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How Poker Games Play on Film

Although a bunch of people sitting around a table playing cards might not seem like cinematic gold, movie writers and directors love poker, as it's the best of all the casino games. If put together correctly, a poker scene can deliver the drama, or ladle out the laughs, like nothing else — and these are a few that got it right.

We all know how exciting poker is, and if you don't, you can check out these films to get an idea.

This 1998 drama directed by Matt Dahl, which stars a young Matt Damon as Mike McDermott, is pretty highly regarded by poker fans, and it does recognize the skill the game involves compared with other casino games. However the memorable final scene of high stakes Texas Hold’em is actually the only time it veers into daftness. The "tell" displayed by his adversary Teddy KGB (John Malkovich) with the Oreo cookies is amusing, but so obvious it has to be unbelievable.

Casino RoyaleCasino Royale 2 - UK cinema poster
Part of giving British secret agent 007 (Daniel Craig) back his edge in this 2006 reboot of the long-running series involved changing his favorite casino game from Baccarat to Texas Hold’em poker, which you can also find at an online site like It certainly made for a thrilling scene when he faced-off against Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) at the high roller casino -- although the hands both players were dealt ensured that James Bond remained reassuringly in the realm of the ridiculous.


The Sting
Unsurprisingly the train-based poker scene from this 1973 classic film directed by George Roy Hill is more about cheating at poker than anything else — but it does provide a masterclass in how to cheat at poker. Nonetheless, it’s probably best not to copy Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman) and Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford) here, unless you prefer not to wait for the train to stop before disembarking.

Tillie and Gus
The poker scene from this 1933 Francis Martin film featuring the late great W.C. Fields is comedy all the way as Augustus Q Winterbottom (Fields) cons his way to poker victory by leading the other players to believe he barely even knows the rules of the game. It’s not exactly cheating, although it is unsporting, and it is one of the many memorable scenes that Fields left us with during his career. 


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