No love for the card game as indie filmmakers remain poker-faced
In the past few years, no other card game has seen as much development as poker has. In the course of a few years, it’s transformed from a backroom type of game to a widespread phenomenon, played in casinos, homes, and online.
Last year saw the U.S. breaking new ground as New Jersey legalized online poker, and courts in both New York and Amsterdam have ruled that the card game is a game of skill, not of chance. In the Amsterdam case, defense lawyer Peter Plasman argued that, “Poker has evolved greatly over the years. Many people play it today, textbooks have been published on the subject and experts acknowledge skill to a point where one can no longer speak of a game of chance”.
But even as poker undergoes great changes and enjoys immense popularity, it remains widely ignored by the independent film community. The industry is yet to see a film that illustrates the culture of poker players as well as “Freeze Out” did in 2005.
Unlike other poker movies that revolved around the high-stakes dealings in casinos, “Freeze Out” told the real story of poker’s greatest players: the everyman. After all, what really makes the poker world go round isn’t the heavy-hitting group of world champions, but the millions of players who play poker recreationally in the comfort of their own homes. As Lee Davy explains, the lives of most poker players involves “Vast periods of time sitting in your underwear, clicking buttons all day, only permeated by occasional trips to Monte Carlo, Las Vegas and Walsall.”
“Freeze Out” tells the story of a group of those poker players, who, like many other Average Joes, play a weekly poker game. The movie revolves around the protagonist’s attempts to get back at his friends for their constant ribbing as he trains in secret, engineers a winner-take-all Freeze Out, and raises the stakes. A Freeze Out is a tournament much like a “Sit-and-Go”, where, as Betfair explains, “All players buy in for the same amount and are then given an equal amount of chips. Play continues until only one player remains. Players are paid out on where they finish, not on the amount of chips they have at any given point.” Freeze Outs are the most common form of poker tournaments today, and this is perhaps why the movie seemed so authentic.
“Freeze Out” was a charming story that won various accolades for its production. It was produced with a budget of $30,000 and won “Best Feature Film” in the 2005 Westwood International Film Festival. Many critics claimed it was the most honest poker movie since Rounders, and it seems that it will remain that way.
It’s been almost a decade since “Freeze Out” was debuted, and the indie film industry is yet to follow up with another poignant retelling of what the poker industry and the game are about. It seems the movie’s success has psyched filmmakers out of the genre, and there’s no telling how long we’ll have to wait for another successful poker movie.