"Deal," the independent poker movie featuring Burt Reynolds and Bret Harrison, recently wrapped filming in New Orleans, Louisiana. The feature chronicles the story of a veteran poker champion who returns to the game to coach a talented newcomer. The two butt heads and ultimately part ways, only to meet again at the World Poker Tour (WPT) World Championship final table.
"Deal" is being produced by Michael Arata and directed by Gil Cates Jr., and features a slew of poker personalities, including WPT hosts Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten, poker pros Antonio Esfandiari, Phil Laak, Scott Lazar, and Isabel Mercier, and Hollywood players Jennifer Tilly, Shannon Elizabeth, and Charles Durning.
Lazar, who finished sixth in the 2005 WSOP, served as co-executive producer and "poker technical advisor" to make sure that all card play and betting were authentic. Lazar, who started out with a cameo, actually ended up with a featured role.
Harrison, who was a true poker novice prior to filming, said of working with the pros, "They really taught me about the life of these gamblers. They were constantly betting on something. It gave me a lot of insight into my role."
Reynolds prepared for his role by watching hours of WPT DVDs. "I was fascinated by how these guys study their opponents, figuring out their tells, and using psychology to outsmart them," he said. "I realized how to improve my own game. I was very flattered when some of these young stars said they couldn't tell if I was bluffing. I don't think that was true before I started this movie."
The film used the real WPT World Championship final table set, usually located at the Bellagio, and created an "eerily realistic" scene complete with Sexton and Van Patten as ad-libbing hosts, Courtney Friel conducting exit interviews, pro players at the final table, faux Bellagio showgirls bringing in mountains of cash, and a WPT Budweiser toast to the final table winner.
"An amazing transformation has occurred during the shooting of 'Deal,'" said director Cates. "The actors have all jumped into their roles with relish and have taken up the game with a passion just like millions around the country. It's led to some truly spirited poker games after hours and in between scenes."
"I think poker fans will be stunned when they see 'Deal,'" said Arata. "The film captures the excitement of the T.V. show, while telling a compelling story about competition and trust. The audience will really feel like they have been transported to a real WPT event."