Poker Night at the Movies
If you are like many adults around the world, you enjoy placing a bet at least occasionally. According to various studies, more than 80 percent of adults in Australia gamble, and the average Australian spends more on gambling than adults living in any other country. Almost 75 percent of adults in the United Kingdom gamble every so often. Approximately 85 percent of American adults have placed at least one wager over the course of their lives, with 80 percent of them having made a bet during the past twelve months.
When people visit a casino, they play their favorite games. If you look at any list of the most popular casino games, you’ll likely find poker at, or near the top, of the list. Poker was always popular as an underground game of sorts since it was introduced in America, but for generations the population at large frowned upon the game. Many people were slow to embrace poker because of the game’s long-standing association with violence.
The legend of the western folk hero, lawmaker and gunfighter, Wild Bill Hickok, provides a good example of the unfortunate and often misleading association. John McCall was drinking at a local saloon in Deadwood, Dakota Territory on August 1, 1876 when he took a recently vacated seat at a poker game that included Hickok. It did not take long for the drunken McCall to lose all of his money. Hickok offered McCall some money, so he would be able to buy breakfast the next day, which McCall accepted. Even though he took Hickok’s money, McCall reportedly took offense when Hickok advised him not to gamble again until he was able to cover his losses.
On the following day, Hickok returned to Nuttal & Mann’s Saloon to play in another poker game. Instead of taking his usual seat in the corner with his back to the wall, Hickok took a seat that pointed his back toward the saloon’s entrance. As the game continued, an inebriated and insulted McCall shot Hickok in the back of the head while he reportedly yelled, “Damn you! Take that!” Hickok died instantly from his injuries. Since the 1920s, Hickok’s violent death was said to inspire the term, “dead man’s hand.” This phrase generally refers to a poker hand that includes a pair of black aces and eights, cards Hickok held at the time of his murder.
Even though poker largely remained in the shadows for more than a century, the game was thrust into the limelight after amateur player, Chris Moneymaker, defeated professional player, Sammy Farha, to win the 2003 World Series of Poker. Moneymaker’s $2.5 million victory legitimized both online and live poker in the minds of millions of people in the United States and around the globe who would soon begin to try to emulate Moneymaker’s success. Perhaps because the game lends itself to more outbursts and conversation than other poker variants, or maybe because it is the game played in the WSOP’s Main Event, No Limit Texas Hold’em quickly became the game of choice for many aspiring and seasoned poker players after Moneymaker’s improbable victory.
Unforgettable, Must-See Poker Movies
Before poker became more widely accepted by the masses, Hollywood took notice of the game. Through the years, many movies incorporated poker into their plots. Although you can easily find lists of the “best” movies about poker online, it is difficult to say which poker movies are truly the best because everyone has their own opinion about what makes a movie great. While that is true, some poker movies are simply unforgettable and are must-sees for every poker enthusiast.
Whether they make your personal list of the best poker movies or not, here are some must-see poker movies:
The Cincinnati Kid
Based on Richard Jessup’s novel of the same name, “The Cincinnati Kid” is a powerful movie that tells the story of Eric “The Kid” Stoner, a young poker player trying to establish himself as the best poker player during the Great Depression. His dream of becoming the top player leads The Kid to challenge Lancy “The Man” Howard, an aging player who is considered the best, to a game of poker while he is in town for a private game. The Shooter, played by Karl Malden, is another professional gambler who arranges a match between The Kid and The Man. With The Shooter dealing, the integrity of the contest becomes compromised when Slade, portrayed by Rip Torn, attempts to rig the game against his long-time foe, The Man.
When The Kid discovers Slade’s plan to unfairly influence the game, he puts an end to Slade’s devious endeavors and instructs the underhanded player to get lost. Preferring to win fairly, The Kid sits across from The Man during a grueling game in which The Man demonstrates that you do not always have to do the right thing at the right time to win. Sometimes, it is even more effective to do the wrong thing at the right time when you are playing for the title of the best. The movie culminates in a dramatic, gut-wrenching final hand that determines whether The Kid will take The Man’s title as the best player or if The Man will continue his reign as the best.
With gorgeous scenery in the backdrop of New Orleans, “The Cincinnati Kid” is a dark, suspenseful look at the underbelly of the poker world in the 1930s. Directed by Norman Jewison, the film stars some of the most legendary Hollywood actors of all time, including Steve McQueen as The Kid and Edward G. Robinson as The Man.
If you enjoy movies about poker, you have probably seen this cult classic many times. Released throughout the United States in September, 1998, “Rounders” stars Matt Damon as Mike McDermott, Edward Norton as Lester “Worm” Murphy, and John Malkovich as Teddy “KGB.”
After McDermott loses his entire $30,000 bankroll playing Texas Hold’em against KGB, a threatening Russian mobster who operates an unlawful underground poker room, he promises his girlfriend that he will give up the game he loves and focus on his studies as a law student. Unable to continue making his living as a rounder, someone who travels from town to town to play in illegal poker games, McDermott accepts a job offer to drive a delivery truck from Knish, his mentor who happens to be a rounder himself.
McDermott keeps his promise and refrains from playing poker. That is, he refrains until his childhood friend, Worm, gets out of jail. Before he was locked up, Worm amassed significant gambling debts playing poker. After his release, Worm is given five days to repay his debts in full. Desperate to pay his $15,000 debt, Worm enlists McDermott’s help to raise money by rounding. McDermott’s decision to help his friend quickly interferes with both his studies and his relationship with his girlfriend.
Over the course of several frantic days, McDermott and Worm enter game after game trying to raise the cash Worm needs. When Worm suggests they cheat, McDermott insists they stick to the rules of the game. Despite his friend’s insistence, Worm gets caught cheating while he is dealing, and both players are blamed for Worm’s behavior, and they lose the nearly $15,000 they had won. Fearing further repercussions, Worm decides to leave New York City, and he tells his loyal friend to do the same thing. While advising McDermott to leave, Worm finally tells him that the person he owes money to is KGB. After this admission, McDermott decides to end his friendship with Worm.
Still motivated to pay off Worm’s debt, as well as wanting to get his original $30,000 bankroll back from his nemesis, KGB, McDermott borrows $10,000 from Petrovsky, a law professor played by Martin Landau. With his life and fortune on the line, McDermott plays two tense heads-up matches against KGB. During these winner-take-all contests, McDermott notices a tell that could be the difference between him being victorious or a mere statistic.
While “The Cincinnati Kid” and “Rounders” take a serious look at poker in days gone by and more recent years, “Maverick” takes a more light-hearted approach to the game. Directed by Richard Donner, “Maverick” is a western comedy that is based on a television series that shares the film’s name. James Garner, who plays Marshall Zane Cooper in the film, starred in the 1950s television show.
Maverick tells the amusing story of Bret Maverick, a poker player and con artist trying to raise enough money to enter a high stakes five-card draw poker tournament through any means necessary. Being $3,000 short of the $25,000 entry fee, the movie starts with Maverick entering the town of Crystal River to collect a debt. While there, Maverick runs into Angel, a mean-tempered card player, Mrs. Annabelle Bransford, a con artist, and Marshall Zane Cooper, a lawman.
Beginning what ultimately becomes a shared adventure, Maverick, Bransford, and Cooper take a stagecoach out of town together. The driver of the stagecoach dies while the horses pulling the stagecoach are going full speed, leaving the three passengers to save themselves from certain death. After a series of laugh-filled events that include an unsuccessful scheme to con a Russian Grand Duke, Maverick arrives aboard the paddle steamer, Lauren Belle, which is the host site for the poker tournament. When he arrives, Maverick finds the Grand Duke and quickly cons him out of the money that he and Bransford need to buy into the tournament, which some of his foes are already participating in. Meanwhile, Cooper has been put in charge of the steamboat’s security detail.
After everyone else is knocked out of the tournament, only four players will be seated at the final table: Maverick, Bransford, Angel, and the Lauren Belle’s owner, Commodore Duvall. Even though he is aware the action is scheduled to resume at 5 a.m., Maverick almost fails to take his seat at the final table because someone chained the door to his stateroom shut after he shared some intimate moments with Bransford.
Bransford, portrayed by Jodie Foster, is the first player to be eliminated from the final table. When he notices that the dealer bottom-dealt to his two remaining opponents during a critical hand, Maverick protests before he agrees to accept a single card from the top of the deck to make up for the dealer’s crooked play. Duvall and Angel push all of their chips in the middle and Maverick calls without looking at the last card he was dealt. When the three combatants show their hands, Maverick’s last card turns out to be the ace of spades, making him the winner of the tournament.
Angel is enraged by Maverick’s victory and attempts to shoot the newly crowned champion, but Cooper and Maverick gun down the card player and his cronies. Before Maverick can collect his $500,000 prize, Cooper steals it. Maverick attempts to claim his fortune by shooting Cooper as he is fleeing, but Duvall stops him. Later, Cooper and Duvall meet in the woods to discuss the grand scheme that they managed to pull off. As it turns out, Angel worked for Duvall and Cooper was supposed to steal the grand prize all along. The plan was to split the money with Duvall and Angel if neither of those two men won the poker tournament.
With Angel gone, Duvall decides to shoot Cooper to increase his share of the take, but Maverick arrives in time to interrupt the skirmish. Maverick, played by Mel Gibson, manages to steal the prize money from the two men and leaves a gun for Duvall and Cooper to resolve their disagreement. The gun ends up being unloaded, leaving Cooper to beat up Duvall. Cooper stops short of killing his former co-schemer and heads out to find Maverick.
A short time later, Cooper finds Maverick relaxing in a bath house. After threatening to shoot Maverick, both men stop pretending that they are rivals and acknowledge their relationship as father and son. They also discuss their master plan to steal the winnings from the poker tournament. As Maverick and Cooper are both enjoying soothing baths, Bransford, who figured out the true nature of the men’s relationship based on the mannerisms they have in common, enters the bathhouse to rob the father-son duo.
Was Bransford successful? Was she the one who managed to get away with $500,000 in cash? You will have to watch this hysterical, must-see poker movie to find out.
While the three movies discussed should be on every list of must-see movies about poker, you will find a few other poker movies that are equally unforgettable listed below:
- "Croupier,” starring Clive Owen
- “Big Hand for The Little Lady,” starring Henry Fonda, Joanne Woodward and Jason Robards
- “The Gambler,” featuring Kenny Rogers
- “Loaded Pistols,” featuring Gene Autry
- “Casino Royale,” starring Daniel Craig
- “Oceans 11,” featuring a star-studded cast that includes George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon
Visit Dover Downs Hotel & Casino
If you want to be treated like a star in a poker movie that takes place in a luxury casino, visit Dover Downs Hotel & Casino. When you are here, you are our top priority at all times. If you like poker, you will love playing in our 18-table poker room, which is located on the third floor of our breathtaking casino.
You can enjoy daily poker tournaments and high hand contests when you visit our poker room. You can win $600 if you are in the hot seat at 9 p.m. or 11 p.m. on Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday. We have overnight high hand contests that run Monday through Friday from 2 a.m. until 7 a.m. and pay a minimum of $100 per hour, too. We take the sting out of bad beats by giving you the chance to earn a $300 to $600 bonus if you lose a hand with Jacks full or better.
When you play poker at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, you can earn some valuable benefits. You can earn cash back on all cash games, for instance. You can earn between $2 and $5 cash back per hour in one of our cash games. If you play poker here for as little as four hours, you can stay at our luxurious property for as little as $29 per night Sunday through Thursday or just $99 on Friday and Saturday.
If you prefer to play in tournaments instead of ring games, you can reap some rewards when you visit our poker room as well. When you play in a tournament in our poker room, you will receive 12 points on your player’s card, which can be used for monthly giveaways, cash drawings and free play on our slot machines.
If you are ready to be treated like a movie star, make plans to visit our award-winning property. Give us a call to make your reservation today.