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5 Best Poker Movies of All Time

By Amanda Cargill Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The “poker boom” of recent years has sprouted an interest in the game in all forms of media. While TV poker broadcasts focus on the realism and excitement of actual game play, a poker movie must work on a much broader canvas and involve more drama and tension away from the table. 

 

Over the years, few poker films have captured the spark that makes the game so enthralling for players. Below are five that did.

 

#5: High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story - Best Poker Movies

Michael Imperioli (“Christopher Moltisanti” on “The Sopranos”) offers an unforgettable performance as Stu Ungar, the only man to win three World Series of Poker Main Event titles (1980, 1981, 1997). Imperioli breaks from his “Sopranos” character to portray Stu Ungar as a tortured genius who could do no wrong at a card table, but fell victim to his addictions and died penniless.

 

 

#4: Maverick - Best Poker Movies

This film version of the 1960s TV show about a “gentleman gambler” shows how Gibson could charm audiences with his wit and smile, before he became a tabloid sensation. Although the poker games here are among the most unrealistic ever presented, they give the viewer a peek into the image of the riverboat gamblers of the American West: charming rogues who would rather draw cards than pistols.

 

 

#3: The Sting - Best Poker Movies

From the beginning chords of “Maple Leaf Rag” to the last frame, “The Sting” shows how poker earned the nickname “the cheater’s game”. A con man (Paul Newman) attempts to win back his money from a renowned gambler (Robert Shaw) in a crooked poker game. Newman fights fire with fire, bringing his own stacked deck into the game. (NOTE: Don’t try this at your home game, or any casino, unless you want to leave with a few less body parts).

 

 

#2: The Cincinnati Kid - Best Poker Movies

Steve McQueen embodies what the “young guns” of internet poker wish they could be: handsome, wild, and dangerous. “The Kid” must focus on playing the game of his life against “The Man” (Edward G. Robinson) while jumping back and forth between the good girl who loves him (Tuesday Weld) and his best friend’s wife, the bad girl who wants to seduce him (Ann-Margaret).

 

 

#1: Rounders - Best Poker Movies

An instant classic, Rounders brought Texas Hold’em out of the dingy underground clubs and into the public spotlight. The poker action is incredibly realistic, with Mike (Matt Damon) reenacting a hand from the 1987 World Series Main Event against Russian gangster Teddy KGB (John Malkovich). 2003 Main Event champ Chris Moneymaker credits the movie with launching his own adventure into no-limit Texas Hold’em, which, in turn, started the “poker boom”.

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