Film Review: All In: The Poker Movie
We recently screened the poker documentary All In: The Poker Movie
. Here are some takeaway thoughts from the film:
- All In did a great job making the game of poker the hero of the film. As a poker player, it was hard not to feel a sense of pride watching the film. The filmmakers did a great job making poker seem sexy.
- Matt Damon gave an impressive interview for the film. He was on point in his understanding of the modern game of poker from everything to the culture of online poker players to how Black Friday impacted the game. His presence in the film helped give the hero (poker) a lot of credibility.
- All In nailed the story of Chris Moneymaker whose story was intertwined throughout the film. The penultimate segment from the film was a montage of Moneymaker's journey into and through the 2003 World Series of Poker. For anyone who got into poker in part because of the "Moneymaker effect", it can be easy to forget how exciting that time was. All In did a great job conveying the magnitude of what it meant for an online qualifier to show up in Vegas and win millions with a nation watching. Moreover, credit is owed to Moneymaker himself for giving a very candid and honest picture of his life as a degenerate gambler leading up to his 2003 WSOP victory.
- An aspect of the film which went under-emphasized, which as a result left a market open for another poker documentary, Bet Raise Fold, to come into creation, is the story of the culture of online poker. All In briefly touched on the lives of successful online poker players. However, it would have been nice if this element of poker culture had been more expansive by including more of the story from the likes of Tom Dwan and others.
- The filmmakers did a great job incorporating the surprise that was Black Friday into the film. The opening scene of the film is a montage of poker pros somberly reflecting on where they were when they found out the U.S. government shut down online poker. One great quote from Matt Damon smeared egg on the face of the U.S. government by likening taking away poker to taking away baseball.
- All In concluded by focusing on how Black Friday upended the poker world as well as the downfall of Full Tilt. It was important for the film to touch on some of the aspects of the Full Tilt "ponzi scheme" in order to rightly cast a shadow over Howard Lederer who throughout the film had been painted as a hero and featured interviewee. In one key scene obviously shot prior to Black Friday, Lederer pats himself on the back for having created Full Tilt Poker as it is the only online poker room created and ran by poker players themselves. Of course, this was ultimately Full Tilt's downfall: it was a company ran by a bunch of degenerate gamblers who were in over their heads and too cash-flush to care.
- Conspicuously absent from the film were any details from the UB cheating scandal and that company's post-Black Friday fallout. The filmmakers may have felt that the UB story was too complicated and disheartening to fit into their mostly pro-poker film. Indeed, the story of the UB cheating scandal deserves a film all to its own.
- One of the most memorable quotes in the film came in regards to Black Friday when someone said poker isn't going anywhere and that the game will continue to be played long after we're gone. That's a neat sentiment for a poker player: the realization that you're a part of a phenomenon that will go on longer than you will. Long live poker!