Card games have been around for hundreds of years, and every single one of us knows a game or two, even if it’s just snap or clock patience. Every nation of the world has its own favorite card games, yet there is one that has universal appeal. Over the years, poker has evolved into something that stands apart from the rest.
For one thing, there’s no other game where you can watch the best players in the world duke it out in multi million dollar tournaments on the sports channels. It’s even being seriously considered as a future Olympic event. But beyond that, poker has gained a place in our heart through its depiction on the big screen. Here, we pay tribute to the game that is more than just a game, by picking out some classic poker scenes that were the cherry on top of some classic movies.
Paul Newman, Robert Redford, that classic Scott Joplin soundtrack and the “long con.” This 1973 masterpiece was full of great set pieces, but the poker game at the beginning set the tone of all that was to come. These days, if we want to play poker we can look through any number of free casino table games online and choose from a “just for fun” game to a serious big money tournament. In the 1930s when the movie was set, the only choice was illicit games like the one Newman’s character, Henry Gondorff buys himself into on the train. The interaction between Gondorff and mob boss Doyle Lonigan, played by Robert Shaw, is as spellbinding today as it was in 1973, as each man tries to out-cheat the other. Five card draw has never been so enthralling.
To many, this 2006 interpretation of the book that introduced James Bond is not just the best of the Daniel Craig era but even eclipses the likes of Goldfinger or You Only Live Twice. Whether it’s really the best Bond film ever is a matter of personal taste, but it certainly contains the most famous of many memorable casino scenes in the Bond canon. The game is Texas Holdem, and while purists might pick holes in the liberties taken with the rules and etiquette of the game, nobody can deny that it is one of the most intense card scenes in movie history.
Matt Damon as a fresh faced kid with hidden depths and a murky past? Surely not! Despite the typecasting of the lead man, this is an underrated classic that studies the themes of friendship, obsession and most of all, poker. Damon’s character, Mike McDermott, is pulled back into the world of big money card games to help his best friend negotiate his financial difficulties. The movie culminates in a no-limits game of Texas Holdem that is essential viewing for any would-be card shark who wants to learn about tells.
The Cincinnati Kid
55 years after its theatrical release, this is arguably still the most famous poker movie of them all. Steve McQueen dominates every scene he appears in as the young hustler ready to take on the world in his chosen game of five card stud. The movie has a great twist ending, which serves as a reminder that in a game of cards, you can take nothing for granted.