Filming of the new poker film 'Deal' wrapped up in New Orleans this week with many of poker's top stars prominently featured in the final production.
"Deal" stars legendary actor Burt Reynolds as former poker champion Tommy Vincent, who has drifted away from the game. He comes across an Internet poker whiz, played by Bret Harrison (who stars on television's "The Loop"), and begins to tutor him in the finer points of the game. Of course, there is a blow up between the two personalities and Vincent's poker fires are reborn to take down the young wunderkind at the WPT Championships. The film also stars Shannon Elizabeth and Jennifer Tilly, who have some poker abilities of their own that they bring to the film.
Not only was the WPT set used to film the final battle between the movie's combatants (in a startlingly realistic remake of the Bellagio), several poker professionals and the stars of the WPT television broadcasts were used to give the film a sense of authenticity. WPT commentators Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten called the action of the final table, adding the same excitement to the scenes that are a part of the television show. Much like she does on the series, hostess Courtney Friel wandered the crowd doing interviews. The addition of not only the set from the WPT but also the featured players on the show should make it seem like the final segments of the film is an actual final table from the WPT itself.
Poker professionals Antonio Esfandiari, Phil "The Unabomber" Laak and Isabelle Mercier take their places at the final table in the climactic scenes of the film. They also served to entertain the crew, as Antonio demonstrated why he is called "The Magician" through working the staff with magic and chip tricks. Of course, with poker being the theme of the film, the cast, crew and the pros did actually get to playing some on the set, with the pros taking some hard earned cash off the staff.
"I was fascinated by how these guys study their opponents, figuring out their tells, and using psychology to outsmart them," Reynolds said about the professionals. He also admitted he had intensely studied the WPT DVD series to learn as much as he could regarding poker and the pros he would be facing on film. "I realized how to improve my own game. I was very flattered when some of these young stars said they couldn't tell if I was bluffing. I don't think that was true before I started this movie."
His co-star Harrison, who confessed to having some poker background as well, was thrilled to meet the professionals, both on camera and off. "They really taught me about the life of these gamblers. They were constantly betting on something. It gave me a lot of insight into my role." Harrison also used his new found skills to play against cast-mates, only to lose his daily per diem to his personal assistant. "He got a nice bonus for working on this film," he laughed.
"Deal" also marked the return of the film industry to New Orleans by becoming the first production to be filmed there since Hurricane Katrina last year. The crew of "Deal" was warmly welcomed by the community and hired many locals to work on the set. Now producer Michael Arata and director Gil Cates, Jr. have to settle into the post production work on the film. Cates is one who is looking forward to that challenge when he said, "I think poker fans will be stunned when they see "Deal". The film captures the excitement of the television show while telling a compelling story about competition and trust. The audience will really feel like they have been transported to a real WPT event." For poker fans who have been looking for the next great poker film, perhaps "Deal" may be just what we have been waiting for. As more information comes regarding the feature, we'll be sure to keep you updated.
Ed Note: Lots of new players playing at London Poker Club Join the club today.