How many poker films can you think of off the top of your head? Take a look at our not-so-little listicle of 30 of the best films about poker, ranging from 1931’s Smart Money all the way to 2021’s The Card Counter, and see how many you know. Rounders, Ocean’s Eleven, Molly’s Game, Titanic (wait, what?) – we’ve got them all, baby!

California Split (1974)

Tagline: California Split… being the story of two bet-on-anything guys who happily discover something called a “winning streak.”

It might be 50 years old, but California Split is still ranked as one of the most popular poker movies of all time, scoring a respectable 7.1 out of 10 on IMDb. The story follows two gamblers, Bill (George Segal) and Charlie (Elliot Gould), whose friendship is fired up from the start after a sore loser attacks and robs them of their winnings. Passions for the next big score intertwine and intensify, with professional gambler Charlie coaching Bill to play in a high stakes poker game featuring former world champion Amarillo Slim. Bill claims victory and thus begins their journey through wins and then those inevitable losses.

The Gambler (1974)

Tagline: For $10,000 they break your arms. For $20,000 they break your legs. Axel Freed owes $44,000.

Sporting significantly more hair than we’re used to seeing, James Caan stars in this aged but still engaging story of descent into gambling addiction. Following the helpless stumbling of Axel Freed as he finishes a poker game $44,000 in debt and struggles to get back on top, The Gambler does an excellent job of highlighting the vortex that is addiction as it sucks in everyone close to Axel, including his girlfriend, mother and grandfather. You can help but feel for the guy as he edges closer to disaster at the hands of the mob!

The Cincinnati Kid (1965)

Tagline: He’d take on anyone, at anything, anytime ….it was only a matter of who came first!

Movies about poker tend to fixate on spiralling into debt, but the game can also lead to issues of a non-monetary nature, as The Cincinnati Kid portrays so well. Starring the legendary Steve McQueen as Eric ‘The Kid’ Stoner, this movie follows the story of a young five card stud poker player who fancies himself as the next big thing. Brimming with the overconfidence of youth, The Kid positions himself to take down the game’s master, Lancey ‘The Man’ Howard (Edward G. Robinson). However, things don’t quite go to plan as temptation, corruption and bribery ensue!

Croupier (1998)

Tagline: Life’s a Gamble

Featuring one of the most implausible poker scenes ever seen in a film, Croupier stars Clive Owen as failing writer Jack Manfred who, at the recommendation of his father, reluctantly takes a job as a casino croupier to make ends meet. The move reignites Manfred’s inspiration as he begins to write about the seedy underworld of gambling, complete with cheating, both at the tables and between the sheets! The neo-noir style monologuing of this British film helped launch Clive Owen’s career as it received positive reviews in the US.

Mississippi Grind (2015)

Tagline: We can’t lose.

Mississippi Grind tells the story of two friends, Curtis (Ryan Reynolds) and Gerry (Ben Mendelsohn), and their rollercoaster ride across the South as they chase their losses. Tangled into the mix is plenty of thievery and debauchery before it’s time to scarper, or, as Curtis puts it, “it’s Machu Picchu time”. Also on the cards is the inevitable back-stabbing, including this painful shot by a queen on the river – ouch!

The Card Counter (2021)

Tagline: He’s Playing the Hand He Was Dealt

Starring Oscar Isaac as the quiet, unassuming William Tell, Tye Sheridan as loose cannon Cirk, and Willem Dafoe as the gritty and remorseless Gordo, The Card Counter is a dark tale that follows Tell as he counts cards on the quiet, keeping the stakes low to avoid unwanted attention. Despite his best efforts, he is soon recognised by Cirk, who’s hell-bent on exacting revenge against Gordo, the military man who trained both Tell and Cirk’s father in ‘advanced interrogation techniques’, and whom he deems responsible for the death of his father. Tell takes Cirk under his wing and enters the WSOP with the intention of winning enough money to distract Cirk and help him start a new life. However, things don’t quite go to plan!

Rounders (1998)

Tagline: You’ve got to play the hand you’re dealt.

A boyish Matt Damon plays naturally talented poker player Mike, whose dream of playing in the WSOP appears to be shattered after a staggering $30,000 loss playing Texas Hold’em against Russian mobster Teddy ‘KGB’ (John Malkovich). After focusing on law school for a while, Mike is dragged back to the felt by childhood friend and ex-con Lester ‘Worm’ Murphy (Edward Norton), a less than honest player (watch the tense base-dealing clip in the video) who manages to rack up significant debts in Mike’s name. Forced into a corner, Mike returns to the tables in an effort to pay off Worm’s debts, which it turns out are owed to KGB. The heads-up action turns out to be a success and Mike’s dream becomes a reality.

The Sting (1973)

Tagline: …all it takes is a little Confidence.

Poker movies don’t come much bigger than this one (and not just for its 2+ hours running time!), which took home 7 Oscars at the 46th Academy Awards back in 1974, with a nomination for Best Actor reigniting Robert Redford’s career. Set in the 1930s, The Sting kicks off with Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford) and Luther Coleman (Robert Earl Jones) ripping off an unsuspecting victim who turns out to be working for nasty crime boss Doyle Lonnegan. Both the victim and Luther are promptly tracked down and ‘dealt with’, but not before Luther advises Hooker to seek out Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman) to learn ‘the big con’. Gondorff is persuaded by Hooker to set up a massive con as revenge against Lonnegan. The Sting is all set into motion aboard the luxurious 20th Century Limited train with Gondorff posing as ‘Shaw’ buying into Lonnegan’s high stakes poker game. Both men cheat, but Gondorff manages to scam Lonnegan to the tune of $15,000. And that’s just the beginning!

Atlantic City (1980)

Tagline: She made him become what he always wanted to be – a lover, a hero, a rich man…and a killer!

After leaving Saskatchewan to pursue her dream of becoming a Blackjack dealer, Sally Matthews (Susan Sarandon) finds herself working as a waitress in Atlantic City and learning to be a croupier under French tutor Joseph. Little does Sally know that Lou (Burt Lancaster), who lives in the same building as her, has been admiring her from afar. Sally’s pregnant sister Chrissie and estranged husband Dave turn up with $10,000 in cocaine stolen from the mob, which obviously doesn’t go down too well! Dave meets and manages to convince Lou to help him sell the cocaine, with the first batch sold off for a poker game. However, Dave is tracked down by the mob and dispatched, leaving Lou holding the bag – literally!

The Hustler (1961)

Tagline: They called him ‘Fast Eddie’

Pool hustler Fast Eddie (Paul Newman) and his sidekick Charlie (Myron McCormick) enjoy scamming unsuspecting victims at the tables, until Eddie bites off more than he can chew by challenging legendary player Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason). Eddie manages to get ahead by $11,000, but also gets a bit too cocky by jeering Fats to carry on. Fats does so, thanks in part to pro gambler Bert (George C. Scott), who brands Eddie a loser, and the prophecy is fulfilled, with Fats leaving Eddie all but empty. From that point, Eddie is determined to get a rematch and run Fats into the ground, but he lacks the cash to do so. After trying his luck at the poker table with Bert, Eddie heads to the bar and Bert tells him he’s a born loser. Eddie asks Bert for a loan, but refuses the 25% offer, vowing to hustle his way to a match by himself. However, Bert won’t take no for an answer!

Casino Royale (2006)

Tagline: Everyone has a past. Every legend has a beginning. On November 17th, discover how James… became Bond.

Hunky Daniel Craig’s first role as 007 was a blinder, with Casino Royale generating over $600 million worldwide. After earning his licence to kill, James Bond crosses paths with the unforgiving Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelson), who is far from impressed by the MI6 agent’s foiling of his latest dastardly plan. Determined to win back the money he owes, Le Chiffre organises a high stakes game of Texas Hold’em and MI6 naturally enters their best poker player for the job – Bond. Who could forget the tense table scene where Le Chiffre’s lover spikes Bond’s drink?

Molly’s Game (2017)

Tagline: Deal with her.

Molly’s Game dramatises the fascinating true story of Molly Bloom, the Olympic level mogul skier who had a career-ending accident on the slopes and pivoted to hosting high stakes poker games instead. Played by Jessica Chastain, Molly moves away from her overbearing trainer father (Kevin Costner) to LA, where she starts running underground poker games for the rich and famous on behalf of her real estate developer boss Dean (Jeremy Strong). After learning the ropes, Molly finds her own style and becomes skilled at attracting players, which irritates Dean, who ends up firing her. Molly decides to start up her own game, but as she descends into drug addiction and her games attract the attention of the Russian and Italian mafia, it’s not long before she finds herself facing criminal charges. Check out the video clip for the intense scene where player Harlan is bluffed at the table by an amateur and ends up seriously on tilt!

Interesting fact: During a conversation with her lawyer Charlie (Idris Elba), Molly tells him she got an offer for her face to be featured on video poker machines!

Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

Tagline: 3 Casinos. 11 Guys. 150 Million Bucks. Ready To Win Big?

There can be no talk of poker movies without including Ocean’s Eleven and its all-star cast headed up by the one and only George Clooney as Danny Ocean. Fresh out of prison, Ocean sets about organising the heist of the century: robbing 3 casinos at once! The stars in our eyes in this famous production include familiar poker face Matt Damon, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts. Interestingly, had the eleven pulled off this heist in real life, they wouldn’t have been able to make it out of the casino with the $163 million in cash due to its staggering combined weight of more than a ton and a half!

Titanic (1997)

Tagline: Nothing On Earth Could Come Between Them.

What on earth does a story about the sinking of the famous unsinkable ship have to do with poker? Well, if you remember, the story is set in motion when young Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) wins tickets for the ill-fated vessel’s maiden voyage in a game of poker. Titanic was an epic production, netting more than $2 billion worldwide and winning 11 Oscars. It catapulted the careers of both Leo and Kate Winslet sky-high, with Billy Zane also playing the memorable role of whiny, abusive husband-to-be, Cal.

The Cooler (2003)

Tagline: When your life depends on losing… the last thing you need is lady luck.

Though you might remember William H. Macy for starring roles in Fargo and Jurassic Park 3, he also excelled as the aptly named Bernie Lootz in this one. Not a film about poker specifically, this one does feature the game in the casino run by old-fashioned owner Shelly (Alec Baldwin), who ‘saves’ Bernie by breaking his legs when he can’t pay his gambling debts and putting him to work as a cooler, responsible for breaking lucky streaks at the tables. However, Bernie’s notorious bad luck starts to wane as his interest in cocktail waitress Natalie (Maria Bello) grows, threatening his job and his life!

Maverick (1994)

Tagline: The greatest gambler in the West has finally met his match.

Mel Gibson plays the lead as Maverick alongside Jodie Foster as Annabelle Bransford, with this Western comedy story Maverick’s attempts to make the buy-in for a high stakes poker game aboard the Lauren Belle paddle steamer. After making the final table, the improbable reveal ensues, with 4 of a kind, then a straight flush leading up to Maverick’s big poker hand.

Lucky You (2007)

Tagline: Change your game. Change your life.

Luck is the name of the game and Huck’s is running out fast in this poker film that follows the main character (Eric Bana) as he struggles to make enough to play in the World Series of Poker. Ruled by his emotions and ending up in debt to everyone around him, including love interest Billie (Drew Barrymore), Huck comes right in the end, throwing the game to his father at the final table. Despite the film’s flop at the box office, it featured plenty of real life poker faces including Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth and Doyle Brunson. Check out the great bluff scene in the clip – classic!

Juego de Luna (Luna’s Game) (2001)

Tagline: The courage to bet with the heart

This Spanish drama film stars Ana Torrent as Luna, who learned about poker from a young age thanks to her father. Struggles with various addictions follow, helped in part by her card shark, heroin addict boyfriend, and culminate with a tense poker face-off against the man who killed her father.

Finder’s Fee (2001)

Tagline: The numbers don’t lie, but the players just might.

Plenty of poker films are underrated, most probably due to their gambling theme, but this one is especially so, which is surprising given its unique premise. The plot revolves around Tepper (Erik Palladino) and his friends who are partial to a special sort of poker night every week, where everyone plays with unchecked lottery tickets and the winner takes all. On this particular night, however, Tepper finds a wallet and in it is a winning lottery ticket to the tune of $6 million. The game goes on, the wallet’s rightful owner shows up and all hell breaks loose!

Smart Money (1931)

Tagline: It’s All About a Gamblin’ Fool- Whose Only Hoodoo Was Blondes!

Poker movies go back further than you might think, with this gem from 1931 being the oldest on our list. Starring Edward G. Robinson as Nick ‘The Barber’ Venizelos, Smart Money follows barber and poker player Nick as he fancies himself better than the city’s famous player Hickory Short. With a $10,000 stake half funded by his pals, off he goes to face the challenge, but Nick is conned by a pretty blonde and ends up playing conman Sleepy Sam by mistake, losing all his money. That sets a fire under Nick, who vows to seek his vengeance! Check out the video of Nick exacting sweet revenge against Sleepy Sam.

Poker King (2009)

Tagline: The highly anticipated gambling challenge 2009

Produced in Hong Kong and set in the Vegas of the East, Macau, Poker King tells the story of the challenge between two prospective heirs to the Sun Casinos empire. Uno (Lau Ching Wan) is a crook who stands to inherit the Sun Casinos, while true heir Jack (Louis Koo) doesn’t yet have the skill nor the instinct to run the operation. Uno takes over, but after some coaching, Jack returns to challenge Uno in the Poker King Tournament for the right to his inheritance. This film has a surprising twist at the end and is well worth watching if you don’t mind the subtitles.

The Grand (2007)

Tagline: A comedy about the fine art of losing

This improv comedy starring Woody Harrelson didn’t quite get the brilliant reviews it was hoping for, but it’s still a bit of a gem as a poker film regardless, especially considering there was no scripted end! The story centres around Jack Faro (Harrelson), a guy who’s had many drug relapses and even more wives (74 to be exact!). After all but running his family’s casino, The Rabbit’s Foot, into the ground, Faro enters Texas Hold’em tournament The Grand with the goal of winning the $10 million top prize and saving his business. Look out for poker legends like Daniel Negreanu and Doyle Brunson in this one!

High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story (2003)

Tagline: Gambler. Addict. Loser. Legend.

High Roller is a dramatisation of the life of poker player Stu Ungar, who is played here by Michael Imperioli aka The Sopranos wild child Christopher. In true drama style, we learn about Stu’s early life as the son of a bookmaker, how he got into gambling, the rise and fall of his marriage, and his struggles with cocaine addiction, all told to a stranger in a motel room. Who is the stranger? You’ll have to watch to find out!

All In: The Poker Movie (2009)

Tagline: Get in the game.

Not all dramatic films about poker are works of fiction. Winner of best documentary at the CineVegas Film Festival 2009 before its re-release in 2012, All In hears from various poker players, including Matt Damon and Annie Duke, about the rise of poker in the US, from underground clubs to private residences to casinos and then online casino sites – right up until Black Friday, when the US government effectively shut down online gambling in the country in 2011.

KidPoker (2015)

Tagline: Say Nothing. Do Nothing. Be Nothing.

This engaging documentary follows the true story of Canadian poker player Daniel Negreanu aka Kid Poker, who’s won 6 WSOP bracelets and 2 WPT titles. The film features a number of high-profile poker players aside from Negreanu, including Phil Ivey, Doyle Brunson, Phil Hellmuth and John Duthie, making it a fascinating watch if you like non-fiction poker movies with a backstory.

Poker Queens (2020)

Tagline: Glamour, Glitz, Guts & Glory. They’re All In.

Poker has traditionally always been dominated by men, with only one woman, Barbara Enright, ever making it to the final table in the WSOP’s 50+ year history. Poker Queens attempted to change all that by documenting the rise of women in poker in the run-up to the WSOP’s 50th anniversary in 2019. Featured are top female poker players including Vanessa Rousso, Maria Ho, Jennifer Harman, Loni Harwood and Kristen “krissyb24” Bicknell, as well as director Sandra Mohr (aka Sia Layta aka The Black Widow) herself.

Shade (2003)

Tagline: When betting your life, leave nothing to chance.

Funny tagline, especially when you consider that chance is pretty central to most forms of betting. However, given that this film consists of card sharks, hustlers and crooked dealers, it’s a fitting one. This story follows the attempts of 3 men who try to get one over on legendary poker player Dean ‘The Dean’ Stevens, played by Sylvester Stallone.

Deal (2008)

Tagline: The game is on!

Deal is the classic tale of the student becoming the teacher, starring Burt Reynolds as old poker pro Tommy Vinson and Bret Harrison as over-confident Alex Stillman. After seeing Alex’s potential in an online poker game final broadcast on TV, Tommy tracks him down and persuades him to take a few tips from an old pro. The two go through their ups and downs, but find themselves heads-up at the final table at a major WPT event. Who wins? The answer may surprise you. Look out for Alex’s love interest, Michelle, whom you might recognise from American Pie!

Killing Them Softly (2012)

Tagline: In America you’re on your own

Take a look at the character names of this one – Jackie, Markie, Frankie, Mickey – and you’ll most likely deduce that this poker film is all about the mob. A couple of wise guys think it’s a smart idea to rob an underground poker game organised by the Italian-American mafia, thinking the criminal organisation will target Markie (Ray Liotta), who’s known to have previously robbed his own game. The guys pull it off, but the robbery triggers a chain reaction of events that threatens to topple the criminal landscape. Jackie (Brad Pitt) is hired to track down the culprits and clean up the mess. Keep an eye out for The Sopranos lead James Gandolfini as Mickey in this one.

House of Games (1987)

Tagline: Human nature is a sucker bet.

Many movies about poker only feature the game in a very small way, and this is the case in House of Games, which follows the descent of psychiatrist Margaret Ford (Lindsay Crouse) into the seedy world of cons and hustles. Margaret confronts criminal Mike (Joe Mantegna), to whom her patient Billy Hahn owes money. Mike says he’ll let Billy off the hook if she checks out a poker game and watches a player for his tell. It all turns out to be a hoax to part Margaret with her money, but the thrill is enough to pull her in deeper as she learns more about the crafty business of conning people.

Refresh your Netflix list!

And that’s your 30, perfect for injecting some poker drama into your Netflix or Amazon Prime watchlist! Which ones are your favourites? If this has fired you up for a bit of gameplay, check out our blog post What is Poker, then head for the live poker tables or video poker games at PlayOJO.

Remember to take advantage of PlayOJO’s responsible gaming tools to avoid following in many of these hapless characters’ footsteps!

Sarah McIver

Sarah McIver

Sarah is a veteran copywriter for the gambling industry with experience spanning more than two decades. When she's not immersed in the world of wordcraft, she can usually be found playing retro video games, slicing colourful blocks in VR or teasing her cheeky but loveable cat.