Luckbox | Otis | G-Rob

About the Up For Poker Blog

Up For Poker Blog Categories:

2006 WSOP
2007 World Series of Poker
2008 Belmont Stakes
2008 Kentucky Derby
2008 World Series of Poker
2009 WPBT Winter Classic
2010 WPBT Winter Classic
American Idol 2009
B&M Poker
Bad Beats
Betting the Ponies
Disc Golf
Fantasy Sports
G-Rob's Thoughts
Game Review
Home Games
Horse Racing
Internet Gambling Bill
Las Vegas
Lefty's Thoughts
Luckbox Last Longer Challenge
Luckbox's Thoughts
March Madness
Movie Previews
Movie review
NCAA Basketball
NETeller News
NFL Football
Online Poker
Online Sports Betting
Other Gambling
Otis' Thoughts
Pick 6
Playing For Fun
Playing For Money
Poker Blogger Tournaments
Poker Blogs
Poker in the News
Poker Law and Legal News
Poker Movies
Poker on TV
Poker Players
Poker Psychology
Poker Theory
Poker Web Sites
Pot Limit Omaha Strategy
Reading Material
Sports Betting
The Nuts
The Playboy Mansion
Tournament Action
Tuff Fish Appreciation Society
Tunica Tales
Underground Games
Up for Poker News
WPBT Holiday Classic Trip

Previous Hands:

December 2010
November 2010
September 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
December 2008
November 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003

Powered by:
Movable Type 6.7.9
Poker Blog established in 2003 as the first stop for poker news, poker stories, and bad poker advice.

May 18, 2008

Poker movies see too many flops

by Otis

I know a guy with a job that requires he spend a lot of time at the movies. Knowing my connection to the poker world and loose connection to the movie Deal, this friend delights in pointing out that Deal, after several weeks in the theater, still has a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. This makes Deal, if not the worst, at least tied for the worst reviewed movie of the year. Way to go Hollywood. editor John Caldwell asked a good question today. In his column, Caldwell points out that Hollywood blockbuster Iron Man, in most cases, did better on one screen on its opening weekend as Deal did across the country on 50 screens. So, Caldwell asks, "Why does Hollywood fail?"

I came up with a few reasons.

Five Reasons Hollywood Fails So Miserably At Poker Films

1. Hollywood doesn't understand poker

Let's face it. Hollywood knows money and little else. It thinks about what will sell before it thinks about what it understands. That's why a majority of the poker films that come out of Hollywood deal with subjects that don't fairly and accurately represent the game. One common theme in Hollywood poker films is cheating, a subject that is real but rarely as it is portrayed on the silver screen. If it's not cheating, it's a movie climax set around one of the worst coolers you'll ever see at a poker table--quads vs. quads, straight flush vs. royal flush, etc. Even The Cincinnati Kid, one of the greatest poker films ever made, ends with a sick cooler. Finally, Hollywood tends to thrust romance into just about any good story line it finds. True, heartbreak and sexual tension are universal subjects, but in the poker world, true romance is about as prevalent as cheating and occurs about as often as straight flush vs. quads. Until Hollywood can find a way to truthfully write about poker's drama and internal struggle, it will never produce another good poker movie.

2. Joe Six Pack doesn't understand poker

It's not entirely Hollywood's fault. Look at it this way. When you play poker, you're actually hoping you run into guys who don't understand their kicker doesn't play when the board runs out Broadway for a chopped pot. You fantasize about the people who flop top pair and can't understand how they could have possibly gotten away from the hand. So, it's probably a little unfair to expect Hollywood to produce movies for the relatively small subset of people who actually understand the game. Poker purists are going to hate anything that dumbs down the actual poker play, and the general public is going to avoid anything that makes them think too hard. Even Rounders had to explain poker to the audience before getting into the nitty gritty of the game.

3. Poker doesn't understand Hollywood

For Hollywood to be truly successful in making a poker movie that will actually succeed at the box office, it needs to combine the forces of good screen writers with some poker people who understand creativity. To be sure, the poker world has embraced Hollywood and done all it can to get inside it. I have a few "off-blog" stories about this very subject. The problem is that poker people can't quite understand how Hollywood works. Even people for whom I have a great deal of respect have lent their names, faces, and talent to Hollywood productions that don't even deserve the respect of getting MST3K treatment. When the producers are only looking to make a movie and the poker people are only looking to get some screen time, you're never going to see a good poker movie. When smart poker people do get involved, as happened in Rounders, you actually have a chance at seeing something happen. More often than not, however, the poker people are looking for a cameo more than they are box office success.

4. Hollywood is out of ideas

It may make me a bad poker fan, but I actually saw Rounders before I saw The Cincinnati Kid. So, when I finally saw the older of the films, I was surprised to see that the latter took a great deal of inspiration from the former. I once had an English teacher who told me all stories either come from the Bible, Greek mythology, or Shakespeare. Hollywood usually can't even bother to go back that far. That's why The Color of Money got remade as Deal. We've all seen The Color of Money and if we want to see it again, we'll get it from Netflix. Hollywood can blame the internet and the economy all it wants for sagging box office returns. Until we start seeing more originality and less cribbing from the archives, we won't see anything that impressed us as much as Rounders.

5. Individual sports movies are hard to write

Regardless of whether you consider poker a sport (I do not, by the way), when it comes to Hollywood, it might as well be. If you look back at the greatest sports movies of all times, how many of them are about golf, tennis, and bowling? Yeah, about that many. The best sports movies of all time are about baseball, football, and hockey. They are about people making it in a team environment, not competing in individual endeavor. Poker is a cerebral pursuit and one that most folks didn't play after school when they were kids. Writers can't provide the public with much frame of reference. This is not to say a movie like Stroke of Genius was a bad idea to produce. It's only to say that they aren't easy to write and make interesting.

If you look at all of the above, you might think I believe it's impossible for Hollywood to ever produce another good poker movie. Maybe it is. Rounders, at least for this generation of poker players, will be the definitive poker film. I doubt poker purists will be happy with any film that attempts to replicate Rounders, and any film that tries likely won't be a big box office success.

The problem is that Hollywood keeps trying and for every poker movie flop, producers are going to be less likely to try again. So, when someone does finally write something worth watching, getting any major studio to back it will be nearly impossible.

Still, I have some faith. The poker world is an exceptionally interesting and gritty place. If a good writer ever finds a story and can convince a studio to tell the story truthfully, there is the potential for a good film.

After all, if we do indeed take our inspiration from the fount of Shakespeare, we know the play's the thing. Without a good story that makes the viewer believe, poker is just a bunch of people playing cards. Until Hollywood figures that out, we're going to see a lot more 0% ratings on the tomato meter.

Update: For an informed look from someone who knows a helluva lot more about Hollywood than I do, check out Change100's post.

| Poker Movies