If you love poker, casinos, or card games, then there’s a good chance that you’ve watched a few poker-related movies. The reason that poker is so compelling to watch is that it’s isn’t merely a game of chance: there’s skill involved. What’s more, the type of skill required is particularly amenable to on-screen representation.
There’s nothing quite like watching your favourite actor sweat as he or she gambles with high stakes, hoping to beat adversaries.
Many screenwriters and directors use poker games to heighten suspense in their movies. But the question remains: what are the top 5 poker movies of all time?
ESPN seems to cover every major sport these days, with soccer being the fastest growing part of the portfolio. It’s amazing how much impact ESPN can have when they “bless” a sport. With poker, we saw a huge explosion in popularity over the past 15 years, and the amount of poker on television certainly fueled that growth, with ESPN being a huge part of that. Viewers will be reminded of that now that the World Series of Poker is around the corner, and ESPN will have plenty of coverage across its various channels. The WSOP poker buzz takes the game to another level, and every sport/game needs a signature event to take the excitement to another level, but poker on TV has become much more than just an annual circus around this event.
Poker on television has grown for years, though the shenanigans by the feds has at times thrown some cold water on the poker boom. That hasn’t done much to slow down all of the various television outlets desperate for entertainment content, so finding a poker game on TV usually hasn’t been that difficult. But the uncertainty surrounding the federal regulatory climate has had an some impact on the game. It’s always a buzz kill when big name sites get into a fight with the feds.
Now things are heating up again, as recent court decisions have basically given a green light to the states to set up their own regulatory frameworks. Unfortunately the dysfunction in Washington has made it impossible to get uniform rules throughout the country, but state actions are reinvigorating the poker movement.
Meanwhile, the television big wigs are paying attention, and we’re going to see another big push into poker content. Showtime will air the 2009 documentary “All In – The Poker Movie” about how poker became part of the mainstream culture in the US. This will be the TV premiere of this film. More TV shows like “Queens are Wild,” , a new reality show from NBC Universal is another example. It will follow four female poker players around the world. Babes and poker – we agree that’s probably a winning formula!
While most sports movies tend to take themselves very seriously, with triumphant underdogs and platitude-filled speeches in their third acts, some sports just inherently lend themselves to comedy. Bowling is a great example of this, as evidenced by the success of films like the Farrelly brothers’ Kingpin and the Coen brothers’ The Big Lebowski. Poker is another, though the game itself is so relatively inactive that it’s debatable whether it should even be called a sport, and Zak Penn‘s underrated improvisational comedy The Grand takes full advantage of a poker tournament’s many humorous possibilities.
Similar to the revered work of Christopher Guest and his regular ensemble of actors in films like Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show, Penn assembles a talented ensemble cast and gives them direction on who their characters are, then leaves the dialogue and the development of situations largely up to them. In fact, the poker tournament at the center of the film is a real tournament, and its outcome was undetermined in the script; the winner at the end of the film actually just beat the other actors, regardless of narrative expectations. This approach gives the film extra vitality and excitement, and with so much room to breathe, the cast creates lively, hilarious characters that often riff on and expand their real public personae.