Things Movies Get Wrong About Poker Image

Things Movies Get Wrong About Poker

By Chris Gore | November 1, 2018

The silver screen is known for taking a few liberties with how it presents things, explosions will throw someone a distance but rarely burst ear-drums as a more action focused example. But in addition to that, we also have some smaller, low-key scenes that don’t really embrace the reality of how these types of thing usually work out. Poker’s a good example, it’s a cinematic game alright and the WSOP has been televised for several years now with solid ratings. But whenever it’s shown in movies, they tend to add an additional flair for the dramatic to it. While it makes for better viewing, it doesn’t really capture the feel of a game. Here are some examples.

This Mel Gibson fronted picture is almost a Western comedy with Mel Gibson’s Maverick regularly playing the fool when he joins the game and making a few unconventional moves in an effort to sell the narrative he’s a schmuck. He even promises to lose for the first hour which he does by playing as foolishly as he can, holding his cards backwards and folding hands he could win. Eventually, for the final hand, Gibson completes a Royal Flush and slow-rolls the reveal as he goes. Generally, speaking this is a pretty hefty faux pas, holding a card back for dramatic effect looks cool but it’s insulting to the people you play with. Don’t be like Maverick. Just show your hand.

Matt Damon’s insightful Mike McDermott is undoubtedly a skilled poker player and would make an incredible detective. Throughout the course of the movie, McDermott ends up losing several times and ends up having to play one final game against crime boss KGB in order to pay off his former best friend’s debts. But luckily, his fantastic observational skills see him through by recognizing that KGB has a tell, derived from how he toys with the oreos he has on hand as he plays. Eventually this rattles KGB enough for McDermott to win! Only, if KGB’s tell were that obvious, you’d expect McDermott to notice far sooner with his Sherlock level deductive skills. Truthfully, tells are often far subtler than anything as obvious as how someone eats a cookie.

Casino Royale
This one almost feels unfair as it’s a Bond movie, if there is ever an appropriate venue for melodrama it’s a Bond movie. But Casino Royale gave a quite spectacularly melodramatic performance and it can’t be spared a bit of a spotlight. Le Chiffre’s tell of putting his hand up to his wounded eye is so glaringly obvious that it’s hardly a surprise when he uses it against Bond later in the game – what is more surprising is that the hands run the course they do with Le Chiffre having a winning hand on just the last card multiple times throughout the film (although in the climactic, Bond beats him to it) despite being a skilled player, he never folds when he has weak hands with low odds.

What do you think? Are there scenes we missed out that are better examples? Feel like giving it a go yourself? Why not have a go at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join our Film Threat Newsletter

Newsletter Icon