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All-In: The Poker Movie Review

Posted at 22:35 2012-03-28

The excellent Rich Ryan from our friends at Pokernews wrote this little review of the new All in: The Poker Movie

Producing and directing a documentary is difficult. It’s easy to find subjects, shoot interviews, and compile stock footage, but once you hit the editing room, that’s when the challenge arrives. When producing a documentary, nothing is worse than having a major event occur after you’ve finished your primary shooting, and that’s exactly what happened to producer-director Douglas Tirola’s All In: The Poker Movie.

The opening sequence of the movie is very artistic and very visually appealing. Tirola skillfully grouped shots of modern-day poker tournaments with both classic Hollywood gambling scenes and stock footage from old casinos and riverboats. The link between the American persona and the game of poker is forged from the onset, and it lingers throughout the movie as one of the main themes. One of the most interesting anecdotes comes from World Series of Poker Media Director Nolan Dalla — who is one of the greatest, most enthusiastic storytellers in the industry. It’s about the influence of World War II. During the war, playing cards were distributed among American troops, and during downtime there wasn’t much else to do other than play cards and smoke cigarettes. Well, when the war ended and many of the returning soldiers began running weekly card games, the game spread like wildfire.

I was very pleased that there wasn’t a single narrator; rather a chorus of different voices carrying the story. That’s poker in a nutshell — as long as you can pony up the money, you can play. And as long as you’re playing, your voice matters. You’re an equal to everybody at the table. The mixture of voices gave the story both great context and, are you ready for this — variance. Non-poker fans wouldn’t be moved if a bunch of professional players bragged about how much money they won after the boom, so the movie offers perspective from television producers, marketers, legislators, historians, writers, and more.

Storytelling isn’t just about facts and numbers, however, so Tirola decided to use the ultimate poker protagonist to drive the point home: Chris Moneymaker. Tirola juxtaposes the growth of poker in America with Moneymaker’s story of desperation and degenerate sports gambling, and the two stories climax when Moneymaker wins the 2003 WSOP Main Event. However, the high from the Moneymaker effect doesn’t last long, and after a brief discussion about the benefits of online poker, Black Friday is introduced.

The sequence about Black Friday is short, but it’s candid. There is no conclusion to the issue, because we’re still searching for conclusions as you read this. I’m sure Black Friday threw a huge wrench into Tirola’s movie, forcing him to change much of it in the eleventh hour, but that’s documentary-making in a nutshell.

I would highly recommend All In: The Poker Movie to any poker fan. You’ll learn a lot, you’ll have some laughs, and, for once, you’ll see the game we love in a positive light.

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