Poker movies just don’t get it right most of the time. Poker is a fascinating game filled with great real life characters. Doyle Brunson, Stu Unger, Phil Hellmuth, Phil Ivey, Scotty Nguyen and Daniel Negreanu to name just a few. What’s even more amazing is that most small stakes poker rooms are filled with more of the same. Complex, interesting characters that can’t possibly be real. Only they are.
Despite such a rich landscape, there are precious few good poker movies. Sports like boxing, basketball, and baseball have produced a stunning number of good films. But poker seems to be resistant to the movie genre. There may be more good chess films than quality poker movies. There are a few nuggets out there, and we hope the recent release of Molly’s Game brings renewed interest, but it won’t take you very long to work your way through the entire poker oevre. We think these five movies are the best out there. And we’ll be watching and re-watching them until we can live our own poker travel dream.
5. Big Hand for a Little Lady
Big Hand for a Little Lady portrays the Western archetypal spin on poker with a side of comedy. The iconic American journey of a couple and their son moving west to buy a farm (of course) near San Antonio is interrupted by a poker game in Laredo (where else?). Meredith (Henry Fonda) is a recovering gambling addict who wanders into a, you guessed it, saloon. He extracts permission from virtuous wife Mary (Joanne Woodward) to watch a high stakes poker game. You can probably guess where it goes from there. Meredith enters the game, ends up putting the entire family fortune at risk. Then there is a big hand….and the “little lady” takes over when Meredith suffers a sudden attack.