How Do Hollywood Movies Impact the Image of Poker in Real Life
Hollywood’s movie industry has an immense influence on numerous aspects of popular culture. It has the power to set trends, make certain things matter, and others go into oblivion.
Ever since the beginning of the film industry in Los Angeles, there seems to have been a fixation with the game of poker.
We can see characters playing this classic card game in thousands of movies and there are hundreds of titles with poker as the main motif.
I was wondering how all of that attention affects the image of poker in real life. In a positive or negative way? I plan to answer this question in this article.
Here are some of the main things we will talk about below:
- Hollywood’s obsession with poker
- Mixed signals in Hollywood movies
- Charismatic main characters
- Poker and criminal
- (Un)realistic wins?
- Luck vs. skill
Let’s get down to business and see what conclusions we can draw!
Hollywood Is Obsessed with Poker
It’s not an overstatement to say that Hollywood has a long-standing obsession with poker. This game seems to look very good on the screen since we can spot characters playing it in a huge number of movies. But poker is not reserved only for gambling-related movies — we can see it in other genres, such as crime, drama, comedy, and even horror.
This attention certainly makes poker more popular. The game is often used to set the atmosphere for the scene or portray the characters in a certain light. When we see a certain character play poker, we determine whether they are patient, smart, calculated, and capable of devising complex strategies.
Even though all of this screen time definitely makes a lot of viewers want to give poker a try and see what all the hype is about, the signals sent by movies are often mixed. Nonetheless, Hollywood is certainly a big factor in poker’s popularity nowadays.
Signals Hollywood Movies Send
Hollywood has a love-hate relationship with poker. Directors and screenwriters simply cannot determine whether this game emits a positive or negative vibe. Therefore, the signals viewers receive are often mixed.
One day, you can watch a movie and think that poker is a fun game you can play with your friends to have fun. The next day, you can watch a film noir and conclude that poker is a game associated with organised crime, beatings, murders, alcoholics and other negative things that come to your mind.
This largely depends on the genre of the movie in which poker appears. If it’s a comedy, characters usually play poker to relax, they have a lot of fun in the process and don’t take things too seriously. However, if it’s a gambling or crime movie, the overall sentiment is completely different.
Relatable Main Characters
Imagine a typical main character in a gambling movie — they are usually charismatic, know their way around people, they’re funny, have many positive character traits, decent morals, but are also extremely unfortunate and make bad life decisions. Overall, the average person out there can relate to them easily. That’s the whole point.
Even though poker players in gambling movies often have tons of problems and don’t have their life together, deep down we still want to be like them. Part of the reason is that they are usually living their lives to the fullest.
They are normally males accompanied by beautiful women who love them dearly and help them get out of the rut. Moreover, such movies usually have a happy ending, which is another factor that has a strong impact on the image of poker. This is one simple way in which Hollywood makes poker more popular in the real world.
Gambling Is Interlinked with Criminal
Now that I’ve mentioned one positive association, it’s time to counter it with a negative one. That’s exactly what the movie industry is doing all the time.
The main character in poker movies usually has a lot of problems like in the movie “Rounders“. They struggle with figuring what the important things in life are, they associate with bad people, owe money to the wrong bunch, and so on. However, they try hard to sort all of these things out.
One thing that makes this difficult for them is the fact that poker and gambling, in general, are often closely linked with organised crime. Most often, the whole city is run by a mob boss who holds a personal grudge against our main character.
The scenes of beatings, shootings, arson, chases, and knife-drawing are not at all uncommon. If someone who has no experience with gambling and poker watches several such movies, they’d have a very negative opinion of the game.
Sure, most of us know that Hollywood usually does not make documentaries, but our brain makes strong associations irrelevant of the logic (or the lack of it) behind them.
Unrealistic Consistent Wins
There’s a big discrepancy when it comes to how often you can win at poker in real life versus how often you can do it in a Hollywood movie. Characters playing poker in movies usually lose for a short period of time until they end up with almost no money and then miraculously start winning. They get a long streak of consistent wins that helps them recover all the money they previously lost and win more on top of that.
This scene you’re probably familiar with is completely unrealistic. Consistent wins definitely happen in real life, but not on that level. You might win three or four consecutive hands when playing poker, but doing better than that is hard unless you have lots of luck on your side.
These unrealistic consistent wins might cause some inexperienced poker players to believe that such accomplishments are possible or even easily achievable. But, in reality, that’s hard to match. If you lose a lot of money playing any casino game, you’ll probably need a lot of time and patience to break even.
Luck vs. Skill
Is poker a game of luck or a game of skill? According to Hollywood, it’s a little bit of both, which is exactly what poker is in real life as well. However, the American movie industry, as per usual, takes things to extremes.
The main characters in movies are often shown having excessive luck or out-of-this-world poker playing skills, which is definitely something you don’t often see in real life.
The poker heroes of Hollywood are often able to develop and utilise complex playing strategies that would require a whole team of math geniuses in real life. When they are in tough, life-changing situations, they are able to maintain their cool 100%, think straight, and not let their opponents know whether they’re bluffing.
On the other hand, sometimes they also rely heavily on luck. More often than not, luck ends up being on their side and the last card served by the dealer is exactly the one they have been waiting for the whole round.
By creating such movies, Hollywood makes poker look attractive and exciting, which has a positive impact on the game in the real world.
As you can see, determining exactly how Hollywood’s movie industry affects the image of poker in real life is not easy. The love-hate relationship between movies and poker has been around for a long time and it keeps sending mixed signals to the viewers.
One thing is certain, though — Hollywood certainly makes poker more popular. It has played an important role in helping poker, especially Texas Hold’em, reach the position it has today among both professional poker players and laymen.
What do you think about the portrayal of poker in Hollywood movies? Do you think it is realistic or not? Positive or negative? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear your opinions.