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Poker is a popular theme in the U.S. movie industry and often a useful plot device. Here are the weirdest myths.

Poker myths perpetuated on the big screen

Most of those who have never played the game have learned everything they know about poker from the big screen. Poker is a popular theme in the US movie industry and often a useful plot device. However, it is about as accurate a guide to the game as Speed is for a career as a bus driver. 

There are some things that come up time and again in the movies that will have genuine poker players tearing out their hair. Let’s exorcise some demons and get a few things straight. 

Tells are far more subtle

OK so the director needs to telegraph what is happening to the viewers. But in the movies, tells are so obvious, your myopic grandmother could see them from across the room. In Rounders, the bad guy eats a cookie when he is bluffing. If only life was so simple. Casino Royale has an interesting variation on this theme. “Watch for Le Chiffre’s tell, James, he puts his left hand to his eye when he’s bluffing.” Sure enough, Le Chiffre starts poking his right temple like a demented ape. The fun part here is Bond thinks he has outwitted him, but this is Round 1 to Le Chiffre, as it is actually a double bluff. 

Outrageous raises just don’t happen

“Your 10… And I’ll raise ya 10,000.” If anyone really did that at a card table, the other players would suspend play to call for psychiatric assistance. Sure, players will raise by different amounts according to the comparative strength of their hand. But they tend to work according to poker ranges. A range encompasses several possible hands of similar value, such as pairs of face cards. Players form a view of the ranges their opposing players are likely in and call or raise accordingly. But there’s no “raise by a multiple of 1000” in the playbook. 

Slow rollers would be thrown out

We’ve all seen it. At the climax of the game, after several raises by a factor of 1,000, the bad guy reveals his hand. Four nines! Practically dancing with glee, he leans forward to scoop the pot towards him. But what’s this? Our hero has yet to reveal his cards. At this point, poker fans don’t care that he has four jacks. They are just screaming at the screen. Why is he only revealing his cards now? It’s called slow rolling and it’s not heroic behavior. 

Plus the keys to the Aston 

Granted, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is one of the greatest movies of the 90s. It might even have reflected certain aspects of life in London’s criminal underworld with some degree of accuracy. But in real life poker, you can’t wager what you haven’t got. If someone raises 10 and you have five, you raise your five and a side pot opens up from which you are excluded. The same applies if they raise 50,000. You can only bet the chips you have, so keep your watch, car keys and vital organs out of the pot.

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