Classic Movie Review – The Cincinnati Kid
If you were to ask poker player’s and fans of the game their favorite poker movie, many would probably tell you that Rounders was their favorite. Though the impact of poker in American Culture is based in part on that movie, it is not the first film to really explore the realities of the game. One of the first films to do this was the classic movie The Cincinnati Kid.
Steve McQueen plays Eric Stoner, also known as “The Kid”, in the film. The Kid is an ace stud poker player and is looking for bigger and better games. He plays in back room poker games at New Orleans hustling players and is about to go to Miami when “The Man” rolls into town looking for some action. “The Man” is played by Edward G. Robinson and is simply the best poker player around and has taken out many in his time.
Eventually, the two do eventually get together at the tables but the game is not on the level. The man dealing the game is actually stacking the game in The Kid’s favor because The Man had once beat him in poker. Though The Kid may come off as arrogant, he is not without honor. He does the honorable thing and has the dealer replaced by someone that he knows will deal the game honestly so he can find out if he is good enough to beat The Man.
The game proceeds for hours as Stud poker is a much slower paced game than the popular Texas Holdem. As the two battle, it appears that The Kid will actually take down The Man until a huge hand between the two where it appears that the aging gambler is trying to bluff his way out. In the end, it is revealed that The Man had the good and he ends up busting The Kid and actually puts him in debt to him by $5,000.
Watching The Cincinnati Kid will inevitably remind you of “The Hustler” which is a similar film with the exception of substitution pool for poker and starring McQueen’s rival, Paul Newman. Though The Cincinnati Kid is often unfortunately dismissed as nothing more than a repeat offering, the film delivers a solid story coupled with that sense of tension felt when you’re playing poker. If the film was made today, The Cincinnati Kid would have been butchered by critics for its slow pace but the film, however, is very good in portraying the game of poker in a realistic way.
In the end The Cincinnati Kid looked at a lot of real life aspects of the game of poker and actually portrayed it in a way that was believable. Not only did the hero not win, but he was put in debt to the villain. The important point that this movie made over other films of its kind is that no matter how good you think you are at poker, there is always someone out there better, and luckier than you.