Poker in TV Crime dramas

WHEN is it appropriate to reference a high-stakes poker game in a TV series? When the stakes are high, of course. While there are certainly alternative effective methods to employ when trying to convey a serious sense of having it all on the line, none bring to the felt a more sexy and glamorous lifestyle inherent to the subject matter than poker. Frame by frame, draw by draw, and flop by flop, each part of a high stakes poker scene keeps the audience engaged in the goings-on and potentially up to speed with character interactions that are more complex than meets the eye in traditionally filmed dialogue scenes.
Here are some shows that have dedicated episodes to the lifestyle and common hardships of gambling with personal problems at stake, which use the above tactics in various ways to garner audience attention. How do they keep in step with the lifestyle and feel of a poker game? Let’s take a look.

Hustle: Old Acquaintance

This episode of Hustle has Stacie’s (Jaime Murray) estranged husband Jake (Max Beesley) making an appearance in the casino. It follows that he is to be the gang’s next mark. As the competition dwindles down, Jake beats the gang and walks out with Stacie in tow. As far as the poker and ensuing bets are concerned, if you have trouble figuring out how the hands are working here, PartyPoker offers a hand ranking that’s easy to follow. The episode leaves off with the gang having lost more in their bet than originally thought, it seems, as Stacie leaves with Jake… But does Stacie really dump the gang for love, or is there a further twist on the last deal?

CSI: Las Vegas: Revenge is Best Served Cold

In this episode of the widely acclaimed CSI, a poker player falls dead during a high stakes game. This episode creatively twists in a revenge plot for a cheating mistake at a WSOP event-like tournament. Funnily enough, one of the bigs makes an appearance in this episode, with Tom Schneider making a silent cameo as a dealer and also served as the technical director for the poker scenes. Using a playing card as a poker weapon was a draw for the episode, bringing in Chris ‘Jesus’ Ferguson’s card-throwing techniques to serve as the MO of the murderer.

Luck: Both Hands on the Wheel

Character Jerry (Jason Gedrick) has a lot to lose in this episode of the series Luck. Having yet to totally lose out on the felt, Jerry has a little money tucked away for this situation. Playing against recurring nemesis Leo (Dennis Dun) proves to be unwise in this go-round, as Leo has Jerry seemingly by the neck, leading him to fold with a winning hand and to play aggressively when he should have been on the defence, more or less. Jerry soon agrees to move this high-stakes game to a secluded room in Leo’s restaurant, which proves to be an unwell end for Jerry, even if dealer Naomi does have a bit of a thing for the self-destructive gambler. Luck in this episode raises the stakes in the rivalry between Jerry and Leo through the game of poker, and the show uses the game to build a down-and-out Jerry, whose expertise is constantly shown as better left to the horse track. But he has a dream, right?
Using the tenets of poker to deepen characters and thicken plot lines proves profitable for TV series, regardless of genre. Getting familiar with hand rankings and rules can be useful to ensure your understanding of the underlying themes made apparent by card hands, betting, and winning. Keep yourself poker-informed to catch the references and deeper meanings behind poker-related plot points.

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Hustle – the final con

Tonight is the final scam for Mickey Bricks and the gang. The familiar face of former team member Stacie Monroe – aka actress Jaime Murray – is back in the frame for what she calls ‘the biggest con they’ve ever done, the con to end all cons. It’s been five years since I was last on the show and within five minutes they were teasing me as if it was yesterday. They’ve known me since I was 24 and so treat me like a little kid, which I love! Matt Di Angelo is so funny and cheeky, he’s such a clown. He made me giggle the whole time and I told him he looks like a young Jude Law, which he loved!’ Since she left, Jaime has been Stateside in shows such as Dexter, Warehouse 13 and Ringer.

As for Adrian ‘Mickey Bricks’ Lester, he nominates his and Marc Warren’s naked dash across Trafalgar as his fave moment from the eight series. He says, ‘As Marc Warren said, how many people can say I’ve run through Trafalgar Square naked! And I did it eight times! It’s right up there with playing Hamlet. It could only work in a show like this because it was tongue in cheek, entertaining and silly but also poignant. It’s one of my favourite episodes because it had the perfect balance of character, disappointment, desire, jeopardy, fun, skill and clever plotting.

‘Another of my favourite sequences is where I had to do the magician’s trick of hiding the pound coin, in Episode 1 series 5. I reached to the floor with nothing in my hands and then made it appear in my palm. Then the pick-pocketing… knocking over the wine, going in for the wallet and removing the credit card with one hand, close and replace the wallet, pocket the credit card and then saying goodbye with the man’s car keys under my hat. Those sequences have been among my favourites.’

Will the gang go out in a shower of money, or a hail of bullets?

Hustle is on tonight on BBC1 at 9pm

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