The True Story
High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story (2003) is the true story about the poker legend Stuey Ungar, who was gambling from the age of 10 and won millions in his lifetime. This biography focuses on the man who was one of only two people who ever won the World Series of Poker three times.
Michael Imperioli plays Ungar and the scene is set in a motel room where he shares his life story with a stranger. Ungar was the son of a bookie and started his career as a gin player before moving into poker. A personal life including a cocaine addiction and broken marriage are a contrast to his amazing gambling success.
The film includes some cameos from the world of professional poker players, including Al Bernstein.
All In: The Poker Movie (2009), directed by Douglas Tirola, is a documentary about the journey of poker in America. It’s one of the oldest games in the US and has enjoyed a recent revival, especially among those looking for the American Dream.
The story explores the surge of poker popularity that began in the underground clubs of New York City and then made its way online. Poker was so entrenched in American culture that you could watch it on television daily. The US government eventually ordered the shutdown of the 3 biggest poker websites in the world. This film is an exploration of all that makes poker the game it is today.
The Cult Hit
Rounders (1998) explores the underground world of high-stakes poker. Directed by John Dahl and starring Matt Damon and Edward Norton, the story centers around two friends trying to pay off a large debt and using high-stakes poker to try and do it.
Matt Damon plays a young ex gambler (after losing his entire savings to a Russian club owner), who returns to the game to help out a friend. His former gambling buddy has just been released from prison and has a prison debt to pay. Damon returns to the poker clubs, whilst still trying to juggle law school, and finds himself on the ultimate gambling binge with his friend (played by Edward Norton).
The Grand (2007) is an improvisational comedy with actors playing characters competing in an actual poker tournament. It is directed by Zak Penn, and boasts some real Las Vegas poker stars who together with the cast, including Woody Harrelson and Ray Romano, make for a side-splitting mockumentary. Harrelson plays Jack Faro, who is trying to win back a casino from a real estate developer that he inherited from his grandfather.
He plans to win the world’s most famous high stakes tournament, the Grand Championship of Poker in order to do it but has to face some pretty tough competition, played by Dennis Farina and Cheryl Hines.