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My Reviews of Poker and Gambling DVDs (Movies, etc.)

(Updated 06/09/14)

I decided to make a page like my Poker Book Review Page, but with poker and gambling movies, etc. So here they are. There's links to Amazon so you can read more or order the DVD. I've watched others, but before I started adding my review to the site.

Quicklinks to reviews on this page (alphabetical order):

Deal  
Finder's Fee  
The Grand  
No Limit: A Search for the American Dream on the Poker Tournament Trail  
Owning Mahowny  
 

 


 

No Limit: A Search for the American Dream on the Poker Tournament Trail

I "rent" all my DVDs for free from the local library. With documentaries, it sometimes takes a while for them to get a copy. I had put my name down for this poker documentary months ago and finally got to watch it today. Bah, what a waste of anticipation.

Basically, two people (who used to be married to each other, but aren't now, but have a kid together) decide the only way to save their independent film company is to hit the poker tournament trail hoping to win enough to save their struggling company. OK, so far, so good. Features over 40 superstars of the poker world, according to the DVD cover. Cool...looking good. Let's shuffle up and watch!

And that's when it all falls apart. The two main people (Susan and Tim) are very annoying. Susan is the poker player, Tim knows next to nothing about poker. Although the title is No Limit, there is no NL in the movie. Just Omaha and Stud. We see VERY little actual poker (maybe they weren't allowed to film actual hands) while Susan is at the table. She plays 6 or 7 tournaments. In case you plan on watching, I won't 'ruin' the ending. But I will say it gets SUPER annoying on how she claims bad luck EVERYTIME she busts. How she ran cold, how it was a bad beat, etc. Because we don't get to see actual hands, I don't know if she sucks or not. But when someone constantly complains about bad luck in poker, you start to wonder if it's the luck or the person.

The 40 superstars of poker are sprinkled in here and there as little snippets of video interviews. Interesting enough and one of the best part of a so so documentary. Probably the best part was how a non-poker player (Tim) interacts with a poker player (Susan) when it comes to money. Most of us probably can see a little of ourselves in Susan as we try to explain how money works in the poker world or when we watch Susan try to defend herself when she sits at a cash game because it looked so juicy (they had agreed no cash games to help save money).

Like I mentioned, I got to see it for free from my local library. I believe I spent the right amount of money on it. Do not buy it. Don't even rent it if it costs you money. See it for free if you have about 90 minutes to kill.

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Deal

Wow. Where to start with this movie. Well, it is about poker. And Shannon Elizabeth is in it. Oh, and it's short (less than 90 minutes). Um, that's all I got. This is a bad movie with bad acting and a predictable script. That being said, you might be surprised that I'm going to recommend this movie. But with a stipulation. That you watch it with your poker buddies and you have lots of alcohol with you. Because honestly, this movie is so bad, it's good.

Burt Reynolds stars as old time poker player Tommy Vinson who hasn't played a hand of poker in 20 years due to a promise to his wife. He meets Alex (played by Bret Harrison from the TV show Reaper), an up and coming poker star, and they work out a deal. Tommy pays Alex's way into tournaments, they split the profits. But only if Alex listens and does exactly what Tommy says. Well, guess what. After a few tournaments, there's a misunderstanding, the deal's off, Alex enters a huge tournament on his own, Tommy enters the same tournament (a World Poker Tour championship event with Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten appearing as themselves), and guess who ends up heads up for the championship...the championship that Tommy never won? Yeah, this is Hollywood.

To illustrate how bad this movie is, I believe it wrapped in May of 2006 and didn't see the light of day until April of 2008. Never a good sign when a movie sits on the shelf for an extended period of time. According to Box Office Mojo, it pulled in a whopping $61,000. That's the domestic total gross. $61k. Total. The unintentional comedy is off the charts. I laughed out loud at several parts. So, like I said, get some beers, gather the poker buddies, and bang this quick 86-minute film out before a home game.

 


 

The Grand

I first saw the trailer for this movie on the Felt Poker Forum, I couldn't wait for it to come out. It looked like a poker movie that actually knew poker and didn't try to junk it up with some love story (like Lucky You). And it looked hysterical. But like a lot of comedies, the trailer was the best part.

Well, let me take that back. This is not the funniest movie, but overall, I enjoyed it. I did LOL a couple times, but often the movie tried too hard. At times, it seemed like they were trying to be slick and funny, and they were neither (almost the entire movie is improvised). And the last half wasn't that funny at all. The basic premise is Woody Harrelson's character needs to win the winner-take-all poker tournament in order to save his casino. Throw in a bunch of other crazy poker characters gunning for the top prize, and you got your movie. What was interesting is that the final table was actually played out. Nobody knew who was going to win as they were playing for real.

BTW, I didn't see this movie in the theater as it was an extremely limited release and as far as I know, never came to Pittsburgh. I ended up buying the DVD used off eBay for around $4, and that included shipping. I'm glad I finally saw it and I do recommend it if you can see it cheap or free. I plan on watching it a couple more times because you know you pick up things you didn't see before.

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Finder's Fee

I got this movie from the library because it mentioned poker. I like to watch movies that have poker in them because I like to see how wrong the writers get everything. In Finder's Fee, I was not disappointed.

The premise is the main character, Tepper, finds a wallet with a lottery ticket in it. He calls a number in the wallet and leaves a message with his name and address. There's a lottery ticket in the wallet and it turns out it's a winner of $6 million. But his poker buddies are on their way over and he has no time to plan anything as the first one shows up just when he realizes the ticket is a winner. Shortly after that, the guy shows up to claim the wallet. Does Tepper switch out his losing ticket with the winning ticket? And of course, there's the classic "what would YOU do??" aspect.

Interesting fact...this movie was written and directed by Survivor guy Jeff Probst and was released in 2001. The entire movie takes place in Tepper's apartment and one of his friends is played by Ryan Reynolds. Despite all that, I didn't like it. I thought it was actually kinda bad and was amazed when I saw it had a 6.5 on IMDB (usually on that site, 6.5 isn't too bad). I just don't know why there are so many fans of this movie. The character Fishman (played by Matthew Lillard) could be the most annoying character ever. Because of him, I almost turned it off. But I was 45 minutes into it, so I had to finish it. And there was a twist at the end that really didn't need to be there. It would have been better without the twist.

As far as the poker, there's very little actual poker, as we hear Fishman whine about for about 68 of the 100 minutes. But they were off to a very bad start when Fishman is the first to get to the apartment and declares to Tepper that "We're playing unlimited tonight". Unlimited? Um, you mean No Limit? Please, get the terms right. How many people went over the script and not one of them said "uh, it's No Limit"? And he said it a couple times in the movie. I laughed out loud and had to rewind it to make sure I heard it right.

Later in the film, as they're dealing five-card draw, someone states that one of the rules is Fishman deals and that he deals counter-clockwise. Why? To be different? I suppose this isn't a mistake since it's stated he knows he's doing it. But it's stupid and not how you deal poker.

I like watching bad movies because bad movies can be hysterical, but this one is just bad.

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Owning Mahowmy

When Philip Seymour Hoffman died, a podcast I listen to mentioned some gambling movies he was in and they mentioned Owning Mahowny. I've seen it before and remember liking it so I watched it again. I don't know what it says about me, but I like watching movies that deal with gambling addiction. I don't have a gambling addition but I certainly can see how it can happen.

Dan Mahowmy is a banker in Toronto with a gambling addiction. When he gets promoted, it only get worse as he now has access to millions of dollars. It doesn't take him long to start manipulating the system and funneling millions to himself so he can hop a plane and hit Atlantic City (and Vegas). And also betting sports with the local bookie.

Of course, everything comes to a head and he's caught. It's based on a true story and like most times that makes me want to learn more. There's at least one book written on the subject and I plan on reading it eventually (I'm not much of a reader so it might take some time). The movie is from 2002 and is not a big budget flick, which I like. I think the lower cost of the movie adds to the mood of a gambling addict. But it does star Philip Seymour Hoffman, Minnie Driver, and John Hurt so it's not without its stars. I liked it. Recommend.

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Other DVDs you might want to check out:

 


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