The 10 Best Poker Movies of All Time

James Matthews
02/06/2020

For many people, poker isn’t just a game, it is a lifestyle. Poker is one of the only games in which an amateur stands a chance of winning against the professional, and as they say, all it costs is money.

There have been plenty of films dedicated to lovers of the game over the decades, and we have compiled a list of the 10 best poker movies of all time. Whether you like comedy, documentary, drama, or biographical films, you are sure to find at least a couple of movies on this list that are worth watching.

#10: High Roller: The Stu Unger Story (2003)

This movie is based on the life of Stuart Errol Ungar, one of the greatest poker players to ever live. The movie successfully captures the high-stakes lifestyle of professional gambling. Although the film isn’t widely acclaimed, it is still a fan favorite and a great all-around screenplay that brings the legend of Ungar to the screen.

#9: The Grand (2007)

If you love comedy and like poker, then you will certainly appreciate The Grand. Serious poker players may disagree that The Grand deserves a place in this list of the greatest poker movies of all time, but it is hard to ignore the movie’s unique mockumentary-style take on professional gambling. The Grand is an improvised comedy that follows the misadventures of Jack Faro (Woody Harrelson) as he tries to win back his grandfather’s casino at the World Championship of Poker.

#8: Maverick (1994)

Maverick is yet another amusing take on professional poker that tells the story of Bret Maverick (Mel Gibson), a professional poker player on a quest to come up with the extra three thousand dollars that he needs to enter a winner-take-all poker game. The movie is filled with intrigue, comedic mishaps, and deception – all perfect ingredients of a humorous and well-told story. This western comedy movie has aged well and promises a good chuckle.

#7: Smart Money (1931)

For people that like a good underdog story, the 1931 drama Smart Money is worth watching. The main character Nick Venizelos has all the makings of a good protagonist. He is an immigrant with a Midas touch at the poker table but has an affinity for blonds that may prove to be his downfall. Can his little honest gambling parlor survive the cut-throat world of underground gambling and the law?

 #6: Casino Royale (2006)

You may not learn how to be a world-class poker player after watching Casino Royale, but who can turn their nose up at a James Bond movie? This time, British Secret Service agent James Bond (Daniel Craig) takes on a terrorist financier and shadowy figure Le Chiffre in a high-stakes poker game. This bond film doesn’t disappoint and comes with the usual elegance, cunning, and plenty of martinis (shaken, not stirred).

#5: Cincinnati Kid (1965)

Cincinnati Kid is an all-time classic among poker fans. It is the story of Eric Stoner, or the Cincinnati Kid, and his rise to fame and fortune in the gambling world. The Cincinnati Kid has to overcome numerous distractions to secure his reputation by beating Lancey Howard, the best stud poker player. This movie is very well acted and features a star-studded cast led by Steve McQueen.

#4: All in: The Poker Movie (2009)

All in: The Poker Movie is a documentary that sheds light on the growing popularity of poker in recent times as well as the crackdown on online casinos. This is certainly an eye-opening documentary film and an honest look at the game, particularly for those that see poker as a way of chasing the ever-elusive American Dream. This documentary is a must-watch especially for budding poker players with dreams of making it big.

#3: California Split (1974)

California Split is the Fight Club of poker movies and has earned its place among the greats. The plot revolves around the unlikely friendship between Bill and Charlie spawned by their mutual love of gambling and hedonism. The two are brought together at a California poker parlor in an incident involving a mugging and a sore loser. This is a great story of a friendship between a casual gambler and a professional poker player in a world where the stakes keep getting bigger.

#2: Molly’s Game (2017)

This is one of the newer movies on our list but already deserves to be mentioned among the greats. The movie is based on the true story of Molly Bloom, an unlikely head of an underground and exclusive high-stakes poker operation that lasted for over a decade. The story involves society’s crème de la crème including Hollywood stars, business moguls, sports stars, and unfortunately, the Russian mob. This movie is a great depiction of Bloom’s memoir of the same name.

#1: Rounders (1998)

This list of the best poker movies of all time would not be complete without including the 1998 poker movie Rounders. This film tows the line between light and serious while Matt Damon and Edward Norton do a particularly good job of bringing the story to life. The plot revolves around Mike McDermott who finds himself indebted to Russian gangster Teddy “KGB” after he is caught cheating at a poker game—all for his friend Lester “Worm” Murphy.

A small disclaimer is in order as we wind up this article. This list is not arranged in any particular order, and given the constraints of the list, it is not possible to mention every great poker movie ever made.

Which movie do you think deserves to be on this list of the greatest casino movies of all time?

James Matthews
James Matthews is a veteran journalist and a professional blackjack player with an extensive repertoire of published works on online gaming. Follow him for reliable information on the New Jersey casino industry.
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