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Poker and Pop Culture

Poker and pop culture

Poker is one of the world’s classic card games, often linked back to a game that was played in Persia for more than 400 years.

It has a more modern image formed in casinos and gambling houses over the last 100 years ­ but the whole style and image of the game has changed in recent years thanks to online casinos.

Poker has been dragged from the corner of a dimly-lit smoky bar into the bright and glamorous world of the internet – and the big surprise is that it has been a huge hit.

The simple thrills that have enticed generations of poker-faced card players and now enthralling a new audience of online players. They’ve joined the flood to play games anywhere, anytime on their portable devices, and using the opportunity to play free online poker.

For hundreds of years it has been clear that people like to gamble – but what is it about poker specifically that has given it such a special aura?

The various different versions of poker that have evolved are all card-derived games of chance. Whether you are playing Texas hold ‘em or Stud Poker, all the types of poker currently available involve players trying to compile hands with specific runs or sets of cards that will outscore their opponents, though all players need to understand the importance of personal online finances before pursuing this type of activity.

Players bet on how powerful they consider their hand is compared to the other players. Some of the skill comes from trying to tell for other players’ reactions what their hand is like.

Players bet on their own hand while trying to guess what the other players have in their hand. It introduces a unique psychological element that gives poker its edginess – and its cool image.

That’s why poker is used extensively in fiction from books to movies. The thrill plus the psychological element mean that poker is a great setting for tense drama.

With the new boost to the game from its online success, it has become more and more a part of popular online culture. You’ll find poker has had big parts in films, TV and music in recent years.

Some of poker’s biggest starring roles have included:

The Sting

In this 1973 hit movie Paul Newman and Robert Redford starred in a story that was all about classic bar room poker playing with a bit of a con act thrown in for good measure. It was the follow-up to the duo’s smash hit Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and similarly came with plenty of wry wise cracks along the way.

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The Cincinnati Kid

Steve McQueen played the starring role in this cult 1965 classic. He made the role of a dead-eyed professional poker player his own ­ including the gripping final showdown across the table. See it here:

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Rain Man

Dustin Hoffman starred in this acclaimed 1988 movie and demonstrates a remarkable unexpected skill at poker, thanks to his ability to count all the cards in play. His pal Tom Cruise promptly takes him to a casino ­– and here’s what happens next…

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Maverick

Throughout this star-studded 1994 period classic light-hearted western Mel Gibson is trying to accumulate enough money to enter a big poker tournament. Of course he does and the big poker game then forms the dramatic finale to the film, with plenty of lingering close-ups of the player’s eyes of course.

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Star Trek

Who would have thought it? In one 2019 episode of the long-running sci-fi TV show, the straight-laced Data learns to play poker. As a synthetic life form, he turned out to be an excellent player – mainly because he was unable to display ANY emotion to give opponents a clue to his hand.

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Friends

Occasional games of poker broke out regularly through the ten seasons of Friends, usually in Monica and Rachel’s apartment. And it all started here, in the first series… Note how Joey comments that you can’t serve food containing more than one syllable during a poker game.

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Casino Royale

James Bond films feature many glamorous casino scenes, usually with a Martini cocktail somewhere. Perhaps the greatest of all is Daniel Craig’s ultra tense poker game in Casino Royale (2006).

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Honeymoon in Vegas

Nicolas Cage stakes everything on a game of poker against a table of oddballs, including an Asian Elvis impersonator in this successful light-hearted 1992 movie.

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Poker Face

This wasn’t really a screen hit – it was a musical hit back in 2009. Lady Gaga’s smash online single from her debut album did however generate an amazing one billion views on You Tube though…

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The Gambler

We’re including the Kenny Roger’s country classic because it’s all about player poker, but doesn’t explicitly mention it. Nevertheless the wise advice to “know when to hold and know when to fold them, know when to walk away, know when to run” sounds exactly like many people’s experience of the game.

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The Ace of Spades

Motorhead’s wild rock anthem is even less closely tied to the actual game of poker but it does glorify the thrill of risking everything for the turn of a card. Songwriter and singer Lemmie once said of it: “I don’t have any good gambling stories but I’ve plenty of bad ones. I’ve lost a lot of money.”

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Attitudes to poker are becoming more and more relaxed across the world as poker becomes more and more popular online. Expect poker to star in more movies and songs in the future too…

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