The Five Worst Poker Scenes in Cinema

As I mentioned in “The Five Best Poker Scenes in Cinema”, there’s a ton of bad movies out there about the world of casinos, poker, horse tracks, and everything else. So, let’s talk about the worst poker seen on screen now.

Some notes before we begin:

  1. Spoiler Alert: Obviously I can’t discuss some scenes without giving away key plot points. Deal with it. If this blog happens to ruin a movie for you, trust me – it didn’t. Most of these movies were spoiled when they were released.
  2. Poker Rules: Some of these entries will be there simply because of the awful rules violations or etiquette breaches (once again, I’m looking at you, “Casino Royale”).
  3. There will be variations of poker games represented in these lists. You don’t have to be familiar with them to enjoy the scene.
  4. I’ve tried to link to the videos when I can. Enjoy.

And, without further ado, here are my five worst poker scenes in cinema:

5. “Big Hand for a Little Lady” – I include this entire movie as one scene because the premise of the movie is against at least three of the basic rules of poker. If you haven’t seen it, it’s not bad, per se, it’s just not very accurate to what can be done at a poker game.

4. “Maverick” hits a Royal Flush – Even though this movie makes an effort to not take itself too seriously, this scene must be included based simply on the fact that these hands would NEVER run into each other in a five card draw game. Yet, to amp up the drama for Hollywood, the final hand looks like this:

What you don’t see before this, is this is the last hand that will be dealt, and the Commodore (James Coburn) has quad 8s. So of course Angel (Alfred Molina) has a straight flush, and Maverick (Mel Gibson) – who called with the 10, Jack, Queen and King of spades and hadn’t looked at the fifth card yet – turns over the game-winning ace of spades for the Royal Flush.

That dealer would’ve been shot dead.

3. “Deal” or “All-in” or “Shade” – This is a pick-em. I was trying to pick a scene from any one of these three movies to represent them, but they’re all equally awful. Just bad dialogue, bad motivation, bad acting, bad scripts, bad poker, bad bad bad bad bad. Do yourself a favor and don’t watch these movies.

2. WSOP Final Table in “Lucky You” – It’s a difficult task to pick out the worst scene from Lucky You, since it’s widely regarded as one of the worst poker films to have a major theatrical release. From the uninspired cameos by players like Jennifer Harman, John Hennigan and David Oppenheim, to the miscast Drew Barrymore, to the asinine dialogue at the poker tables (who teases someone for ordering water??), this film never stood a chance.

The cheesiness of the poker scenes is capped with the WSOP Main Event final table, where of course both main characters have found themselves. The final table is announced like it’s a professional basketball game, the action is fast and furious – no one ever just steals the blinds – and a legendary Hall of Fame-type poker player intentionally slowrolls the shit outta someone who is supposedly his friend. Throw in all of the dramatic hands and sappy storylines, and this movie was dead money as soon as it was made.

Skip to the 31:20 mark. Sorry, no YouTube link for this one.

1. The final hand in “Casino Royale” – Casino Royale was revolutionary in the James Bond franchise because it marked a fresh, modern look and feel to the franchise. But the completely ridiculous poker scene where the buy-in was $10 million is the centerpiece of the finale., and it played out like it was written by a poker fanboy who had never actually sat at a poker table and played the game. The final hand alone was bad enough to make this the worst-ever poker scene.

First off, the structure was unorthodox at best – it was a cash game with escalating blinds like a tournament, and everyone bought in for $10 million each, with an optional $5 million rebuy.  After Bond survived a mid-game poisoning (as you do), the game continued with $150 million in play on the table, no more rebuys, and a big blind of $1 million cash. In this hand there are four players left, and we didn’t see the pre-flop or flop action because we pick up the final hand on the turn, but we are given the information that “there is $24 million in the pot”. The turn makes everything, and all four players inexplicably checked. On the river the board read Ah 6s 8s 4s As, and then the wheels just came off on this scene.

The first two players, who are short stacked with 6BB and 5BB remaining, both move all in. Bond and Le Chiffre (the villain) have approximately $40 million each. Bond goes all-in, while Le Chiffre calls, leaving the final four players with everything in the pot. The first player flips over KsQs for an ace-high flush, the second player flopped a set of 8s to river a full house, Le Chiffre showed A6 for a better full house, and Bond wins with 5s7s, for a straight flush.

Now, here is a list of mistakes and errors with this scene:

  • First off, with no antes mentioned, why are there 100K chips in play?
  • Despite the fact that everyone has different chip stacks, the dealer never established any main pot or side pots.
  • At showdown, the dealer mucked the first player’s hand because it was beaten, despite the fact that the second player didn’t have the first player covered.
  • At showdown, seeing as he made the last raise, Bond should show first. Also, the dealer should settle the side pot between Bond and Le Chiffre first before dealing with any other pots. But, this wouldn’t allow for the manufactured drama of having the players show their hands in order of strength, allowing Le Chiffre and Bond to slowroll each other, like assholes.
  • I have to mention the hands themselves – the odds of this hand occurring are so ridiculous that I refuse to calculate it. Four players, each of whom has a major piece of this board, and we almost qualify for the Bad Beat Jackpot (in some casinos this would have qualified).
  • How do both short stacked players only put half their stacks in pre-flop (or on the flop) with the hands they hold? Only 24BBs in a 4 way pot where one guy flopped top two, one flopped a set, one flopped the second nut flush draw, and one flopped an open-ended straight flush draw.
  • Paper cards?? In the largest NLHE cash game ever held??


“Casino Royale”, you dropped the ball on this scene. Next time, use some budget to get a real poker consultant to advise on these scenes, please.


“I like to play blackjack. I’m not addicted to gambling. I’m addicted to sitting in a semi-circle.”

–Mitch Hedberg

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