Trisha’s Take: Why almost all movies about poker suck

roundersIn May 2008, the poker blogs were all abuzz about the simple fact that there has not been one really good poker movie since Rounders. A few writers poked their head into this story, but I think the most definitive comes from Change100 at Pot Committed, because she used to be a script reader in Hollywood:

One of the most successful films of the first half of 2008 was a movie about Las Vegas. And gambling. 21 was modestly budgeted, had one star (Kate Bosworth) but only in a supporting role, and got mixed reviews. Still, it earned over $24 million its opening weekend and has grossed over $80 million to date. If Rounders came out today with the same cast, it would probably earn a similar amount.

Why? There is one common thread these movies have and it’s not a deck of cards.

It’s wish fulfillment.

I personally think that Rounders is one of my favorite movies of all time, which I finally saw on DVD during my 30th birthday bash in my parents’ Las Vegas time share, a few days after I quickly lost $50 in the Planet Hollywood poker room.

I agree with Change100 (and possibly Otis) that the best sports or whatever movies are about wish fulfillment and making you think that you can achieve the same kind of success as the protagonist has. Who doesn’t want to say that they bluffed someone like Doyle Brunson and got away with it?

And the game of poker and everything surrounding it has a bunch of great stories to tell. You could take the same old sports inspirational formula and apply it to the story of Annette Obrestad, aka the youngest woman to win the first-ever World Series of Poker European Championship in London, who started playing online poker when she was 15 years old.

Want a little sex and death with your poker? What about the framing/companion story to Jim McManus’ first trip to the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas that landed him at the final table, which was really supposed to be the story of how the son of the WSOP founder was allegedly murdered by his then-stripper-wife and her lover? I know it got turned into a made-for-TV movie, but that’s not the same.

You know what would be a great story? Exposing the possibly-illicit backer system, where a player gets bought into events because the person with the money thinks they can win. However, what happens to someone when they have an inconsistent record—good enough to back, but can’t cash enough to make the rent? How would they ever be able to get out of that hole?

That would make a great story for the basis of Rounders 2, wouldn’t it?

Posted on January 3, 2009 at 10:31 by Trisha Lynn · Permalink
In: Opinion/Editorial

7 Responses

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  1. Written by Lethal Interjection
    on 2009-01-03 at 12:08

    Has anyone seen The Grand? I’ve been meaning to check it out because it just seems to play on the poker player stereotypes (i.e. the different types of players/characters at the table), but I’m not sure how good it’ll be. Obviously not a serious poker movie, but I’m still interested.

  2. Written by Dave
    on 2009-01-04 at 11:51

    If you know your subject then any movie about that subject will suck….it’s just the nature of film making. They appeal to the masses rather than the expert.

    Check out Annette Obrestad’s blog at It’s better than the link you gave out:)

  3. Written by Matt Johnson
    on 2009-01-04 at 11:56

    Wait. Kevin Spacey isn’t a star?

  4. Written by Trisha Lynn
    on 2009-01-04 at 12:01

    @Matt Johnson: I think that Spacey was considered a supporting character in the movie, not the star like Matt Damon or Edward Norton was in Rounders.

    @Lethal Interjection: Definitely going into my “to watch” pile.

  5. Written by Trisha Lynn
    on 2009-01-04 at 12:06

    @Dave: Awww…but I like Shirley Rosario’s bio of Annette…

  6. Written by Gordon McAlpin
    on 2009-01-04 at 15:05

    Here’s one exception to the norm:

    The Cincinnati Kid (starring Steve McQueen, Edward G. Robinson and Ann-Margret) is the best poker movie I have ever seen, and I don’t think it would be accurate to say it’s about wish fulfillment. (I suppose it’s debatable, though.)

    If you (or anybody reading this) like poker movies, see it as soon as possible.

  7. Written by Gordon
    on 2009-07-04 at 19:10

    There are some rumors flying around, that Rounders 2 may be filmed someday. Found a little info @ . Hope they will gather same team. First Rounders was just brilliant.

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