Oscar Picks: Best Poker Movie

Gerald Hanks

Thursday, March 7, 2013 7:09 PM UTC

Thursday, Mar. 7, 2013 7:09 PM UTC

Your Humble Poker Author is writing this piece on the biggest day on the movie industry's calendar. No, it's not the first weekend in May when the latest superhero or sci-fi tent-pole opens the summer movie-going season.

And the Oscar Goes To.... Best Poker Movies

It's Oscar Sunday, Hollywood's answer to the Super Bowl.  Since thousands of movie goers prefer Colin Farrell over Colin Kaepernick, more office pools are formed around Oscar picks than on the Big Game.

Here is the list of nominees for Best Poker Movie of All Time. Please hold your applause until all nominees are announced.

Nominee #1: “A Big Hand for the Little Lady” (1966)

This classic Western features many of the images that non-players have of poker: players in seedy backrooms with aces up their sleeves and six-shooters holstered to their hips. A poor settler (Henry Fonda) on his way to San Antonio spends his entire life savings to buy into a high-stakes poker game. The stress of risking it all causes him to have a heart attack. His young wife (Joanne Woodward) steps in to play his hand, although she's never played poker in her life. Can she save the family's money in one hand?

Nominee #2: “The Cincinnati Kid” (1965)

How many poker broadcasts have focused on the “young guns” of the online game butting heads with the “old guard” of live casino veterans. Although the game portrayed in the film, Five Card Stud, has fallen out of favor with today's players, the theme remains eternal. This film details the battle between “The Kid” (Steve McQueen) and “The Man” (Edward G. Robinson) in the high-stakes battle of wits. The other outstanding actors (Karl Malden, Ann-Margaret, Rip Torn) all provide better running commentary than Norman Chad on his best day.

Nominee #3: “High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story” (2003)

Speaking of “young guns”, Michael Imperioli (“Christopher” from “The Sopranos”) gives the performance of his life as the late Stu Ungar, the only player to win three World Series of Poker Main Event titles. The movie shows Ungar's hypercompetitive nature, which led to both his conquest of the card tables and his lack of control over his drug use and sports betting habits. Ungar's comeback to win the 1997 title is made all the more heartbreaking when learning of his final fate.

Nominee #4: “Rounders” (1998)

In interviews after his 2003 WSOP Main Event win, Chris Moneymaker credited his repeated viewings of “Rounders” to sparking his interest in no-limit Hold'em. A young law student and former poker player (Matt Damon) gets dragged back into the world of underground card rooms to help his childhood best friend (Edward Norton) pay off his debt to a Russian gangster (John Malkovich). Why am I telling you about this movie? If you don't already have it in your video collection, you're not a real poker player!

Nominee #5: “The Sting” (1973)

The only film on this list to win a Best Picture Oscar, “The Sting” reunites “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” heroes Paul Newman and Robert Redford as Depression-era con men seeking to take down a local crime boss (Robert Shaw). The two con artists get an invitation to the boss's private (and crooked) poker game, and use their skills at cheating to clean out the gangster for $15,000.

Which film should get this prestigious award? Which films got an undeserved snub? How many of these have you seen? Post your thoughts in the comments and I'll see you … AT THE MOVIES!

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