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Table of Contents

Molly’s Game
Lucky You

There have been dozens of gambling movies over the years. Viewers love watching an everyday person take on a Goliath of a casino and win; it is the traditional, tried and tested underdog story. But what about poker movies? Why aren’t there many blockbuster films showcasing our crazy game?

Poker has featured in many movies and television shows, but there is a recurring theme: most poker scenes are dreadful. Take Casino Royale (2006) as an example. The poker scene involving James Bond is highly unrealistic to the point it is painful to watch. Other movies and television often show players gambling their homes and businesses on the turn of a card or played by mafia types in dimly lit, smoke-filled backrooms. Are there any poker movies that are worthwhile watching?

Rounders (1998)

Rounders was released in September 1998 to mixed reviews and enjoyed moderate success. However, following the poker boom in the early 2000s, Rounders became a cult hit and deservedly gained the title of the best poker movie of all time. The film spawned the phrase, “if you can’t spot a sucker in the first half hour at the table, then you ARE the sucker.”

The film revolves around law student and talented poker player Mike McDermott (Matt Damon), who has dreams of winning the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event. McDermott finds himself playing in an underground Texas Hold’em cash game the Russian mobster Teddy “KGB” (John Malkovich) runs. McDermott ends up losing his entire $30,000 bankroll.

McDermott quits playing poker until his friend Lester “Worm” Murphy (Edward Norton) is released from prison. Murphy finds himself in debt to some unscrupulous figures, and runs up even more debt in McDermott’s name, forcing McDermott to return to playing poker.

There are plenty of twists and turns before McDermott finds himself playing heads-up against Teddy “KGB” for a considerable sum of money. We won’t spoil what happens, in case you’ve not enjoyed Brian Koppleman‘s story.

Molly’s Game (2017)

Although Molly’s Game (2017) does not feature detailed poker action, it is a super exciting poker movie that deserves a place on our list. Molly’s Game is a biographical crime drama written and directed by Aaron Sorkin and based on the 2014 memoir bearing the same name.

Molly Bloom was a top-tier mogul skier that looked destined to compete at the 2002 Winter Olympics. However, a freak accident on the slopes severely injured Bloom, ending her career. Instead of attending law school as planned, Bloom moved to Los Angeles, where she had several jobs, including working for a real estate developer. Here, Bloom became involved in running her boss’ underground poker games that many famous individuals attended.

In her book, Bloom never named any of the poker players but internet sleuths determined the likes of Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Spider-Man actor Tobey Maguire, Ben Affleck, Home Alone star Macaulay Culkin, and many other prominent celebrities frequented the high-stakes cash games.

Bloom begins running her own poker operation, which remains legit until one of her dealers convinces her to take a rake from each pot to protect her potential losses if her clients cannot afford to pay their dues. This made Bloom’s games illegal in the state of New York.

Again, we’ll leave it there because this poker movie is filled with twists and turns, including the involvement of the Italian mafia, robberies at gunpoint, and a massive legal case! Definitely put Molly’s Game on your watch list.

Lucky You (2007)

Lucky You (2007) may have bombed at the box office after grossing only $8.4 million against a $55 million budget, but it is still hugely popular with poker fans. The movie revolves around Huck Cheever (Eric Bana), the son of a fictional two-time WSOP champion L.C. Cheever (Robert Duvall). Huck Cheever is a talented player but a hardened gambler who wins and loses his WSOP Main Event buy-in.

Cheever eventually takes a seat in the 2003 WSOP Main Event, but does he take it down? You’ll have to watch Lucky You to find out because we’re not in the habit of giving away spoilers!

Poker fans will notice dozens of real-life poker players in the film’s many casino scenes. Such luminaries as Sam Farha, Barry Greenstein, Daniel Negreanu, Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, Erik Seidel, and Phil Hellmuth feature as themselves, while Jennifer Harman, John Hennigan, and David Oppenheim play fictional characters. There are even appearances from host Jack Binion and renowned tournament director Matt Savage!

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