Poker Filmmaking

Bringing a Variety of Skills to the Table

Variety of Poker Skills"The summer that had begun so long ago had ended, and another taken its place, and a fall, and Boo Radley had come out." -- To Kill a Mockingbird

Golf and sportsbetting are the two most common hobbies for poker players. Not too far behind though are movies. Poker players like movies. I suppose this is because most poker players have vivid imaginations. (Bad poker players have no imagination.) Previously I wrote about how good poker and good moviemaking have solid structure in common. Quality actions have a cohesive beginning, middle and end.

But that isn't the end of the parallels between poker and movies. Celebrity poker is was a bit of a rage for awhile. Several celebrities even semi-regularly play in major tournaments. One of the best celebrity players was Ben Affleck, and I don't think it is a coincidence that Affleck is a filmmaker (writer, actor, producer) rather than just an actor. Filmmakers must consider the whole of a project, not just the one aspect of the bigger picture that they are involved in. (In 2004, Affleck won the California State Poker Championship No Limit tournament, and its $356,000 first prize.)

If you just look at the pieces separately, moviemaking might make no sense at all. What does a lighting technician have to do with a dialogue coach? What is the bond between gaffers and costumers? But while these things may not seem to directly relate to each other, they must work to combine to create a satisfying whole. In fact, the electrician and the makeup artists are working together. They have a common purpose: to make a successful film. They do not need to directly interact, or even see each other, to cooperate in that joint venture.

Poker, as moneymaking endeavor, likewise has many dissimilar aspects that are seemingly unrelated but actually are working together. Winning poker is about making money over a career. You can win and lose hands/days/tournaments, but those results are all just details in a much bigger "picture". And, these details exist among an even larger sea of details like study, game selection, bankroll management, self-reflection, traveling, self-control, etc.

One of the all-time great movies is To Kill a Mockingbird. Gregory Peck stars as Atticus Finch, a Depression-era single parent Southern lawyer. The American Film Institute named Atticus Finch the #1 film hero of the first 100 years of movies. To say the least, that is saying a lot -- not Indiana Jones, not James Bond, but Atticus Finch. Okay, so how is he a hero? What does he do, or even, what is To Kill a Mockingbird about?

The answers to those questions are actually complex to describe -- but if you see the movie, you just know why it is a great film and Atticus is a great hero. The movie seems to be about several things, which all seem mildly important at the time, but when taken together, taken as a whole, the sum of the parts adds up to more than immediately meets the eye. The filmmakers (from Harper Lee's novel) took a variety of apparently marginally related story elements and bound them together in a way that works superbly.

A successful poker career should resemble To Kill a Mockingbird. Each aspect of our poker careers is not, or should not be, one of a series of random acts. Even though some things will appear disjointed, the goal is to make a satisfying whole of disparate elements. Sometimes the interaction of elements is obvious, like getting a good night's sleep before a tournament so you are well rested and able to play for twelve or more hours while mentally sharp. In your poker career, you should do things for a purpose. The common goal of being a winning player should flow through all the choices you make.

But it is even more than that. To raise our games to the next level (and the next and the next) requires that we pay attention to all the details in our poker lives. Everything we do relates to everything else we do.

Hard as it is for some people to accept, most of our poker career takes place away from the poker table. If you spend a year building a bankroll, and then blow it one night on the crap table, you are a lousy poker player. If you excel in most aspects of poker, but you completely ignore game selection, you will eventually fail. These examples are not hard to see. Some leaks are obvious gushers.

But I'm not primarily talking about leaks here. I'm talking about, like To Kill a Mockingbird, bringing together a variety of assets to create something amazingly valuable. The more diverse, solid, quality assets you can bring to your overall game, the greater a masterpiece you can create.

Also see Poker Experts, Poker Structure and Sherlock Holmes on Poker