Producer Jay Rosenkrantz is hopeful the new documentary Bet Raise Fold will give misunderstood poker players something they’ve never had before: a voice.
The ambitious documentary has been in development since 2006 but will finally premiere with a special private screening at Palm’s Casino on June 12.
“It’s really surreal that in a week there are going to be almost 200 people in a movie theater watching our movie,” said Rosenkrantz in a phone interview with PokerListings.
Despite its long development, or perhaps even because of it, excitement has reached a fever pitch for the film.
Bet Raise Fold Smashes Kickstarter Goal in 24 Hours
Last week the crew (which includes filmmaker Ryan Firpo and producer Taylor Caby) started a Kickstarter to raise $20,000 to assist in distribution. Supporters responded in a huge way.
In less than 24 hours they easily topped $20k and at the time this story was published the project had blown past $27k.
Fans are desparate to see the finished project.
Everyone on the Bet Raise Fold team has been blown away by the response but Rosenkrantz has a theory why people seem to be connecting with the project.
“This is everyone’s story,” said Rosenkrantz. “You just can’t beat a community that’s passionate. You can’t beat what social media can do for you.”
The bottom line for Rosenkrantz is that Bet Raise Fold is unlike anything that’s been produced in the poker world.
“I don’t think there’s ever been a movie about online poker like this,” he said. “This is an entirely new beast. Every other poker movie is chicken and this is steak.”
Black Friday Changes Everything
To say Rosenkrantz has a personal investment in the film would be an understatement.
Rosenkrantz, who went to film school, was a successful high-stakes player in the mid-2000s. He gained enough notoriety to be cast in the Reality TV show 2 Months $2 Million on G4.
Making Bet Raise Fold, which was originally titled Boom, was a challenge even before Black Friday, according to Rosenkrantz.
With the explosion of online poker, the Ultimate Bet scandal, UIGEA and the entire birth of a subculture there was more than enough to keep the filming crew busy.
Then Black Friday happened.
Suddenly the Bet Raise Fold crew was right in the middle of the collapse of the online poker industry in the U.S. Not only were they documenting Black Friday, they were living it.
“We all had to deal with Black Friday on a personal level,” he said. “It was really challenging but we really felt, especially after Black Friday, that we had this moral obligation to do the best job that we could.”
“We were able to capture the drama as it unfolded. We felt like we were the only chance for poker players to have their voices heard.”
Poker Fans Flock to Kickstarter Project
Now over five years into the development of Bet Raise Fold, Rosenkrantz has been investigating numerous ways to distribute the film.
Kickstarter, which began in 2009, seemed like a good way to not only raise funds to distribute the film but also interact with the poker-playing community.
“I honestly wish Kickstarter had been around when we started making the movie,” said Rosenkrantz. "We would have started with a Kickstarter."
Regardless the project has been a runaway success on crowd-funding site.
“We wanted people to take ownership of this story,” he said. “We never imagined they would respond like this. It happened so fast that we’ve been rushing to come up with stretch goals, while planning this premiere in Las Vegas.”
Kickstarter: More Than Just a Way to Raise Funds
Over the last few weeks the biggest news on Kickstarter has been the amount of flack Hollywood actor Zack Braff has taken for raising funds for his movie Wish I Was Here instead of funding it himself.
Now a successful Kickstarter user himself, Rosenkrantz has his own perspective on the controversy.
“I think he gets a lot of crap and it’s a little bit unfair,” he said.
“Kickstarter gives fans a way to invest in the process and that’s a really fun thing. It gives you a direct tie to the people who are making things.”
Rosenkrantz has contributed to several Kickstarter projects and loved the experience. He helped fund the upcoming Veronica Mars movie and actually got to meet creator Rob Thomas as a result.
“I think Zack Braff validates Kickstarter more than anything,” he said. “There are people who wanted to be a part of his project. If there weren’t, it would have failed.”
Bet Raise Fold International Release Date Set for June 30
The more funds that Bet Raise Fold raises on Kickstarter, the better chance it has of getting widely distributed.
With $20k in the bag, the team has already set about setting some stretch goals for the project to fans who still want to contribute.
“We want to figure out some more free stuff to give to everyone,” said Rosenkrantz.
Rosenkrantz has also been in talks with numerous poker pros who offered to provide free coaching.
Rosenkrantz even spoke with vaunted cash game player Tom “durrrr” Dwan (who is a producer on Bet Raise Fold). It’s unclear if Dwan will actually provide coaching but Rosenkrantz mentioned he will be involved somehow.
The next step for the project is hopefully to do a nation-wide tour with the movie, leading up to its global release on June 30.
Rosenkrants is hopeful the movie will have legs beyond the poker industry because of the compelling nature of the culture.
“We could really use the support of the entire poker industry on this one,” said Rosenkrantz.
“The story of online poker is just so crazy that the public should know it. We put our souls into making this. We just wanted to do justice to this game that was such a defining part of our lives.”