The Best 5 Poker Movies Of All Time

Top 5 Poker Movies Of All Time

Poker has fascinated and entertained people since it was first played. Formerly confined to casinos, the last two decades have seen a boom in the amount of poker shown in media, from the broadcasting of the World Series of Poker to the high stake’s games available on streaming platforms.

Before the game became a mainstream success, movies had been showing it on the big screen for years. Some are great and portray poker’s nuances perfectly, while others clearly missed the whole point. The following 5 movies each have something special that makes them stand out from the crowd; a scene or general feel to them that shows the filmmakers understand the game they were portraying in their films.

5. Casino Royale

Synopsis:

Casino Royale, the third adaption of Ian Fleming’s classic novel about 007 – played by Daniel Craig in his first outing as everyone’s favorite British spy – is an action-packed blockbuster with a bit of poker on the side. James Bond sets out on his first mission and is pitted against Le Chiffre, a villainous banker played to perfection by the always brilliant Mads Mikkelsen. Casino Royale may not be your typical poker movie, but it is still worth a watch.

Why It’s One of the Best:

While poker only takes up a small amount of screen time in this spy adventure, it is one of the most pivotal scenes and perfectly captures all the nuances of the game, with a bit of embellishment of course. Bond first plays poker and wins a 1964 Aston Martin DB5, and it's this act that instigates the climactic high-stakes Texas Hold'em tournament at the Casino Royale in Montenegro.

After some opening hands, Bond figures out the villains’ tells and begins to dominate the table. However, the crafty Le Chiffre deduces Bond has a read on him and uses the information to trap the spy. This exchange sees the first big showdown between hero and villain, Bond has a full house, against Le Chiffre's four of a kind.

After some non-poker-related spy shenanigans, we once again see Bond and Le Chiffre face-off, this time with two others along for the ride. With all four men going all-in, and over 100 million in the pot, the tension and excitement are keenly felt at this point.

The first player has a flush, while the next two, including Le Chiffre, turn over full houses, and it appears to be all over, until Bond shows his straight flush, thwarting the villain and winning the whole pot. This exact scenario is the dream of every serious poker player, a monster hand with high-stakes and a big win at the end.

Before the final hand is finished, Le Chiffre is convinced he has a read on Bond and knows his hand, which proves to be his undoing. The clash showcases the nature of poker as a game of gathering information and spreading misinformation, which contrasts perfectly with the spy theme.

Casino Royale may not be overly realistic (it’s a Bond movie after all), the odds of four strong hands coming out like that are massive, but it doesn't matter, because the scene is one of the best poker matches shown on the big screen.

4. Maverick

Synopsis:

Mel Gibson is Brett Maverick, a poker player who has delusions of grandeur. Based on a 1960s TV show of the same name, the 1994 film has Gibson’s Maverick trying to make it to a high-stakes poker championship on the paddle steamer Lauren Belle. The only thing standing in his way is the $25,000 entry fee and a cast of desperados who are out to rip each other off. Say what you will about Gibson's personal life, the man is a great actor and has an impressive list of movie credits.

Why It’s One of the Best:

The poker matches in the film might not be strictly realistic, in one of the final hands, a royal flush beats a straight flush. The odds of these two hands facing off aren't even worth mentioning, but the subtly of the film makes you forget about these artistic liberties.

Maverick perfectly showcases poker's nature as a game of deception. In the first poker game of the movie, the suave Maverick tries to gain a seat at the table, only to be told in no uncertain terms that he isn't welcome. To earn a spot, he promises to lose for an hour, and the other players happily agree.

However, this is only a ploy; Maverick takes the hour to observe everyone, see their tells and figure out their play styles. When the hour is up, he already has all the information he needs to win. His first victory nearly costs him his life though, after Maverick beats a pair with three of kind, the owner of the weaker hand reveals himself to be a gunfighter and demands the money back.

In another display of deception, Gibson's character shows fear, even cowardice and allows the angry young man to take the pot. Once again, his weakness is only a trick, and in a display of speed and dexterity, he draws his own weapon and could easily kill the slower gunfighter shocking everyone at the table who were deceived.

Maverick will keep you guessing right up until the credits. The whole movie is one deception after another with nothing as it seems, much like the game it is based on.

3. Rounders

Synopsis:

Matt Damon stars in the poker movie Rounders, arguably one of the best ever made. Damon plays a reformed gambler named Mike McDermott who is lured back into the high-stakes world he sought to leave behind.

Why It’s One of the Best:

Rounders may not be a traditional action film, but it will leave your heart pounding and maybe even give you the desire to play poker. The 1998 film has been linked to inspiring a whole generation of players that would fuel the poker boom of 2003 to 2006.

Aside from this vague connection to a real-life event, Rounders has some of the most accurate poker scenes ever shown on film. From the first hand where Damon's character explains all the rules of Texas Hold 'em poker in excellent detail, to the final game where he risks it all against the villain Teddy KGB, played by the legendary actor, John Malkovich.

Mike slowly whittles away KGB until he finally figures out his tell and saves himself from a bitter loss. KGB finally cracks and displays the rage every poker player feels when they are trapped by a superior opponent. The execution of the whole movie is brilliant in its accuracy and even the most nit-picking poker players will struggle to find legitimate fault with it.

2. Molly's Game

Synopsis:

Based on a true story, Molly's Game features Jessica Chastain as Molly Bloom, a former Olympic skier who turns to running a high-stakes poker game after an injury forces her to retire from competition. Her clients include crime lords and movie stars and sees her transform throughout the film from a naive young girl, to a hardened woman who gets in way over her head.

Why It’s One of the Best:

Molly's Game showcases a world that most poker players can only dream about, high-stakes poker with virtually no rules or oversight. While the movie can't be taken as 100 per cent fact in terms of the storyline, the poker scenes on the other hand, show an intimate understanding of the game. Whether it is because of the source material or because the filmmaker actually took the time to research isn't clear, but either way, it makes for a fun poker film.

In one of the last poker scenes in the film, a regular goes full tilt, a slang term for when a player is overcome by frustration and starts playing more recklessly and aggressive than usual. Like the rest of the film, the scene is narrated from start to finish by Molly, who uses very accurate poker jargon throughout. While it may not be completely historically accurate, for the most part, Molly's Game shows realistic poker.

At its heart, Molly's Game is about never quitting and rebuilding yourself even when all hope seems lost. The titular character gets several bad beats, first as a skier, then when a vengeful client steals her game, and finally when the government shuts her down. Molly never quits though and continues to rebuild. The whole film is a perfect analogy of what it's like to be poker player, dizzying highs when you are winning, followed by rock-bottom lows when you lose to a bad beat.

1.The Cincinnati Kid

Synopsis:

Legendary actor Steve McQueen plays Eric Stoner, known as The Kid, an up and coming poker player looking to knock off the best player in the city, and became the man. The Kid wants to prove himself and cement a legacy as the best there is.

Why It’s One of the Best:

The 1965 film might be little aged, but it is still a timeless classic that shows poker in one of its best portrayals on the big screen. If you can see past the smoke and grainy footage, the film has all the charm you'd expect from the clothing to the language. The Cincinnati Kid also has the claim to one of the best poker stare downs in film.

Aside from its accuracy, the film also shows the highs and lows of being a poker player and leaves viewers with the somber realization that you can't win them all. In the final game of the film, the kid seemingly has his opponent on the ropes and victory is in sight. But poker is a harsh game, and his long-sought-after win is stolen at the last minute. In the final hand, The Kid shows his cards, a full house, against a queen-high straight flush. The hero loses, and there is nothing he can do about it.

The Cincinnati Kid might not have the happy ending you'd expect, the villain prevails while the hero is left a broken mess, but that is real poker. You can't win them all, it's a hard lesson, but a realistic one.

We think these are 5 top poker movies, although you may not agree. Let us know on our social media pages which poker-related movies are you favorites and why.