“I’m 57 and I’m a gambler”, Jake Foley wearily announced.

The young woman pressed on. “Is that for real? You’re a gambler? Like on sports, horses, greyhounds, that kind of thing?”

As if he’d been asked about a death in the family, Foley looked withdrawn and he paused.

“No. I play poker.”

This is one of the opening scenes of Poker Face, a 2022 film directed by and starring Russell Crowe, and too many other actors to fit into this sentence.

Curious and starved of new poker movies, we hit play.

The Condensed Plot of the Poker Face Movie

The movie starts off by reminding us that this is a poker movie. As a young Australian, Jake Foley beats the local bully in a game of 5-Card Draw and is forced to jump a 20-foot waterfall to escape.

(From left to right) The younger versions of Jake Foley, Andrew (RZA), Alex, Paul, and Michael
  • A getaway and a guru.

Fast forward at least 30 or 40 years. Over a bit of Rolls Royce propaganda, Foley tells us he loves all kinds of poker, including 5-Card Draw, 7-Card Stud, Texas Holdem, Omaha, Razz, Badugi, Chinese Poker, and even 2-7 Triple-Draw. It’s almost like he copied PokerStars’ list of poker formats.

Then Foley reveals that he helped create the “world’s first online poker system” in 1994.

Jake throws us a plot twist in the next sentence. “By restructuring the code from cards to countries, he retooled the program into a saleable military-grade surveillance software. We called it Riffle.”

It seems he's has done quite well from this venture.

Before explaining how an online poker site could spy on an entire population, Foley is out of the Rolls Royce and trekking into the woods.

He’s on a psychedelic retreat to get over his wife’s tragic passing. As a bonus, he gets some takeaway drugs from the guru as he leaves. This turns out to be scopolamine.

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  • Slowly building a plot.

During his day, talk of putting his assets into a trust gets Foley worked up. It’s clear that a plan is in place and something huge is being organized. Stressed, he looks at his new goodie bag, filled with a couple of scopolamine vials.

Then the old poker gang meets up. His friends from the cliffside poker game, who all seem to be doing well, get together in the same hotel. Instead of coming down to meet them like a normal person, Jake Foley tells his friends to drive 90 minutes to a seaside mansion.

The trio take a Maybach, Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead, and a Bentley Mulsanne for the journey. Foley takes a helicopter and flies overhead like a Bond villain.

There’s a lot of tension as the evening begins. Foley prepares wine glasses and starts to set up a private Texas Holdem game for 5 players. Each of his friends seems anxious and one of them (Michael) even hides a gun in his waistband before the game.

Paul is on the left and Alex is on the right
  • A friendly multi-million dollar home game.

“The cars are yours, or $5,000,000 in chips.”

Jake Foley offers his three friends a chance to take the cars they came in or play for $5 million in chips. The game is Texas Holdem, winner takes all, meaning that one person walks with $25 million in total, and the rest, with nothing.

And, since Foley is kind enough to put up the $5 million for each player, this would be the largest freeroll in history.

With Jake Foley, Alex, Michael, Paul, and Jake’s assistant, Sam, the 5-handed game starts.

On the hillside, robbers scope out Foley’s home, targeting his world-class art collection.

  • A big sweat in the first hand of the night.

After a multiway flop, we get what we came for – some high-stakes poker. The blinds are $25,000/$50,000, and the rivals in this hand both hold the same cards.

Michael has and Foley has .

The flop is and it looks like Michael will avoid the chop pot. The turn gives two players the nut straight, plus flush draws. We ran this through our online poker odds calculator to see that both players are 20.45% to win, but are more likely to chop (draw).

Foley and Michael get all of the chips in, only to chop on a river.

Still, it’s nice to see a poker movie avoid the temptation to show another straight flush.

Now we’re treated to a montage of contextless stories, laughter, and sweaty faces.

Jake Foley's assistant, Sam
  • Tough news roughly delivered.

Like any caring father would, Foley tells his daughter about his pancreatic cancer diagnosis by leaving some folders laying around at home.

RZA arrives and tells the attendees he’s been tracking them with Riffle (without getting specific). Not to be outdone, Foley reveals that he poisoned his childhood friends by smearing scopolamine on their glasses. He tells them that their deaths are near.

It must be pointed out that scopolamine is probably not going to kill anyone from being smeared on wine glasses. It's actually prescribed in some cases for sea sickness and nausea, even through skin transfusion.

Thinking the end is near, the friends spill their sins to Foley.

Michael is an alcoholic on the verge of suicide, Paul is completely broke, and Alex has a baby with Foley’s wife.

It's a surprising range, even for poker players.

But Jake then reveals it was just a prank and nobody is going to die. He just wanted them to feel like he does, with his terminal cancer diagnosis.

They would be annoyed, but his poker face through the ruse was quite impressive.

  • A robbery is in progress.

Twist after twist. The robbers are now inside the building, doing their art shopping. The poker players see this and hide out in the fortified security room.

The leader of the thieving trio has a personal score to settle with Jake. Still, he starts with a GTO approach to the robbery and prioritizes the valuable paintings.

Then, Jake’s wife and daughter come in and instantly become hostages.

Over the next few minutes, Jake and his crew of poker players manage to take back control, with one painting blasted in the process. It was Paul Cézanne's masterpiece and one of just five in the coveted series.

The villain shoots up a painting from The Card Players series

The leader of the robbers dies in an eye-rolling manner and we fast forward to the ending of the Poker Face movie.

The first poker face in the history of painting, a record price of $250 million, a postage stamp in memory of the perfect crime and other facts about Paul Cezanne and his gamblers.

  • Assets divided and poker forgotten.

We never get to see Jake Foley again, though we do see his assets get divided among charities and foundations, including those that help families affected by gambling addiction.

Each of his friends gets $50 million, even the one who slept with his wife. His daughter gets the remainder of his estate.

Russell Crowe narrates solemnly over the last couple of minutes, saying many forgettable things, including telling his friends not to be “glass half empty or half full people”.

The Poker Face Movie Forgot About Poker

The movie is called Poker Face. The main character introduces himself as a poker player. The movie poster features poker tables and playing cards. It’s heavily implied by the trailer that poker is a central theme.

But it isn’t.

By minute 45, Poker Face has all but forgotten about poker. It’s never mentioned after that, never shown, and only vaguely referenced. Over 90 minutes, viewers are treated to a single hand of poker.

When it gets to showdown, this movie is a bit of a bluff. Poker is merely a marketing tool, easily replaced by Blackjack or any other casino game. It’s a thinly veiled attempt to paint some good ol’ Texas Holdem mystique into the film.

As predictable as the plot was, we were thankful that no straight flushes were shown. Hollywood’s fetish for the ultimate hand combinations wasn’t indulged in the Poker Face film. Still, this is barely a redeeming quality. Others include the production quality, stunning sets, and synergistic cast.

But even if you aren’t a poker player, this movie isn’t going to score very highly. Poker Face tries desperately to build suspense and engage the viewer, but it never raises the stakes convincingly. The visuals are there, but not enough substance, and surely not enough poker. Viewers could have a similar experience watching any movie with Jason Statham.

If the movie left you desperate for a poker home game of your own, why not host it online? Plenty of sites will let you start poker cash games or tournaments using their software, for free chips or real money. 888poker, partypoker, and PokerStars are the best platforms for these private poker games with friends.

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What Do Movie Critics Say About Poker Face?

Critics deemed Poker Face acceptable at best, but often, their words weren’t too kind.

Rotten Tomatoes: 31 out of 34 critics deemed Poker Face rotten.

IMDB (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt14714980/ratings/?ref_=tt_ov_rt): Over 13,000 users gave Poker Face a score of 5.2/10.

Collider on MetaCritic wrote: Poker Face constantly tries to raise the bet and bring new elements to the table, but you quickly realize it’s all a bluff. It doesn’t know how to build tension and anticipation and does no effort to work on its characters. It also doesn’t know how to convey a thrilling poker game, and after stumbling through completely disposable plot points, it tries to wrap its story up with life lessons that are as generic as the movie itself.