The Next Poker Movie - by Alexander Wylie

The Next Poker Movie - by Alexander Wylie

It's pitch black. The screen fades in, showing a pair of Aces on a grimy floor and a small trickle of blood snaking between the two cards as the screen slowly fades to black before the title appears, dealt letter by letter like playing cards. “Hold'em”: starring Bryan Cranston, who’s famous for his portrayal of Walter White in Breaking Bad, as Frank: a felon serving life in prison for a murder he did not commit.
 
Frank doesn’t live in ordinary times. Ten years from now the prisons are packed. Hard earned taxpayer dollars are being spent to keep the sludge of society living in comfort behind bars, and the country needs a solution. The National Hold'em Tournament is introduced, and this tournament is available to all prisoners who have served ten years or more behind bars. The first place prize is freedom and a comfortable life. The second place prize is death, as are all the places behind it. Entry is voluntary, but the conditions are brutal.
 
All players who want to participate have to undergo mandatory solitary confinement for two days, without access to food or water. After this, the player is led to the tournament and forced to pay for water and food with his chip stack before the tournament begins. Those who do are at a serious disadvantage. Those who don't are nearly delirious from thirst. Behind every table is a security guard with a loaded gun. I shouldn't have to tell you what happens when someone loses all his chips.
 
With Frank’s daughter needing money for a life-saving surgery, Frank is willing to risk it all to save the only family he has left.
 
An interesting twist occurs halfway through the movie. During a break, the announcer of the tournament offers the players a chance to buy their own prison sentences back for an amount of chips equal to four times the starting stack. I won't spoil the movie and tell you what happens, but it brought a level of humanity to the other players who, up until then, had just been convicts.
 
Bryan Cranston does a fantastic job of portraying Frank, and when he feels the pressure, you're right there with him. He risks his tournament life (and his actual life) on some scary hands against even scarier players like Stefan, a mafia boss portrayed by Liam Neeson, and Julias, a cheating lifer played by Samuel L. Jackson.
 
In a smart move by the director, all the violence happens off screen, securing a 14+ rating for the film. There are also a few cameos the poker aficionado will appreciate, including appearances from Daniel Negreanu and Chris Moneymaker, but with the way the film is handled, anyone can jump into the film even without a solid understanding of poker. With fantastic performances from Bryan Cranston, Liam Neeson and Samuel L. Jackson, a riveting story, and a tearjerker of an ending, this is one movie you must see. ***** out of 5.
 
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About the author: Bodog Poker is a regular contributor to Bodog Poker Strategies and Bodog Poker Blog, writing about the latest in poker news and events, poker strategies and tips as well as tournaments, satellites and qualifiers.
 
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