Card games have played an important part in many of our favourite movies over the years. From James Bond being impossibly suave to Matt Damon risking everything in one hand, these films have shown us different aspects of playing poker, blackjack and other games.
So, what have we learned from these movies? The truth is that we have seen a great variety of lessons that can be applied to real-life card playing.
It Pays to Be Patient
The dramatic tension of any type of movie often comes from the main character or hero failing early on. Films based on card games are no different in this respect. In Rounders, Damon’s character loses it all early on. In the original Casino Royale, which inspired many casino-themed book covers over the years, James Bond suffers massive losses at the start.
The key here is that the players are confident in their own ability. They know they will come good eventually and are patient enough to bide their time until they get the perfect opportunity to recoup their losses and come out ahead.
To help you to be more patient, it is a good idea to fully understand the rules and strategies of the game. If you do this then you will feel more confident that a good win will come along sooner or later.
Be Careful Who You Play With
Many of the problems encountered by fictional card players come down to playing against the wrong opponent. In most cases, it is obvious to the audience that our hero is up against someone who is going to cheat them.
Perhaps the most extreme example comes from the three card brag game in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Eddie loses a fortune by being over-confident about his hand. Part of this comes from not being aware that Hatchet Harry’s men have been spying on his hand.
The Sting and Rounders also show us the dangers of choosing unsuitable opponents. In real-life it is clearly best to stick to reputable casinos that are controlled by the British Gambling Commission and well-organized tournaments.
Know Your Limits
Another common theme is that of players over-stretching themselves by betting too much. The previously mentioned scene from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is a good example, as the stakes quickly spiral out of hand and Eddie gets in way over his head.
In fact, just about every card game movie has a main character bet more than they should at some point. In The Cincinnati Kid and Rounders, our heroes end up raising the stakes too high and land themselves in serious trouble because of this.
All good players know their limits and stick to them. If you play online then this is easier to do, as you set the limits in advance. For instance, the blackjack options at Paddy Power let you choose your bets from £0.25 all the way up to £5,000 on their premium games.
You Need to Control Your Emotions
The biggest failures in card-based movies tend to come when the character loses control of their emotions. If they are worried, angry or unfocussed they will usually end up in big trouble. Things only tend to improve once they get their feelings under control.
Perhaps the best example of someone staying in control is that of Cool Hand Luke. Paul Newman plays this character to perfection, having carefully studied the accent and even the banjo for the role, and he played every single hand in the same controlled manner. James Bond is another terrific example of someone who knows exactly how to act at all times around the card table.
The best movies about poker and other card games are a lot of fun to watch. Yet, they also teach us a few valuable lessons about how to play and how not to play these games.