POKER

Top Three Best Poker Scenes in Hollywood Cinematic History

By Marcus Harmon
August 20, 2023

Throughout its colorful history, Hollywood has been tasked with bringing certain areas of life and art to the big screen. It’s often a trick they don’t entirely succeed in, invariably looking to glamorize rather than simulate what certain pastimes and activities actually revolve around.

In the field of poker, it’s something they’ve been trying for decades and only occasionally getting away with. The pastime, or should we say sport, of poker has become a massive industry in recent decades, and it’s an activity millions upon millions of us enjoy.

Of all the poker scenes put to celluloid, here are our three favorites, not necessarily due to their realistic nature but more for their iconic impact. By the way, if you are an avid poker fan out of Pennsylvania, you may want to check out this helpful list of the best PA online poker sites around.

Poker Movies Casino Royale Daniel Craig

The Sting (1973)

This classic comedy caper from George Roy Hill sees Paul Newman and Robert Redford deliver a masterclass in suave elegance as they grift their way to a killing. Robert Shaw, best known for his performance as Quint in Jaws, is the ‘Mark’ for their big con, and that’s because the tyrannical gangster was behind the killing of their friend in Illinois during the Great Depression.

In order to set the scene and lure in Shaw, Newman constructs a con that involves a high-stakes poker game that takes place on board a train. It’s an iconic scene and one that lives long in the memory.

Newman plays an obnoxious drunk who riles up Shaw and his fellow players, giving them a sense of false expectations, only to then beat him in a way that clearly shows his opponent that he’s cheated. However, it’s not a claim Shaw can make, given he, too, has been cheating.

It lays the groundwork for the ultimate con that takes place in the final act and is beautifully crafted from both a cinematic perspective as well as a nod to poker lovers out there, who no doubt know the scene back to front.

Rounders (1998)

This 90s favorite, starring Matt Damon and Ed Norton as the leads, is pretty much the poker equivalent to The Color of Money. Mike McDermott (Damon) is studying law while making a few extra bucks on the side as a poker player. He’s a happy-go-lucky type of guy whose best friend happens to be something of a risk-taker, leading him down all sorts of roads he’d rather not have traveled.

Throughout the film, McDermott is effectively playing in order to keep his friend, Worm (Norton), out of jail or the hands of the mobsters, and it all comes down to a final card game against the hilarious “Teddy KGB,” a riotous over the top portrayal of a Russian gangster from John Malkovich, which effectively steals the film.

By the end of the film, Mike has worked out KGB’s ‘tell’ and subsequently lures him in and wins back all that he is owed, resulting in his friend escaping the clutches of the mob and a tidy little nest egg for himself.

Throughout the movie, we are given an education into poker rooms, both big and small, and while it’s all a little bit ‘on the nose,’ it’s nonetheless entertaining, and the movie played its part in making poker very cool again.

Casino Royale (2006)

Daniel Craig successfully brought James Bond back to life following Pierce Brosnan’s slightly over-the-top run as 007, and in his first outing during 2006’s Casino Royale, he partakes in a big money poker game in Monte Carlo.

Unsurprisingly he’s going up against an ingenious madman who wants to destroy the world, as is traditional, but first, there’s the important matter of a card game played in a very opulent setting.

Of course, Bond wins after a poor start and pockets $100 million, further irritating La Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) when he gets a straight flush, beating his opponent’s full house.

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Marcus Harmon poker author
Written By.

Marcus Harmon

Marcus Harmon is a poker writer and editor of Sunshine Poker Rooms, a poker news and information source. With a decade of experience in the online gaming industry, Marcus has been lucky enough to have met and indeed been beaten by some of the great players. His other passions are soccer and travel.

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