Poker King, the movie, is all about an heir to a major casino conglomerate who has no interest in taking over the family business after his father dies. The mean, nasty antagonist, Uno, who has been running the casino empire as the Company President is quite prepared for Jack Chan, the hero, to take over the business. He is nevertheless highly sceptical of Jack’s capabilities with respect to casino games and their art. He has justification, because Jack is rather useless as a consequence of being socially awkward and childish. In an effort to teach Jack about card play, and casinos generally, he enters Jack in a Texas Hold’Em tournament as this is the game Jack professes to be good at.
This is where this Hong Kong movie lifts itself out of the regular Honk Kong Cinema movie mire and becomes a rather intriguing and under-appreciated two hours and two minutes. Jack goes through the standard sporting movie hardships and drastic learning curve required in order to learn the art of Texas Hold’Em. Viewers get a good handle on poker strategy, as well as some of the ups and downs in a professional poker players’ life.
Builds to a Real Climax
Naturally, Poker King has a romantic interest and true to form, the hero becomes smitten with a girl at the casino who is going through a purple patch and winning vast amounts of money. Obviously the movie, albeit rather slowly, heads towards a dramatic climax where Jack and Uno are both playing in the championship tournament. The Hold’Em played is intense and for aficionados, Poker King, as a narrative, delivers on intense and fascinating poker play with betting decisions that become cliff-hanging moments. The film goes on to deliver a gripping feel for poker, and Texas Hold’Em in particular, as Jack and Uno end up being the final two players going head to head. Vying for the undisputed title of Poker King.
A Movie for Poker Appreciation
Poker King is directed by the La Lingerie team of Chan Hing-Ka and Janet Chun. The movie is unashamedly a gambling movie, and is festooned with Hold’Em poker play. The game events are some of the longest filmed poker scenes, and this is the aspect of the movie that is most appreciated by poker players and anyone watching Poker King from a poker appreciation perspective.
The Acting is Hong Kong Style
The rest of the movie is very much in line with Hong Kong cinematic expectations, with some overly dramatic acting, and much of the movie having a tongue-in-cheek feel to it. This is reminiscent of many of the older Hong Kong movies and the irreverence detracts a bit from the more dramatic poker scenes. The storyline does make sense, although with that level of simplicity, it still was rather unlikely to have taxed the writers too much.
For real poli poker aficionados, then, Poker King has accuracy and some dramatic, drawn-out moments of poker play that make this a movie to be enjoyed. Especially since the hero is notoriously weak at bluffing and it is learning this art that gives Poker King any credence at all. Mind you, perhaps anyone wanting to experience the opulence of Macau’s casinos close-up would enjoy it too.