31st May2019

Memorable Poker Moments on Screen

by James Smith


When it comes to drama and suspense, you can’t beat a poker scene on the big screen. Just like the game itself, you never know quite how the scene is going to unfold and movie goers have had the pleasure of witnessing some highly memorable scenes. Maybe it’s the style that makes them memorable. Maybe it’s the slickness of it all. Who knows? One thing that you can be sure of, however, is that whenever there’s a poker scene in the movies, you certainly won’t leave your seat until you know how it ends. Below in this article, we discuss some of the best, most famous poker scenes the big screen has ever gifted us.

Casino Royale

In Casino Royale, Daniel Craig, starring as the world’s most debonair spy, James Bond, features in one of the most famous poker games in movie history and is tasked with defeating the terrorist and bad guy, Le Chiffre, in a high stakes poker tournament. It doesn’t get more dramatic than being poisoned almost to death at the table. Thankfully, not only does Bond cheat death and return to the table unbelievably cool for the final round of the game — sitting down with the fabulous and famous one liner “Oh, I’m sorry. That last hand nearly killed me.” — but he also manages to come out on top after laying 40 million big ones on the line, surely making it one of the biggest poker pots on film. It’ll take more than a poisoned drink to stop James Bond.

The Sting

The Sting is one of Hollywood’s most successful movies about poker — or rather, about cheating at poker — as two of the movie world’s biggest stars, Robert Redford and Paul Newman — swindle a crime boss out of his money at poker. Far removed from the glitz of the casino in Casino Royale, the action takes place on a train and the tension rises as the scene goes on, with the crime boss storming out half way through and looking as if he’s about to put a bullet in brash con artist Paul Newman’s head. The mobster returns to the coach ready to continue playing — albeit with a fixed deck of cards — and, surprise surprise, raising confidently. The thing is, Newman is aware of what’s happening and turns the tables. It’s genius. Whether you’re a poker player or not, you can’t fail to admire this film. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) certainly admired it: “The Sting” received seven Oscars.


The poker scene in Maverick is a real hit with poker lovers. Not welcome at the table originally — except by a mildly flirtatious Jodie Foster as Anabelle Bransford — protagonist Mel Gibson, as Bret Maverick, negotiates his way into a game of poker in a bar. He suggests he’s a terrible player and there’s even a mild hint he might not even understand poker terms, let alone actually win a serious game. Eventually, he charms his way onto the table by agreeing to lose for the first hour of the game and, all of a sudden, he’s welcome. Really, there should be an alarm bell going off in the other players’ heads when a player is that confident! True to his word, Maverick keeps chalking up the losses until he’s down to his last few chips — and a winning hand, which almost gets him shot. It’s Maverick’s unconventional style of play, not to mention the general screenplay, that resonated with audiences.

Cool Hand Luke

Back with Paul Newman again, who we may not just consider a movie veteran, but also a poker scene veteran. Before The Sting, Newman starred as Luke, a prison inmate and veteran who becomes known as “Cool Hand”, due to his skills in deception. In the poker scene here, a disinterested looking Newman treats movie and poker fans alike to a masterclass in the art of bluffing, as he feigns and tricks other players into raising. All along, Newman doesn’t really have a winning hand. Budding poker players take note because this is believed to one of the most accurate poker scenes in history, so you could learn a whole lot from it.

They Call Me Trinity

Want to learn how to deal playing cards in style? Watch They Call Me Trinity. Filmed back in the 1970s, the poker scene in this Italian spaghetti western and comedy movie impressed audiences due to the impressive dealing skills displayed by the main character, Trinity (the Right Hand of the Devil’), and some of the other players at the table.
Very little is spoken during the scene. It’s all mistrustful glances of the players and eyes down at the cards, which cranks up the tension. Very few smiles here, too — and the smiles we do see are nervous ones, rather than heartfelt happy smiles. It gets so serious that when the dealer takes a win, one of the other players accuses hm of cheating. This leads to the famous — and, in hindsight — slightly ridiculous gun-and-slap scene. The viewer thinks they’re going to shoot it out, but no, they down a drink and Trinity draws his gun and slaps the other repeatedly.

You can’t fault the movies when it comes to creating tension in poker scenes. If you can’t get enough of poker on the big screen, you could also try Guy Richie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, the stylish Ocean’s Eleven or The Cincinnati Kid with the legendary Steve McQueen, famous for The Great Escape and his car chase in Bullitt. All the scenes will leave you feeling fulfilled.

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