to make essential options,” states a Betfair forum post about playing poker. I think of it like a shotgun versus a sniper rifle and the poker scenes, in particular, showcase Bond’s transformation from shotgun to ultra precise sniper rifle. His first round of poker didn’t go so well… he lost all his money. We’ve all been there. But after re-buying in to the game he is able to win it all by playing a much smarter game.
Rounders is definitely more of a poker movie than it is an action movie but I would feel like I was leaving something very important off this list if I didn’t include it. The action of Rounders takes place almost exclusively on the poker table and it is plenty intense. This was actually a movie that my friends and I would watch almost religiously before diving into poker games of our own.
Mel Gibson takes the mantle of Maverick from his co-star James Garner. Maverick spends the majority of the movies attempting to come up with the entrance fee for a big time card game aboard a Louisiana steamboat. Hilarity ensues.
Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
Danny Ocean finds his old buddy Rusty teaching a number of young celebrities how to play the game. Together they try to get some of the finer points of the game through the thick skulls of Holly Marie Combs from Charmed, Topher Grace of That ’70s Show, Joshua Jackson of Dawson’s Creek, Barry Watson of 7th Heaven, Shane West of Once and Again.
Ocean’s Twelve (2004)
The final scene of the Ocean’s sequel shows the whole crew playing a really fun looking private catered game of hold ‘em.
Ocean’s Thirteen (2007)
Producer Jerry Weintraub must have been a pretty big fan of poker because he reportedly had an on set poker lounge put together for the cast and crew of Ocean’s Thirteen. While the entire movie does take place in and around casinos there isn’t actually any time spent sitting down and playing. For shame.
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
Guy Ritchie’s modern classic starts with a tense situation around a poker table that only gets worse when the blokes get cheated out of their money and have but a few days to come up with enough to pay back the mob boss. Oh, and by the way, Jason Statham makes his debut here as a man simply known as Bacon.
Another Jason Statham vehicle; Jake Green (Statham) ends up in jail after winning big sums of money from a mob boss that he probably wished he hadn’t messed with.
We all know Sly Stallone kicks serious butt whether it’s in the boxing ring or in the jungles of Vietnam but Shade showed us he could hold his own on the poker table.
The Cincinnati Kid is another movie that is more poker movie than action movie but it stars the all time great Steve McQueen playing five card stud.
Surprisingly there aren’t a ton of action movies with poker scenes included. You’d think it would be a perfect fit and we’ve seen it done very well. Hopefully we’ll see more poker in action movies used to further a character, a story or just for a fun scene between friends.
Am I right in thinking that Casino Royale is the king of poker in action movies? If not, what is your favorite? Are there any movies I left out? Let me know in the comments below.