There are some great poker movie scenes out there, full of dramatic tension, lucky plays and sparkling dialogue. Poker is a versatile game, capable of showing tension or comedy, celebration or crippling loss. The same emotions play out in real life, although perhaps without that special Hollywood sparkle. But anyone who’s ever watched or participated in a tournament knows that those magic moments do happen in real life, where the right cards just manage to come along at the right time. Most poker players aren’t the most talkative during a game, although many have come out with some great quotes afterwards. But the writers behind some of the best movie poker scenes have plenty to say, and here are some of the coolest poker quotes to come out of Hollywood. Can you imagine saying them during a round with friends?
“Poker isn’t a game of chance. Poker’s a game of skill.”
This quotation from 2017’s Molly’s Game is said by the titular character, not during a poker game, but in her defence when being accused of illegal gambling. It is a sentiment that you can imagine being uttered by someone on a winning streak, wanting to boast about their prowess. But in reality, it is a common misconception. While there is some skill involved in what you do with the cards you are dealt and how you handle the other players, each hand is still dependant on the random luck of the deal.
This is definitely the kind of poker wisdom that players would come up with in real life. Another variation would be to utter the opposite, that poker is in fact a game of chance, especially in defence of losing.
“You can’t lose what you don’t put in the middle. But you can’t win much either.”
Said by Mike McDermott in Rounders (1998) – a movie widely considered to be the best poker movie of all time by poker fans and aficionados. This nicely sums up the eternal dilemma that novice poker players face. It’s impossible to win big without risking losing it all, but is the risk worth it? Many casual players feel it isn’t, and are content with enjoying the game for low stakes. Especially in private games with friends and at casual events. It’s easy to imagine someone being teased about their low bets and responding with a similar sentiment.
“I hardly ever bluff and I never, ever cheat.”
Mel Gibson’s Maverick (1994) is a film based around a high-stakes poker game, but unlike many of the other poker scenes out there, this is all about the comedy. Maverick acts the sucker to convince players to let him join their game, before eventually working his way to a dramatic head-to-head finale. While it’s not unusual for players to lull others into a false sense of security, seeing them do so in the same way as Maverick – with cards on display and over-the-top tells – would be ludicrous.
Anyone claiming not to bluff at poker in a tournament nowadays would instantly be disbelieved. I can’t imagine this scene ever playing out in real life.
“The house always wins. Play long enough, you never change the stakes. The house takes you.”
This quotation from Ocean’s 11 (2001) perfectly sums up the hard rule at the centre of casino poker. As much as every poker play would like to think that they are different, that this time they will walk away with the jackpot, more often than not they end up leaving with nothing. And in cash games, the house is always the one with full pockets.
If you’re trying to decide whether poker is the right game for you then there are a number of things to consider. Can you afford to start playing, knowing that a certain amount of losses are guaranteed? The game is a unique mixture of skill and luck, and if you don’t have the desire to study rules and strategies, then perhaps something more luck-based like roulette or slot machines will be more fun for you.
A game of poker is full of emotions. With all players invested in their hand, hoping that this time they’ve got the cards to win it. The mind games as they try to encourage others to bet or fold really ramp up the tension. And this is why poker scenes are so popular in movies – the drama is built-in, and unlike sports scenes where an underdog victory is never quite believable, in poker, anything really can happen.