Poker and its role in the classic Western

Poker has been featured in the movies throughout most of the history of cinematography. The first poker scene that we have been able to locate was in the 1912 silent movie called “A Cure for Pokeritis”. It is a fairly witty short film about a wife’s attempts to stop her husband’s poker playing by organising his illegal game to be raided by fake coppers.

Poker features in many of the Wild West movies and Spaghetti Westerns. In those the game was almost exclusively draw poker, cheating was de rigour, and many players were shot, often below the table. One of the best of these is George P. Cosmatos’ Tombstone, which featured many famous gun slingers including Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, William Brocius and Johnny Ringo. The best poker scene in the movie features Doc Holliday who is looking rather under the weather after playing poker and drinking heavily for 36 straight hours.

One of the best poker bluffing scenes is the one in Cool Hand Luke when Paul Newman wins with nothing. The movie 967 is a drama set in an American prison and was directed by Stuart Rosenberg. Paul Newman played Luke, a prisoner who refused to submit to the prison system. It was a startling performance that did much to enhance his status as a leading Hollywood star and further his movie career. In the poker scene he demonstrates what must be the perfect poker face despite all the action that is going on around him.

Casino Royale has several interesting poker scenes. Bond’s casino scenes have become so entrenched in gambling culture that a slots game, “Agent Jane Blonde” has been developed for online casino sites.The scene most people remember in this movie is the final one in which James Bond has the winning hand and bankrupts the arch villain La Chiffre in one of the most unlikely poker hands ever seen in the movies. It might be a little silly, but it is highly entertaining.