Poker makes it cinematic

While the film Le Grand Jeu was recently broadcast on television, the links between poker and cinema are rather close. Explanations.

Several films have been devoted to poker with varying degrees of success. Two really stand out: “The Cincinnati Kid” with Steve MacQueen, released in 1965 which is considered a masterpiece, and Rounders released in 1998, with Matt Damon. A sequel has also been announced for many years and is a sea serpent.

On the French side, not much to get your teeth into: we can cite La Tueuse, produced in 2010 by Rodolphe Tissot. The main actress Adrian Pauly becomes a formidable player, in the grip of addiction. Manuel Bevand was one of the consultants on the film. Directors like to film the tension that can reign at a table. Amazing poker scenes also exist in Casino Royale.


Christophe Carrière, film critic at the Express and highly skilled poker player told me a few years ago that after his interviews, half the time he continued the conversation on poker. Guillaume Canet, Patrick Bruel , Fréderic Chau, Yves Montand, Vincent Lindon, Rochdy Zem, Vincent Cassel, Alice Taglioni, Gilles Lellouche, Michel Boujenah… Many actors and actresses love poker. Many actors discovered poker during VIP parties organized at the Aviation Club de France in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

In the United States Matt Damon, Tobey Maguire or Ben Affleck are also enthusiasts. To be a good player, sometimes you have to be a good actor. But great players are not necessarily great players. We remember Matt Damon’s completely failed acting on a tournament during the WSOP.

But then, why do actors like poker so much? Bruno Solo, whom I met a few years ago, told me: “I like poker for its theatricality. Poker can be drama, tragedy or sometimes great vaudeville. There’s everything I love about being an actor in this game. For me, poker is the most exciting game there is: the one that gets you so high and gets you down so low in a short amount of time. It is true that players simply like to vibrate at the tables. In recent times, it is rather at the virtual tables that amateurs have enjoyed themselves. Virtual casinos with their online slot machines are very popular at the moment.


A few weeks ago, I decided to watch Guillaume Canet’s film: “Les petits mouchoirs”. Quietly installed on my couch, I hear Gilles Lellouche asking his friends “do you fancy a poker? “. Moments later, in another clip, he is seen putting away a playmat with a logo from a well-known poker room. In marketing jargon, this is called “product placement”. A brand pays to appear on screen.

Another example, in 2012, one of the most anticipated films of the year is called “The Truth if I Lie 3”. In this film, we could see the Bwin logo. One of the scenes of the film shows José Garcia playing in a circle, with tables in the colors of the room. Bwin would have paid 1 million euros to appear in the image. Unverifiable figure but which seems very high! Was this investment profitable? Admissions to the film were significant but below the expected figures. The Bwin teams were not completely satisfied with this operation.

For the movie Casino Royale in 2006, PokerStars engaged in extensive negotiations for a product placement of the brand on the movie. Which ultimately didn’t happen. But then, what’s the point? The primary interest for online poker sites is obviously to have strong media exposure. When a film like “les petits mouchoirs” has more than 5 million admissions, then it is broadcast on television and there too watched by millions of spectators, the impact is strong. In the early 2010s, the golden age of poker, rooms had a large marketing budget to gain market share.

In 2018, the situation has changed and budgets have been considerably reduced, but the links between poker and cinema remain strong. In 2018, the film “the players” was released with Tahar Rahim. The feature film had the play circles as a backdrop. It wasn’t a big hit in theaters but the atmosphere was successful.