Poker is more popular than it has ever been. That has a lot to do with the poker playing opportunities the internet has brought about over recent years. In fact, an estimated 120 million people play poker online, half of whom reside in the US. 

That’s well and good, but the majority of novice players have learned most of what they know about playing poker from what they’ve seen in the movies. On the face of it, that sounds like a recipe for disaster – a little like basing your driving on what you’ve seen in the Fast and Furious franchise. Still, life imitates art and vice versa. If you are selective in your takeaways, there are some valuable nuggets of strategy tucked away in some of Hollywood’s most famous poker scenes. 

The Sting – Image matters

There’s plenty to be said in favor of online poker platforms, from their instant availability to the financial advantages of blockchain poker sites for US poker players. The flip side is that they don’t allow you to study your opponent and to be studied. People talk about reading the other players, but just as important is the image you project. In The Sting, Paul Newman gives a masterclass. His disheveled appearance and boorish behavior are all an act to make the other players underestimate him, and it works out like a charm. 

Casino Royale – Play the long game

Granted, you won’t ever be playing for a $120 million pot, but the basic principles that Bond adopts against Le Chiffre in the most famous poker scene of them all can be applied to any game. Bond suffers an early loss, and even the likes of Felix Leiter and Vesper Lynd, who are looking on, expect him to cut his losses. But Bond knows how to manage his bankroll and puts faith in his ability to outplay his opponent in the long game. 

Rounders – brush up on the lingo

Poker has its own language. It’s not hard to learn the couple of dozen terms, and doing so can be the difference between looking like a novice and a pro. Remember, image matters! Rounders is the perfect movie to watch if you need a few reminders of poker lingo. In fact, it has been praised by pros as giving one of the most realistic depictions of real-life poker, so is well worth a look for more general tips on the live game too, especially if you have gained most of your playing experience online. 

Cool Hand Luke – the art of the bluff

We finish back where we started, with Paul Newman proving that his is surely the greatest poker face ever to grace the big screen. Bluffing is an art that people love to talk about but that few can truly master. Newman’s character is a true master, and demonstrates that it all comes down to consistency in manner. Whether raising the bet, taking up a card or even throwing in his hand, he remains completely unreadable.