Like it or not, most of us pick up more information than we’d like to admit from Hollywood movies and blockbusters. Although the box office is supposed to be more entertaining than educational, it sometimes can’t be helped. Take for instance the impact of real science on the film industry. Plenty of onscreen phenomena are depicted in questionable ways, but most movie and TV production crews do fact-check their scripts and special effects by consulting with scientists or other experts.
Often, production teams skip on the accuracy when they can’t afford to get all the details right or feel that specific facts can derail storylines. This is what happens for more common topics, like poker games, which is why their depictions are usually a mixed-bag. For poker, Hollywood heightens the tension by exaggerating or twisting some aspects of the game — to the frustration of pros and poker-lovers out there. Here are three things Hollywood gets wrong about the poker scene:
The Cincinnati Kid: Can you change the rules of poker?
The Cincinnati Kid is an iconic poker movie from 1965, which follows the story of young, Depression-era poker player Eric “The Kid” Stoner, who wants to become the best in the game. The film depicts Stoner going up against legendary player Lancey “The Man” Howard. While poker enthusiasts enjoy this film, the poker scenes themselves feature a lot of no-nos. At the climax of the movie, Howard calls The Kid’s $3500, reaches into his jacket pocket for another wad of cash, then raises him $5,000. Although this scene intensifies emotions and adds to the drama, it’s actually a violation of poker rules. You cannot raise and call in a real game. Otherwise, you’d be performing an illegal string bet, and other players won’t appreciate that. You can either announce ‘call’ or announce ‘raise’ before better, but not both at the same time, and any announcement is final.
Casino Royale: Is a fantastic hand all you need to win?
Casino Royale is the reboot of action franchise James Bond, which follows Agent 007 as he begins his career in espionage. In this film, Bond is tasked to bankrupt financier Le Chiffre in a high-stakes poker game, and the film production even brought in poker expert Thomas Sanbrook to teach the actors how they should handle the chips, look at their cards, and stare each other down so the game looks realistic. However, the movie made it seem like getting the right hand is all you need to win. In true Bond fashion, 007 managed to get 7-5 spades and an unbeatable straight flush. In reality, professional poker players combine luck with skill. Poker strategies are always changing, and younger players are now looking at the game with an analytical approach by studying statistics and game theory. If you aren’t sinking your teeth into modern poker strategy, not even James Bond’s magical hand would be enough to win you the game.
Coolers: Are other people causing you to lose?
The film Cooler from 2003 explores the concept of casino employees who are sent to tables to stop winning steaks. It takes a look at the myth of the “cooler”, someone who causes anxiety for the rest of the table, which leads to bad hands for people on a hot streak so the casino doesn’t lose money. However, many poker players have already pointed out that if you’re losing in the game… you’re really losing. The same goes for plots that look at mob ties to casinos. While there have been mobsters who had illegal stakes in casinos back in the 50s — which will be explored in upcoming HBO series Mob Queens — modern casinos aren’t run by shady, unscrupulous people. Casinos in Las Vegas and other areas are highly regulated, so you don’t have to worry about getting beaten up by goons.