WSOP Main Event: Max Shapiro Goes to the Movies

by Max Shapiro

With the year 2006 being all things poker, it's no wonder that so many poker movies are coming out. There are nearly as many of them in the works as there are entrants in this year's main event. A few months ago I watched a preview of a film called All In, featuring Louis Gossett Jr. It's about a young woman named "Ace" who learns how to play from her father, and pays her way through medical school by playing poker.

Interesting premise. I can just see it now. Doctor Ace is doing a heart transplant while simultaneously playing a $30 sit and go tournament -- at the PokerStars site, of course. Just as the critical moment in the surgery arrives, she hands the scalpel to a nurse and says, "You take over for a minute, Marge, I'm in a big hand right now."

Then, of course, there's the long-awaited flick, Lucky You, which opens in September starring Drew Barrymore and Robert Duvall, with a lot of big-name players in bit parts. Some film clips were shown during the WSOP press conference on Friday, with Miss Barrymore on hand to answer questions. From what I saw of it, it looks like a realistic poker movie. Of course, there's a scene where a player goes in for all his chips and a pawn ticket for his wife's wedding ring, as I recall, and Duvall matches his chips and throws in his watch as well. Well, it is a movie, after all.

Also, a few days ago a documentary about life on the poker tournament trail called No Limit: A Search for the American Dream, premiered at the Palms here in Vegas. It features producer Susan Genard as one of two single parents who document their eight-month odyssey on the high-stakes poker tournament trail. A whole slew of top pros have roles in it. I was invited, but was unable to make the showing. It was only afterwards that I learned that I was in the movie! I guess I was interviewed or something a couple of years ago, though I honestly can't remember the shooting, or what I said. But people who saw it told me that I looked and sounded great in my 15-second spot. Well, of course. I'm a veteran actor. When National Lampoon filmed three strip poker productions at a nude beach resort in Jamaica a couple of years ago, my sweetie, Barbara Enright, was hired as technical adviser to teach the models how to play poker. (Kato Kaelin, the O.J. Simpson trial houseguest guy, was the comedy star.) I went along for the ride and ended up with a small comedy bit in which I get annoyed and push a young hottie into the pool when she invites me to have sex with her. (Obviously, a work of fiction.) Anyway, I was elated to be in No Limit, until somebody informed me that I was identified in the film as Max Stern. I don't know why people are always confusing me with the good doctor. I'm much better looking than he is. Anyway, Genard (herself a talented tournament player with several final tables to her credit) told me she'll fix the mistake.

Yet another poker film is in the works. This one is called Deal and will star Burt Reynolds as an ex-gambler who teaches a hot-shot college student how to play the player rather than just the cards. They later have a falling out and end up competing against each other in the World Series. Deal is being produced by magician/poker player/film exec Scott Lazar, who finished sixth in last year's WSOP main event, taking home $1.5 million. He tried to get Reynolds to make an appearance at the WSOP this year, but the actor was unable to.

As if that weren't enough movies about poker, I was walking through the Gaming Expo when a screenwriter/producer named Charles Polizzi handed me the script for a movie called Final Table and asked me to give him my opinion of it. The movie, he said, will be produced by Martin Ransohoff Productions. Ransohoff is perhaps best known for making The Cincinnati Kid. The script is about a top woman poker player named Ruth who retires from the game to do missionary work with her husband in Mexico, then later returns to action and ends up winning the WSOP's championship event. Well, why not? If Geena Davis could be president, why not a lady as World Series champ? Polizzi said he wanted to meet with Barbara next month. Will she be the one winning the big one, in the movie and/or real life? Who knows? She's still the only female to make the main event final table. I can just see it now: "Max, Max, I won the championship! Pack your bags!" "Wow! Where are we going?" "You're not going anywhere. You're moving out."

Well, see you at the movies.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in World Series of Poker