Poker has long transcended the casino and embedded itself into every aspect of our culture. We see poker pop up in books, songs, movies, television shows and you can even fire up a poker game in “Red Dead Redemption” and other video games.
Legendary poker movies like “Rounders” have even gone on to inspire thousands of players to pick up the game. Some movies like “Runner Runner” are less inspiring and a lot of scenes, like the straight flush over four-of-a-kind over two full houses scene from “Casino Royale,” defy all laws of probabilities.
But recently we saw a poker scene in the new Netflix show “Medical Police” that was so ridiculously and refreshingly absurd that we had to break down the scene with an expert.
Few people have studied and explored the intersection of poker and pop culture more than Martin Harris.
Harris is the author of “Poker & Pop Culture: Telling the Story of America’s Favorite Card Game” and teaches a class on poker in American film and culture at the University of North Carolina. Here’s what he had to say:
1) Where does this scene rank for you in terms of best poker scene in a movie or television?
Not too highly, I’m afraid. It’s funny, no doubt, and follows a long tradition of obviously made-up, farcical poker variants. Usually in these scenes the humor comes from one player earnestly trying to follow the rules and genuinely compete when there’s no hope of doing so, although here both players seem to know all of the outrageously arcane details of the game. I laughed, but the joke is made early on and the scene probably goes on too long for it to rank as an especially good comic poker scene. Still, bonus points for calling the game “deuce-to-nines double draw,” which almost sounds like it could be a thing.
2) What rules were you able to discern from 2-9 Double Draw?
The game actually seemed more like gin rummy than poker. Or 52-card pickup.
3) What do you think is the optimal strategy for 2-9 Double Draw?
Not to play? Being able to hold 40 or 50 cards in your hand at once appears to be a useful skill. As far as strategy goes, knowing just when to call “wall-to-wall, no sunshine,” “spinning triplets, no stash,” and the like seems crucial.
4) Which real-life player do you think would be the best 2-9 Double Draw player?
Robert Campbell. He possesses the right combination of mixed-game prowess and comic timing to be strong. His Pokemon background has to be relevant here as well.
5) Any chance we’ll see 2-9 Double Draw as a bracelet event any time soon?
Probably. The WSOP will soon be cruising past 100 bracelet events per year and will need to add variants.
6) Where does Dr. Owen Maestro rank among fictional poker players?
Pretty far down the list, although coming up with jeepers and creepers on the final hand was something.
7) Any other comments or notes on the scene?
A couple. Check out James Thurber’s 1932 short story “Everything Is Wild” for a hilarious precursor in which a player in a dealer’s choice game calls “Soap-in-Your-Eye” aka “Kick-in-the-Pants.” Also, that fleeting glance of the 28 of clubs in Dr. Maestro’s hand reminded me of Bugs Bunny standing on one card in a game of blackjack and then turning over the 21 of hearts in the 1959 short Bonanza Bunny.
If you want to check out the scene yourself, it’s about 13 minutes 30 seconds into episode 5 of “Medical Police” on Netflix. If you want to check out Harris’s book on poker and pop culture, it’s available on Amazon.