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Top 10 poker movie scenes

17 September 2018

Last week, Rounders celebrated its 20th anniversary. While the cult classic movie starring Matt Damon, Edward Norton and John Malkovich is widely recognized as the best and most influential poker movie of all time, there are many others out there, and most of them feature scenes with memorable poker hands. High stakes, large pots and bluffing are what makes these scenes so great.

Here are our top 10:

10. Cool Hand Luke
The 1967 movie starring Paul Newman is about a Southern man sentenced to two years in prison.

The scene is about a single hand of five-card stud that leads to Newman’s character, Luke, facing off against Koko, who is showing a pair of sevens. Newman is showing king high, but raises the pot back to Koko. Another character, Dragline, is standing behind Koko watching the hand take place and is urging Koko to stay in the hand.

Luke continues to raise each time the betting gets to him. Dragline is in Koko’s ear, telling him to re-raise it back to Luke, and Koko follows orders. Luke doesn’t hesitate to send it back to Koko with another raise. Now, Dragline is telling Koko to fold after constantly demanding him to stay in and raise.

Koko folds his hand and Dragline flips over Luke’s cards to reveal he had nothing big — king high — and bluffed his way to victory, leading Dragline to give him the name “Cool Hand Luke”.



9. Maverick
Mel Gibson plays Bret Maverick, a con artist who is seeking money to enter a high-stakes poker tournament.

In the most well-known scene of the movie, Maverick is up against Angel and Commodore Duvall in a hand that has been fixed. The deck is set up to deal out three impressive hands, with Maverick coming out on top. Angel thinks he has it won after showing his straight flush, beating Commodore’s four eights.

However, Maverick was dealt 10 to king of spades, and after drawing one card he begins to show his hand. He shows the 10 to king of spades and keeps his fifth card face down to build up the suspense. After a few moments, he holds the card up to his face and shows an expression of disappointing implying that he does not have the ace of spades he needs to win. But, after tossing the card in the center of the table, it reads ace of spades, and Maverick takes home the victory after rigging the deck.



8. The Gambler
Kenny Rogers, who plays Brady Hawkes, teaches Lance LeGault, playing Doc Palmer, when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em in this wild poker scene.

Playing five-card stud, Doc is showing a pair of aces and Hawkes has a possible flush early on. Doc is confident that Hawkes isn’t holding a card that can beat his hand, so he continues to raise, especially after receiving a third ace on fifth street. Hawkes receives the jack of hearts, giving him a possible flush and even a possible straight flush.

Doc begins to show more signs of worry, but continues to bet. Hawkes doesn’t hesitate and pushes his entire stack in, what seems to be him buying his way out at first. Doc is now very concerned and thinking about if he wants to call or not. However, Arthur Stobridge, who is standing behind Doc, pushes the remainder of his chips in the middle because it is his money and he wants to see it played through, despite Doc advising him not to.

Hawkes reveals he has the 10 of hearts, completing the straight flush to win the hand and the massive pot that came with it.



7. Ocean’s Eleven
In an early scene in the remake of the 1960 classic, Rusty Ryan, played by Brad Pitt, is teaching movie and TV stars how to play five-card draw. They clearly aren’t very familiar with the game and still have a lot to learn as the scene progresses. After a break of Rusty grabbing a drink at the bar, he returns to the poker room to find his former con partner Danny Ocean, played by George Clooney, at the table.

Ocean joins the game and immediately makes his presence known with a few high bets. Rusty announces that the lesson of the day for the stars is how to draw out the bluff to keep them in the hand. After a large raise from Ocean, Rusty claims that Ocean is buying his way out of a bluff to make sure the other players stay in the hand. Ocean then reveals his four nines with ace high to win the hand. Despite Rusty losing, he doesn’t seem too upset, because one can infer that he knew all along and was going to be getting a cut of the winnings from Ocean.



6. Lucky You
This scene has a father, L.C. Cheever, meeting his son, Huck Cheever, at a diner. L.C. wants to show his son a poker hand he was in and get his son’s advice on how he would’ve played that hand.

He deals out a seven-seat hand of Texas Hold’em. Huck is able to predict what the father had in his hand based on the bets made. After showing the flop, round of betting and showing who folded, Huck accurately predicts the next moves that were made. The father, played by Robert Duvall, shows the turn card and, yet again, Huck is correct on how the final two players bet.

After the river card is shown, L.C. flips over his pocket aces, which Huck already knew about, and then immediately says that the other hand in the game had two clubs and one of them was a king to win the pot and was right. All of this he was able to figure out just based on how the bets took place and what the board showed.



5. Cincinnati Kid
In the final scene of the movie, the Cincinnati Kid is up against Lancey Howard, who is known as “The Man.” This scene is somewhat similar to that in The Gambler with another game of five-card stud with a large pot on the line. The Kid goes all in with a very confident look in his eye, but the Man reaches for his stack of money to quickly call and raise.

Some people watching the hand immediately realize that he must have the jack of diamonds in the hole to complete a straight flush. Others think he is buying his way out and that the Kid has him on the ropes.

After a stare down, the Kid thinks that he has this won and calls. However, after the call, the jack of diamonds is flipped over for the straight flush and the win. The Kid unveils his hand to be a full house with aces over tens.



4. Honeymoon in Vegas
Nicholas Cage, who plays Jack Singer, is in a five-card draw game a few hours before he plans on marrying his fiancée Betsy, played by Sarah Jessica Parker. Jack is holding a straight flush and is up against Tommy Korman, played by James Cann, and a few others, including a guest appearance by former UNLV men's basketball coach the late Jerry Tarkanian, and, of course, a Chinese Elvis impersonator.

The betting gets to Tommy and he raises big, really making Jack start to worry. However, Jack then reraises, and eventually the pot gets to $83,000 and the betting continues. Jack begins to sweat knowing how much is on the line, but then shows some confidence after showing his great hand of a straight flush to the jack. Tommy is impressed, but not too much, as he shows his straight flush to the queen to win.



3. The Sting
Henry Gondorff, played by Paul Newman, is in a five-card draw poker game with Doyle Lonnegan and two others. Gondorff is a con artist who intends to play Lonnegan for a lot of money. After entering the game and pretending to be drunk, Gondorff is cleaning up against Lonnegan and the two other players.

Lonnegan is getting tired of Gondorff’s company so he takes a five-minute break to set up a rigged deck to break Gondorff’s bank. The hand is meant to play out with Gondorff getting four threes and Lonnegan ending up with four nines. However, being a con man himself, Gondorff has other ideas.

As the hand plays out and each player draws cards, it shows that the hand has played out as Lonnegan planned. Lonnegan raises big and keeps Gondorff in the game, leading to a massive pot between the two.

Lonnegan reveals his four nines and has no reason to worry in his own mind. However, Gondorff reveals that he has four jacks and wins the pot. The only way this could be possible is if Gondorff cheated better than Lonnegan.



2. Casino Royale
James Bond, played by Daniel Craig, is up against a high-roller table of Texas Hold’em, including Le Chiffre. To give you an idea of how much of a high-roller table it is, the big blind is $1 million.

After the turn, four players remain, and there are three spades on the board and an off-suit ace. The four players check and the river shows an ace of spades. As you would assume, the betting picks up immediately with an opening bet of $6 million. It eventually gets to Le Chiffre and Bond, who go back and forth betting.

Bond bets $40.5 million to go all in, and Le Chiffre hesitates for a few moments and then sends in the remainder of his chips. The first player shows a flush with king high. The second shows a full house with eights over aces. Le Chiffre shows his full house of aces over sixes and thinks he has it easily won. Finally, Bond reveals his straight flush to take home the pot, which is worth over $100 million.



1. Rounders
The final scene of Rounders features an unforgettable heads-up Texas Hold’em match between Mike McDermott (Damon) and Teddy KGB (Malkovich), who beat Mike earlier in the film.

Teddy KGB shows an extreme amount of confidence after seeing the flop and explains to Mike that the game will be over shortly because of how strong of a hand he is holding, as he slowly eats an Oreo.

Mike checks the flop and Teddy immediately raises. Mike folds and shows that he had two pair and explains he just laid down a “monster hand.” Mike predicts that Teddy flopped a straight and he is right. Mike spotted his tell which is how he knew his “monster hand” was still not good enough to beat Teddy’s hand. Teddy is infuriated because he wanted to get a lot of money from Mike with such a hand and then utters the classic words, "Mister son of a bitch. Let's play some cards."

In the next hand, Mike flops a straight and checks. Since Teddy is getting more and more frustrated, he immediately bets and Mike calls. The turn is a two of clubs which shows no help to anyone and Mike checks. Once again, Teddy KGB bets and Mike calls. The river is the ace of spades, and Mike checks again. Teddy thinks he only has a straight draw, so he is confident he has the hand won and pushes all in. Mike smiles, knowing he has the nut straight, and shows his winning hand.

"Pay him. Pay that man his money."

Top 10 poker movie scenes is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
Dan Ippolito

As Casino City's associate editor, Dan produces and edits all of our weekly newsletters, and writes about the gaming industry for our websites and the GPWA Times Magazine. Dan graduated from Marist College in 2017 with a degree in Communications and a concentration in Sports. Email him at daniel@casinocity.com, or follow him at @casinocity_dan on Twitter.
Dan Ippolito
As Casino City's associate editor, Dan produces and edits all of our weekly newsletters, and writes about the gaming industry for our websites and the GPWA Times Magazine. Dan graduated from Marist College in 2017 with a degree in Communications and a concentration in Sports. Email him at daniel@casinocity.com, or follow him at @casinocity_dan on Twitter.