UK and Non-UK Casinos – The Best Hollywood Poker Movies

Poker has been used in Hollywood films for a long time in order to bring some drama and high stakes to the lives of its characters. When it’s done correctly, poker in films will showcase the technical aspects of the game well but will also tap into the important psychological elements of poker and gambling.

The game of poker was always an underground pastime but with the rise of the internet, it became a hugely popular outlet for many to chase a “get rich quick” dream. Despite having a more global appeal, it still attracts a certain type of personality for the longer term. A great poker movie portrays its characters well with a good back story and the effects that the game has on their lives.

The big poker films have usually been set in non-UK casinos as the game was always more popular in the United States until the boom in online poker, but it has less appeal for UK filmmakers.  


Rounders is always a fixture on every list of the best poker film ever.

Released in 1998, the film had a big-name cast with Matt Damon, Edward Norton, John Turturro, John Malkovich, and Famke Janssen all starring. Alongside a star-studded cast, the film really captured the technical skills at a time when the online poker boom was just beginning.

The plot of Rounders revolves around the classic script of a reformed gambler who has to step back into his old world one last time to pull off a financial gain while risking his newfound stability and personal relationships.

John Dahl directed the film which focuses on the underground world of private New York betting clubs devoted to high-stakes poker. Mike McDermott (Matt Damon) is the leading character who loses his entire savings to the Russian club owner Teddy KGB (John Malkovich). After turning his back on card games to focus on his law studies and his new girlfriend Jo (Gretchen Mol) Mike is soon drawn back into the world of poker for one last sting after his old buddy Worm (Edward Norton) is released from a stint in prison. 

Casino Royale

A more recent film to feature poker was the modern James Bond classic Casino Royale. Daniel Craig’s 007 travels to Montenegro on the tail of French mathematician and smuggler Le Chiffre, played superbly by Mads Mikkelson.  

The film is set in a beautiful location complete with tuxedos, cocktails and classic cars, which shows poker at the high end of the scale and is usually only to be found in casinos not in the UK.

Along with fellow agent Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) and an MI6 colleague in Montenegro, Bond takes his seat in a high-stakes poker game set up by Le Chiffre. The film also features the tension of having to win big to fix a problem in life, as Le Chiffre is seeking to win back millions of clients’ money that he lost when Bond ruined his plot to blow up an airliner and profit in the financial markets. Bond also has skin in the game with 007 having to borrow the $10 million buy-in from his employers. 

The Bond franchise has other memorable high-stakes gambling scenes, such as the roulette scene in Diamonds are Forever starring Sean Connery.

The Cincinnati Kid

The poker classic Cincinnati Kid was first released in 1965 and starred Steve McQueen as the leading man. McQueen plays the Cincinnati Kid, a young poker player in 1930s New Orleans, who travels from one big game to the next, until he is pitted against the legendary card-sharp Lancey Howard in a high-stakes poker game.

The poker played in this movie is 5 card stud, which may not be so appealing to fans of Texas Hold ‘Em, but the action on the table is still the best part of the film. The film also features a wide range of characters that the Kid meets on his travels and has its fair share of the human psychology and suspense that makes for a good gambling film.

Eric Stoner (McQueen) has spent many hours on the circuit crafting his poker skills and working his way towards a showdown with the champion. However, when there’s high stakes involved, there is always bad characters and dirty tricks and McQueen finds that he needs more than solid card skills to compete in this arena. 

Molly’s Game

Molly’s Game hit cinemas in 2017 and capitalized on the internet poker boom. The film is based on the true story of Molly Bloom, the “Poker Queen” who used to run private high-stakes games in Los Angeles. The games attracted some of the biggest Hollywood celebrities, businessmen, and professional players. Unfortunately for Molly the games also attracted the Russian mob.

The movie stars Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, and Kevin Costner, and charts Bloom’s life from a young Olympic-class skier who got injured training for the Olympics, to her next downhill adventure: organizing illegal poker games.

In the end, Molly’s hopes rest in the hands of New York lawyer, Charlie Jaffey. With no other options, Molly pleads to his human side, but who would be up for the task of representing the infamous Poker Queen against the FBI?

All-In: The Poker Movie 

All-In is a different type of film, but a fascinating watch because it is a documentary and tracks the ups and downs of the poker hot shots of the last two decades, including Phil Helmuth, Daniel Negreanu, and Phil Ivey. 

The film provides a great account of how the game of poker became one of America’s favourite hobbies, while for many it became a real chance to chase the American Dream. This phenomenon coincided with the online boom in poker, which grew with the betting industry as faster internet speeds and new technology meant that players could step into non-UK casinos from the comfort of their own home.

This film has something interesting for poker fans of all levels that are interested in the history of the game.

Experienced players will get to watch some big professional hands, while Chris Moneymaker’s account of his rags-to-riches rise to 2003 World Series of Poker Champion is also a fascinating watch. The players’ account of Black Friday is also a gripping storyline. The latter was a sting operation by the DOJ and FBI on poker sites operating in the US, where thousands of poker players were taken offline and millions of dollars seized. 

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