Once Upon a Time: When I Played Poker In a Movie!
Isabelle Mercier returns for another edition of Once Upon A Time. Last week she recalled the worst Bad Beat of her career. This time the story is slightly more positive and it involves New Orleans and Burt Reynolds!
In 2006, I was on top. I had found my cruising speed as a professional player for two years and traveling the world to play the biggest tournaments was super stimulating.
I was in high demand at the time, as there were very few to be sponsored then and I was the only girl in the Pokerstars team. Indeed, Vanessa, Vicky, Liv, and others had not yet joined us (yes, that makes me a real dinosaur).
Obviously, it aroused curiosity and it got me to do dozens of poker magazine covers, run ads, participate in radio and TV shows, and even to have to host conferences. That was really fun.
I did it in Las Vegas where I had to coach about thirty Canadian bankers by explaining the basics of the Hold’em strategy to them. If you didn’t know that bankers are good bluffers, you’ve been warned …
A game I never played before: acting!
I had touched a lot of disciplines, but there was one that I had never tackled, and for good reason, it was cinema.
You don’t improvise yourself as an actor, nor did I have any inclination in that regard, but luck (or rather my sponsor at the time) made me play in a film. Well, maybe “playing” is a big word.
Let’s say I made an appearance there. The shoot was in New Orleans, and I even had my own little dressing room with a red star on it and my name handwritten.
The seventh art “masterpiece” in question is called “Deal”, directed by Gil Cates Jr. and starring Burt Reynolds. You can check its IMDB page here.
What was the movie about?
I’ll pitch you the script. It’s the story of a former poker champion, Burt Reynolds, who sees a young player on TV in a tournament final. Knowing that the youngster would need a helping hand to be really good, the old man approaches him, tries to give him confidence.
This is the opportunity for him to make his comeback. There’s also a prostitute story, and after a few tangles, they end up at a final table where – and this is where I come in – I bust out… after a hand against Burt.
Burt is a hell of a player since he also subsequently eliminates everyone else from the table.
Is it a movie worth watching?
On the cinematographic level, we are not on the jewel. Did you see Rounders? Okay, well you turn around and go 200 km in the other direction.
In the director’s defense, poker was not yet as popular as it is now and although Moneymaker had arrived a few years earlier and had started to draw the general public to the tables, there was still a lot of mystery surrounding the game and a very low general level.
No pro advising on Twitch, no solvers, no online training, and very few accessible poker videos. Imagine, YouTube had only been around for two years!
My “big moment” in cinema
In short, here is the poker “big moment” of the film. I will quickly pass on my performance. I have to admit, frankly, it’s really, really hard to act out, even playing your own part, and it’s super impressive doing it in front of a team of 30 people watching you with lots of lenses around.
Pokerface at a live table, easy! A poker face in front of everyone, I was ridiculous.
Burt Reynolds: a genius actor but not a genius poker player
However, back to Burt who, unlike his character, didn’t really understand the game. Engine…. It turns… action!
Tommy Vinson (Burt Reynolds) has pocket aces. We are before the flop. You don’t have to be a genius to know you’re in great shape. One guy goes all-in. Any player in Tommy’s place would obviously jump to the ceiling, happy to pay instantly, but… Burt was an actor.
And an actor plays… even with aces in his hand. So instead of insta-calling, he goes into the tank, pulls out his poker face, stares at his opponent, and all the cinema… Slow Roll you say to yourself? Not even!
He just wouldn’t understand he had to insta-call! We redid the take several times, we tried to explain to him that it didn’t make sense for a pro player to hesitate like that with aces, that he should rather jump out of joy, or in any case pay immediately without “doing some Hollywood” as they say.
Still, Burt, whose memory I otherwise salute here, still took a break before finally paying… death in the soul.
Meet me at the tables on CoinPoker to practice your skills and enjoy the action. Open yourself a CoinPoker account today.
Isabelle “No Mercy” Mercier
WPT Winner & OFC “Progressive” World Champion