In this article, I am going to discuss some of the biggest Hollywood myths and misconceptions about the game of poker.
By reading this article, you will learn plenty of interesting facts about poker in movies, such as:
- Which Hollywood movies are about poker
- Movies sometimes like to break poker rules
- Which movie characters would not be very likable at a poker table
- Cheating in poker does not happen as often as in movies
- Reading your opponents is not as easy as in movies
Poker is a game that sparked the imagination of many Hollywood producers. There are more gambling movies than we can count, and a good chunk of them revolve around the beautiful game of poker.
When it comes to any movie that has a realistic subject, sometimes it is difficult to tell fact from fiction. Poker movies are the same in that sense. If you’re a poker pro, you will easily detect unrealistic situations, which might even spoil the story for you. However, if you haven’t played poker that many times in your life, any poker play on the silver screen might seem plausible.
In this article, we will talk about some of the biggest poker myths in Hollywood, and teach you what NOT to learn from poker movies if you ever plan on playing for real money. Here we go!
# Calling and Raising at the Same Time
This is one of the most common poker myths that we know of. If you watched more than one gambling movie in your life, chances are that you heard a quote that goes something like: “I call you… and I raise you some more…”
This is absolutely against the rules of poker, and you wouldn’t be able to do it in a poker tournament. Even if you’re playing an unofficial game, this sort of behaviour will only annoy other players.
You can only call or raise; it’s not allowed to do both at the same time. If you already said that you’re calling, that is going to be your final announcement for that round.
Of course, movie directors use this behaviour to increase the tension in a scene. While it is effective from the standpoint of drama, you will rarely see it at a poker table.
# Betting More Than Other Players Have
Well-organised poker games have different kinds of limits that restrict players from betting more than allowed.
Fixed limit poker means that there is already a determined amount that all players can bet. Pot limit poker suggests that the maximum bet is equal to the size of the pot at any given moment. Finally, no limit poker means that players have no restrictions on how much they can bet.
However, if you want to bet, for example, $20 and the player who is next in line only has $15 left in their chip stack, you, as the aggressor, can only bet $15 and not a dime more.
In movies, the rules are different. The aggressor (usually the story’s antagonist) often puts pressure on opponents by betting more than they have. Therefore, if other players want to continue playing, they have to put something extra on the table, like a watch, car, or house.
While this may happen in some shady underground poker rooms, official poker games, whether online or live, have strict rules that prohibit players from betting more than their bankroll is at the moment.
# Obvious Tells
Poker is a game that combines skill and luck, and one important skill in poker is reading other players’ reactions. There are plenty of ways to tell whether a player has a strong or weak hand, which we covered in another one of our articles.
The thing with tells in poker is that they usually consist of the way a person plays, and are almost never based on their physical reactions. Poker players, especially good ones, do not sweat or act nervously when they are about to make a move.
In movies, however, there are often obvious tells that even people who have never played poker in their lives can pick up on.
For example, in the 1998 movie Rounders, a character played by Matt Damon figures out that his opponent always eats a cookie if he has a good hand, so he passes on the action when he sees that happening.
# Poker Is for the Classy and the Rich
If you have even seen one of the James Bond movies, you will get the notion that poker and casino games are reserved for the elite and upper-class people. In movies, poker players often wear suits and play with abnormally high stakes.
In reality, poker can be played by almost anyone. Online games allow you to enter tables where the big blind is as low as two cents. Even in live poker tournaments, where the stakes are relatively higher, you can see that the players are far from being well-groomed. Instead, you can see a 22-year-old poker wizard wearing boxer shorts and a hoodie. Yes, even the biggest poker competitions don’t have strict dress codes.
While some professionals do get rich from playing poker, there is only a small percentage of players who are truly well off. Some luxurious casino resorts do have VIP tables for high rollers and other important guests, but most poker rooms are open to the general public.
# Poker Players Are Cheaters
In the early days of poker, players were dealers themselves, so it’s not crazy to think that there were plenty of irregularities there. In movies, cheating in poker in the Wild West often ends in a standoff, and we can’t say that didn’t happen.
Today, poker is much more organised, and casinos do everything to prevent cheating. Even the dealers can’t help players since the cards are chipped and monitored by casino operators at all times. This also prevents you from having a card up your sleeve.
Of course, not all poker scenes from movies happen in a regulated casino, and cheating can be possible if you are playing unlicensed games.
Apart from its standard rules, poker does have a set of unwritten rules, a poker etiquette if you will, that implies how all players should behave.
Slowrolling is an act of realizing that you have the best hand at the table, but you are teasing other players and taking a longer time than necessary. The best example of slowrolling in Hollywood comes from the movie Maverick, where Mel Gibson does it.
While this is not exactly forbidden, it is heavily frowned upon in the poker community. It is also a great way to agitate other players and get punched in the face.
# Good Strategy and Bluffing Always Wins
Bluffing can help you win poker hands, but rarely will it pay off like for Le Chiffre in James Bond’s Casino Royale. Even if you are super confident and raise all the way down to the river, if your opponent has a good hand, they won’t fold and they will ultimately win the hand.
The same can be said for good strategy. Hollywood often introduces us with these casino masterminds that simply can’t lose, making it like their minds are equivalent to a supercomputer. In reality, however, even the most successful poker pros lose sometimes simply because the game of poker does include a luck factor.
# Poker Is All About Two Players
This is basically a rule in Hollywood movies. You have your protagonist playing against the bad guy on the opposite side of the table. This scene is featured in almost every poker movie, and is present in all the movies we’ve mentioned so far. Sure, other players might involve themselves in the game from time to time, but they mostly just serve as extras.
When playing for real, the dangers might come at you from all sides, as you never know if a player sitting next to you will flop a pair of aces. The poker table can feature as much as nine players, and the more players there are, the harder it will be for you to win.
As you can see, poker in movies is usually not very realistic. Learning poker from Hollywood movies is definitely not a good idea, so read some of our other articles if you want to become a poker pro.
While you’re there, check out our reviews of the best online poker rooms where you can enjoy playing poker with other players on the web.
If you feel like you want to add something to this subject, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!