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Poker Hands Analyzed from Billions and High Roller Movie

Popular entertainment naturally has a way of over-dramatizing poker for the masses. The directors just don't seem to trust that the average person will find real poker as entertaining as all of us in the poker community do. With that said, that doesn't mean that there is nothing instructional to learn from these hands! I recently analyzed two of my favorite poker scenes: One came from season 2 of Billions and the other is from High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story. Check out the videos here:

Billions Poker Hand: Don't Try This at Home!

Key Takeaway: Against the average poker opponent, making Taylor's (or Stu Ungar's) turn call with 9To is lighting money on fire. But if you do end up at the river here, the hero call is actually not as insane as it looks given how polarized Krakow's all-in range is. Even still, you'll have many better hands to call with and can let this one go in the absence of a complete soul read. Thankfully for entertainment purposes, Taylor (like Stu Ungar) did in fact have a soul read, and knowing when to trust your instincts is as valuable of a skill as there is in poker.

High Roller Poker Hand: Why You Should NEVER Use Reverse Tells in Poker!

Key Takeaway: Gimmicks like showing a card, clever wordplay, and feigning confidence or nervousness make for great cinema but are habits that should be unlearned as you move up in stakes. The reality is that reverse tells simply become direct tells once an observant opponent has enough data on you to correlate your behavior with strength or weakness. It is better to simply do the same routine hand after hand with equanimity to not reveal any information. Also, if you have any respect for money, please do not open 27o, call a 3-bet with it, and try to bluff a recreational player off an overpair on an innocuous board!

The Final Verdict on Entertainment Poker

Ultimately, poker movies and shows can be instructive in teaching us what not to do. These plays worked out for the characters involved, but I suspect most people who try to imitate them will not have the same luck. Instead, as Michael Jordan said, "Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise."

If you want to learn fundamentally sound strategies rather than short-lived gimmicks, contact Joel Wald today at or book a free 30-minute Zoom call to discuss how PTO Poker can help you achieve your poker goals!


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