Hooten & The Kings? (or TV land gets it right)
It's rare to be jolted from the sofa in amazement while watching television on a Friday night. Even more so when the cause of this electrification is a poker scene - in a primetime TV show no less. Yet there I was rubbing my eyes, trying to work out if we poker players had just been given a stylish nod by an industry prone to getting this stuff wrong.
It came in Episode 4 of Hooten & The Lady, a kind of light-hearted Indiana Jones-style romp around the world in eight weekly adventures, created by Red Planet Pictures and shown on Sky television.
The main protagonists are Hooten (Michael Landes) and "The Lady" (Ophelia Lovibond), the kind of swashbuckling characters we all pretend to be when nobody is looking, and when the biggest threat to our safety is a fifth beer, or stubbing your toe in the dark while trying to find the remote. Each episode puts them somewhere picturesque and dangerous with plenty of lost tombs, rope bridges, crocodiles, explosions, and comic book bad guys along the way.
The scene came at the end of an episode with a theme of IOUs, which resulted in Hooten facing death for an unpaid IOU; accidentally drinking poisoned tea and needing to find an ancient scroll in Bhutan in exchange for the antidote; before he writes out one last IOU to cover his raise with pocket aces. No clumsy explanations of hand values; you either knew what was going on or didn't. Would Hooten meet a happy ending, or find himself in big trouble once more?
As poker players, seeing the game manhandled on the big (and small) screen is all too familiar. Efforts to look serious and authentic inevitably prove comical; at least to the aficionado (the lay person barely flinches) who can spot a string bet as fast as an improbable straight flush. But this hand, for the most part, had a little more nuance as well as humour, complementing the plot along with anyone with enough poker nous to know the nuts when they see them.
First Hooten looked down at aces. Then the bad guy, Hidalgo, looked down at kings - two hands everyone can understand. Hidalgo is first to act and bets $50,000 in shiny gold coins with an accent you'd expect from a bad guy.
"I see your fifty thousand..." replies Hooten (okay, we'll excuse this string bet), "and I'll raise you another fifty thousand".
He promptly writes this out as an IOU, the same promise that got him into trouble at the start of the episode, and proclaims with a smile that he's "good for it". They laugh, each convinced of their invincibility, as the camera slowly pulls away, just in time for those of us who haven't already turned over for the news headlines to see Hidalgo's moll deal the flop - the ace in the window is very clear, and a nice touch, but... are those two kings on the flop?
I nearly stubbed my toe on a fourth beer can as I jumped up to get a closer look at the screen. So the bad guy just flopped quads?
Alright, so it doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things. It's just a fun way to close off the story and everything will be back to normal at the start of Episode 5 tomorrow night. What's more whether you spotted this little detail, or more likely blinked and missed it, it won't change your enjoyment.
But having been prepared for the usual anachronisms it was instead subtlety (and Hidalgo) that won the day, with a flop good enough to make at least one poker fan get up from the sofa and watch the scene again to make sure it wasn't just an accident in production.
Instead it was a rare and clever hand, presented without explanation, with a nod to poker players everywhere.
Nice hand, Red Planet Pictures. GG.
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Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog. Follow him on Twitter: @StephenBartley.