Hitting the Nuts
Be warned: Hitting the Nuts is not your typical movie about poker. It's a mockumentary-style look into poker at its most basic level -- the amateur "hey, let's hold a poker tournament" level.
From the beginning you'll realize this is not going to be a game featuring a bunch of pros or wanna-be pros but rather a hodgepodge of players that look like they were transplanted from your local home game.
This movie pokes fun at our game and all of its idiosyncrasies at the amateur level -- including how the "crazy cat lady" who knows nothing about the game manages to win too much.
The film is completely independent with an unknown cast who manage to pull off one of the funniest poker comedies in existence.
If poker met Blazing Saddles, this would be the result.
The Cincinnati Kid
Before most of the cast of Rounders were even born Steve McQueen was playing the title role in The Cincinnati Kid.
McQueen plays Eric Stoner, aka "The Kid." Stoner is an up-and-coming poker player looking to prove himself.
Edward G. Robinson plays Lancey Howard, aka "The Man." Howard is the film's equivalent of Doyle Brunson.
Unlike modern day poker the primary game is Five Card Stud. In this film there are several forces at work trying to decimate the bankroll of "The Man" but The Kid wants to try to win the game honestly.
The big game, as you'd, comes down to a heads-up showdown between The Kid and The Man. A cheating scandal is discovered by THe Kid and while the cheating actually benefits him, he balances the scales to prove he can win fairly.
The final hand is one of the most dramati you'll see in any poker film although highly improbable for those that know Five Card Stud odds.
All in all though The Cincinnati Kid is a poker movie with a solid storyline that teaches some hard lessons about the game and life.
Another mockumentary makes this list but unlike Hitting the Nuts this film boasts an all-star cast and focuses on the elite level of poker.
Woody Harrelson is the film's star and plays the part of Jack Faro, a casino owner and poker player with various vices that have nearly left him bankrupt.
The only way that he can save his casino is to win a $10 million winner-takes-all tournament called "The Grand."
Standing in his way is a ragtag team of characters played by an amazing ensemble cast. Cheryl Hines plays Lainie Schwartzman, a player reminiscent of Annie Duke. David Cross plays Lainie's brother Larry, a character that will remind you of Mike Matusow.
Chris Parnell plays Harold Melvin, an idiot savant at the game. Dennis Farina is Deuce Fairbanks, the old timer that some say is fashioned from Doyle Brunson. Ray Romano, Gabe Kaplan, Hank Azaria, and Shannon Elizabeth also star in the film.
Several poker players make cameos including Phil Gordon, Doyle Brunson, Daniel Negreanu, Phil Laak, Phil Hellmuth and Antonio Esfandiari. Another cameo in the film is poker player Richard Brodie. One of the best jokes in the film occurs after a hand between him and Harold Melvin.
One little known fact about this film is that no scripts were used during the performance. Characters were given an outline and had to improvise lines as they went along. Also, the final table was actually played out live and multiple endings were filmed ahead of time to account for different winners.
This incredibly crafted film takes a tongue-in-cheek look at our favorite game at the elite level and is a must watch for every poker fan.
A film that has gotten little traction over the years, Deal stars Burt Reynolds and Bret Harrison. Harrison plays Alex Stillman, a law student that's an online poker player and occasional home game player.
Stillman makes the final table of an online tournament that is played live but is knocked out first. Tommy Vinson, played by Reynolds, is a retired player that sees potential in the kid and looks to take him under his wing.
This film is both a coming-of-age story set in the poker world and also a comeback story for Vinson. As events of the film progress Vinson decides to come out of retirement and take his shot at the WPT Championship.
As fate would have it Vinson and Stillman make the final table and it's the teacher against the master. Will the kid make a name for himself or will the master take down the richest title in poker and earn the respect that he never had in the past?
The World Poker Tour is featured prominently in this one and that includes cameos by Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten. Poker players Jennifer Tilly, Greg Raymer, Chris Moneymaker, Antonio Esfandiari and Isabelle Mercier all have cameos in this film too. Shannon Elizabeth plays Tillman's "love interest."
This film never received the same press as Rounders and was not well received critically. However, it is a solid film that is one of the better dramatic interpretations of poker in the last few years.
This last pick is more of a documentary than a true poker film but is a film every player should watch if he or she has aspirations of turning pro in the live poker arena.
Poker Bustouts looks at the other side of poker and doesn't give you an overly positive spin on the game.
In this film you'll meet players from all walks of life that have taken or are taking their shot at the dream. Some have failed, some have had mild success and some are just everyday grinders who realize that poker is a hard way to make an easy living.
If you want a feel-good movie about poker, this isn't it. But if you want your eyes opened, watch this film.
Please note that this film isn't exactly "high quality" and has taken some bashing for its editing and substandard filming. However, if you can watch Blair Witch Project, you can watch this one.