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Poker Goes to the Movies: Lucky You

Poker News Nov 9, 2011, Last Updated: Nov 9, 2011 No comments

The film Lucky You is a 2007 drama starring Eric Bana, Drew Barrymore, and Robert Duvall. The film was partially inspired by the George Stevens 1970 movie The Only Game in Town (starring Warren Beatty and Elizabeth Taylor) and was written by Eric Roth and Curtis Hanson (of LA Confidential fame) who also directed the film.

Lucky You

Lucky You

The Academy Award-winning Hanson said, “With millions of people watching poker weekly on television, it was important to capture the authenticity of the game and its players. To that end, the poker tables in “Lucky You” are primarily populated by poker players, not actors pretending to be poker players. Our stars trained for months in order to convincingly play side by side with top poker professionals cast in fictional roles.”

Lucky You had an estimated budget of $55 million but its worldwide gross revenue was under $9million, making it a busted flush of a box-office bomb. Sorry Curtis!

Still despite being a failure at the box office there are things to enjoy about it, but I don’t mean Bana’s page one description of how to play cards, what a “poker face is” or the movie’s hook that “sometimes nothing’s enough.”  Not to mention the pointless sub-Chandler homilies like

You want sympathy? You’ll find it between “shit” and “syphilis” in the dictionary.”

“Play by the book? You might as well play online.”

“The money’s just a way of keeping score. Poker is competition in the purest sense.”

“Don’t chase what you can’t catch.”

The film’s worth a  watch for Drew Barrymore. Gertie from THE is now a bona-fide Hollywood bigshot and a keen amateur poker player. The Charlie Angles star holds a regular $20 or $100 buy-in home games with friends and fellow celebs, but she doesn’t plan to follow actress Jennifer Tilly into playing poker for a living. “I really couldn’t do that. I made a $200 bet the other night and I was like thinking it was the craziest thing on the planet,” Ms Barrymore said.

In the film there’s a slew of poker stars that you can play “where’s Wally” with when the relationship between the leads tires (about 5minutes in) including Chris Ferguson who has won five World Series of Poker events, including the 2000 WSOP Main Event, and the 2008 NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship, Phil Hellmuth best known for holding a record 11 World Series of Poker bracelets, and winning the Main Event of the 1989 World Series of Poker,  Barry Greenstein who (legend has it) donates his winnings to charities earning him the nickname “the Robin Hood of poker”, Johnny Chan the 10 times World Series of Poker bracelets winner  and the big man Doyle Brunson himself. More obvious is the woman who plays against Huck Cheever (Eric Bana’s character) for the spot on the World Series of Poker Tournament. You might recognise Jennifer Harman; the only woman to hold two bracelets in World Series Of Poker open events opposite the Munich actor.

Eric Bana had plenty to say in praise of the card athletes he rubbed up against while filming, “It lifted my game because it’s impossible for it not to rub off. For instance, a scene that might only be a minute onscreen could take us days to shoot, so that’s hours and hours sitting around with these guys, and all you’re doing between takes is talking poker.”

The Aussie tough guy continued, “I’m planning to pick up as many tips as I can from the experts so I can go home and kick my friends’ butts.”

Some of the events depicted and referenced in the movie’s tournament are remarkably close to real life. The 2003 World Series of Poker’s Main Event (made up of 839 players) was eventually won by an amateur playing in his first live tournament, just like in the movie. That real life inspiration was Chris Moneymaker. The Moneymaker-alike was the Jason Keyes character played by Evan Jones in the film. Keyes would triumph over an old time pro poker player to win the tournament, L.C. Cheever (Robert Duvall) in the film. While Moneymaker beat Sam Farha in real life

Lucky You is a poor film, Poker deserves much  better and the Moneymaker angle only highlights the fact that sometimes fact is stranger (and more entertaining) than fiction.

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