Poker is probably the most popular card game in the world, and certainly the one that draws the most attention among the masses.
As a poker player, I have always been fascinated by how poker is seen by those who don’t play the game, which is best seen in movies.
After seeing quite a few and re-watching the best ones, I decided to compile a list of the best poker movies you should not miss out on.
If you have not seen any of the films on this list, definitely do so, and if you have seen them all, you will probably want to see some of them at least a few more times.
This is my personal list of the top 15 poker movies that every poker player in the world should see at least once.
Poker King (2009)
Poker is not traditionally an Asian game, but it has certainly grown in China and around Asia in recent years.
Poker King is a movie that depicts the relationship between Asian culture and the game of poker.
The plot revolves around a young online poker player from Macau who stands to lose his family’s inheritance if he can’t prove he has what it takes to succeed in the business world.
Being a son of a rich Chinese businessman is surely not easy, and the main protagonist of Poker King must prove that his poker skills can be used in real life as well. In their culture, poker is not a sport or even close to being considered an honorable profession, so many challenges lie ahead for the character.
As an online poker player, you will quickly find ways to fall in love with this movie and put yourself in the shoes of its characters.
If you love poker, Poker King is a film you will want to watch but one that you probably haven’t had a chance to see so far, simply because it’s not an American movie that played in the theaters.
Luna’s Game (2001)
Have you ever felt that poker is a game you will always play, even if it’s sometimes bad for you? Luna certainly does but can’t seem to stop playing poker regardless.
Luna’s Game is a movie about a daughter of a professional poker player, who was murdered by a loan shark. She follows in her father’s footsteps in all things, the good and the bad.
Like her father, Luna plays good poker but can’t seem to stay out of debt to the wrong people.
Poker is a part of who Luna is, and there seems to be no getting away from it.
Can Luna turn things around, stay out of debt, and do well at the tables? Find out by seeing Luna’s Game, one of the top poker movies you may not yet have seen.
Casino Royale (2006)
Casino Royale may not be your typical poker film. After all, this is another title in the long list of James Bond movies, but this one has a heavy focus on the gambling world.
Agent 007 is forced to play cards with the supervillain this time, and a Texas Hold’em showdown that ensues is the main focus of the film.
Unlike many other poker movies, Casino Royale is a real treat for poker players and those who have never touched a card in their life alike.
The whole thing happens in Montenegro, the Adriatic country that actually became quite a poker Mecca in recent years with the Triton Poker Series’s expansion.
If you love James Bond and poker as well, Casino Royale is a movie you will definitely not want to miss out on.
Finder’s Fee (2001)
A poker movie you have probably missed, simply because it was never made too popular in the general audience, Finder’s Fee is a true hidden gem.
This film revolves around a group of guys playing a poker home game, just like the one you may be a part of every week.
These guys are playing for lottery tickets, and it’s all fun and games until one of them turns out to be a winning one, a jackpot worth $6 Million.
This is where things take a strange turn, and human greed comes to the surface. Can this group of poker friends survive the ordeal, or is it just too much to handle?
You can find that out by seeing one of the top poker movies that most people have never even heard about, which is certainly not a comment on its quality.
Bet Raise Fold (2013)
Online poker turned this game into a multi-billion dollar industry. The first years of online poker were absolute heaven, and then it all came crashing down, at least in the USA.
Bet Raise Fold is a partially documentary movie that follows the rise and fall of online poker.
You will also see several real-world online poker players whose lives were shaken by the “Black Friday.”
If you are a poker player yourself and were around when it all happened, Bet Raise Fold is a poker movie you will want to see to remind yourself how it all went down.
The younger generations of poker players who don’t quite understand what happened will be shaken by the way the lives of professionals were upset in just hours.
Bet Raise Fold is certainly one of the best poker movies you could see and is certainly well worth the time from a documentary standpoint.
Lucky You (2007)
Lucky You is one of those films that were not too well received by the general public, but poker players mostly enjoyed it regardless.
The movie follows a young and reckless poker player with amazing skills but a complicated lifestyle and various insecurities.
Like so many young players in Vegas, he tries to go for the glory, but life gets in the way. Lucky You is a film about poker, love, and the relationship between youth and success.
Players looking to make it big now or those who had their start during the poker boom will all appreciate Lucky You. If you fall into these categories, definitely go ahead and check it out.
Building up a poker bankroll from a small online deposit may be the way many players do it nowadays, but it used to be impossible just a few decades ago.
Instead, players like Bret Maverick, the film’s main hero, had to look to other means to finance their buyins, often outside of the scope of what was legal. It might not be as controversial as Dan Bilzerian these days, but he is surely a colofur character.
Maverick is a story of poker players in the wild years before the poker boom.
This film shows how many of them used to exist in the gray zone between the underground world of crime and the poker tables.
Check out this poker movie to follow Maverick in his quest to put together enough money for a major poker tournament that he plans to win and see just how it turns out.
Mississippi Grind (2015)
Staking players to play poker can be a good idea or a terrible one, depending on the player you choose to put into the games.
Mississippi Grind is a film about Curtis, a traveling gambler, and Gerry, a losing poker player who can’t seem to beat poker regardless of how much he tries.
The two meet up, and Curtis decides to take Gerry with him, staking him in various poker games on their way to New Orleans.
Gerry keeps losing Curtis’ money, but their friendship grows, and the staking continues. Can Gerry turn it around and finally win? You will have to watch the movie to find out.
If you enjoy poker and a bit of comedy as well, Mississippi Grind is one of the poker movies you will want to put on your watch list and one that was well-received by the NVG poker community.
Cincinnati Kid (1965)
One of the most fabled poker movies of all time, Cincinnati Kid shows poker as it used to be some decades ago, well before the poker boom took place.
The duel of “The Kid” and “The Man” is in the center of the movie, as the young hotshot takes on the experienced wolf and tries to take on the title of the best poker player around.
The Kid shows finesse and courage, but can he compete with the much more experienced master of the game who never loses?
You can find this out by watching Cincinnati Kid and enjoying poker players’ raw depiction, which this amazing movie offers.
Remember, Cincinnati Kid is not the most realistic depiction of poker’s game as such, and the hands themselves may seem ridiculous to an actual poker player. Yet, the story and its morale are quite good!
California Split (1974)
Another story of two men meeting up and sharing their love of poker, California Split, is a story many poker players have seen.
Bill, a journalist with a respectable job, meets Charlie, who is a professional gambler of sorts and a poker player with little desire to do any other job.
Before he knows it, Bill runs up a significant poker-related debt by playing in games he was outmatched in.
California Split is a poker movie from a different time and paints a picture of the poker world before it became glamorous.
To see how poker players used to be back in the day, definitely watch California Split and enjoy the lackluster world of poker in the 70s.
Poker movies are often relatively obscure, but Shade stars Sylvester Stalone and is a blockbuster in the word’s truest sense.
The movie takes place in the high stakes poker underground and all the bad things that happen there.
Robbery, grifting, and double-crossing are all a part of the daily routine for these players.
The Dean, played by Stalone himself, is the movie’s main protagonist. As three card players attempt to rob him blind, he is left having to use all his tricks at the table and off it to keep on top.
The Shade is a film that can be enjoyed by poker players and anyone else and one that I added to my list simply because I personally enjoyed it so much.
The Sting (1973)
The only question one could ask about The Sting is whether it’s actually a poker movie. In every other way, it is a true cinematographic masterpiece, which the 7 Oscars it won clearly say.
The Sting is a movie about a couple of con artists played by Paul Newman and Robert Redford.
While poker is only a part of the whole story, it is quite a major part.
The Sting was a huge hit back in the day, and it made 30 times more money at the box office than the production cost, clearly showing the value of the storytelling in this one.
This is certainly a film that some of the younger poker players out there might think is just too old, but I think it is one of the masterpieces that every poker enthusiast should learn to enjoy.
High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story (2003)
Stu Ungar is one of the biggest and most memorable names in poker history. Unlike the heroes of some of the other movies about poker, Stu is very much a real legend of poker.
This colorful movie tracks Stu’s progress from a young age playing gin rummy and hustling much older men to his career in professional poker.
The story of Stu Ungar is a sad one in many ways, as various vices made all his talent worth so much less and took his life very prematurely. He did not have the best VPIP approach in poker and loved to gamble, which had a huge impact in the end.
Yet, Ungar is certainly one of the most famous names in poker history books, and High Roller is a poker movie that every aspiring poker player should see both for entertainment and education.
Molly’s Game (2017)
Some poker movies are based on fictional stories, but Molly’s Game certainly isn’t. The film focuses on Molly Bloom, the female host of some of the highest stakes poker games ever played in the US.
Molly’s Game is quite a story as it delves deep into the world of underground poker.
As far as poker films go, this one does a great job of portraying how things might work in an underground game.
Of course, there are a few things that are exaggerated or not very realistic, but that’s just what Hollywood tends to do.
Regardless, Molly’s Game is a film worth watching and one that may reignite your desire to play poker if you have been away from the tables for a while.
Number one on my list of the best poker movies is Rounders. Generally considered to be the best poker film of all time, Rounders is one you will not want to miss.
The story follows young Mike McDermott, a rare poker talent who loses his entire bankroll playing in a mafia-run game for high stakes.
Despite dropping poker for a law career and a healthy relationship with his fiancée, Mike is drawn back into the poker world by his friend Worm, who likes to cut corners and could even be compared to Mike Postle in some sense.
The two go through the ups and downs of playing on the road and end up owing money yet again. Can Mike make it to Las Vegas and the World Series of Poker, or will his career and possibly life-ending in New York?
Watch the greatest poker masterpiece of all time and find out for yourself. Of course, if you have already seen Rounders and know how it ends, you will probably want to watch it a few more times until you know every line by heart.