Maverick (1994)

Maverick (1994)The lighthearted 1994 poker movie directed by Richard Donner entitled Maverick does not include the game of poker as a primary plot device but makes the game the entire consideration of the movie. Starring Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster and James Garner, Maverick follows the exploits of a young professional poker player named Bret Maverick as he attempts to raise enough money to enter a high stakes poker tournament on a river boat in the South. Set in the nineteenth century, the buy in required of Maverick amounts to $25,000. Today, this sum would be the equivalent of over $600,000 from each player, a very high stakes tournament indeed.

Plot Summary of Maverick

The poker movie, Maverick is a first person story about Bret Maverick who wants to enter a five card draw tournament to not only be awarded a large sum of money, but also prove to the rest of the country that he is the best poker player currently playing the game. As the film opens, Maverick is $3,000 short of the $25,000 needed to participate in the tournament and he first visit’s the town of Crystal River to collect a debt to make up for the deficit. There, he meets two rival poker players named Annabelle Bransford (played by Jodie Foster) and his primary poker antagonist named Angel (played by Alfred Molina). In addition, he also meets the lawman named Zane Cooper (played by James Garner) that will eventually become a prime player in the story. As an interesting note, James Garner originally played Bret Maverick in the popular television series of the same name as the movie.

As Maverick and his new companions are hard at work convincing an old Native American friend of Maverick’s, Chief Joseph (played by Graham Greene who also acted alongside Mel Gibson in the Lethal Weapon series), Angel receives an anonymous telegram instructing him to not allow Maverick to reach the high stakes tournament and informing him that Maverick cheated him when they played poker at Crystal River. Angel eventually catches Maverick and attempts to hang him in the desert. However, Maverick escapes and reaches the poker tournament safely to begin playing.

The game unfolds and only three players are left at the final table, Maverick, Angel and a prime competitor, the Commodore. In one of the most famous final hands in poker movie history, the three commence the final betting phase. All three have very powerful hands. The Commodore holds four of a kind: eights, Angel has a low straight flush and Maverick holds the 10 through King of spades. Maverick catches the dealer giving him the final card of his hand from the bottom of the deck and protests. He asks Angel to deal the last card and calls all in without looking at the final card, knowing that it is an Ace of spades.

Indeed the last card is the Ace of spades and Maverick wins the tournament. This enrages Angel who pulls his gun in an attempt to shoot and kill Maverick. However, the lawman Cooper and Maverick are ready and shoot Angel and his cronies (Maverick by drawing one of Cooper’s guns). The final portions of the movie involve some interesting plot twists that result in a spin cycle of deception and false pretenses leading to only one person actually winning in the end. Still, even without the money, Maverick has accomplished his goal of proving that he is the best, or perhaps, luckiest, poker player in the country.

What Can Poker Players Learn from Maverick

First of all, don’t ever count on getting that Ace of Spades like Maverick. The odds of getting any single card can tell you how foolish of a decision this can be. In poker, you have a 1 in 52 chance of any single card showing up in your hand, minus, of course, the cards you already know about. So, in the game Maverick was playing, he only needed one card, so he was aware of five cards that could not possibly show up in his hand. This made the odds of getting the Ace of Spades 1 in 47. Calling an all in without looking at your last card and risking your entire bankroll would be a foolish move.

In addition, do not make the mistake of thinking that the odds of getting the Ace of Spades after already having the 10 through King of spades were adjusted in any way. You have just as much of a chance to get the eight of hearts rather than the Ace of spades in this situation. Interestingly, the Ace was the dramatic winning hand that the film writers chose. Good poker players would have noticed that even a Nine of spades dealt to Maverick would have resulted in him winning the hand. Even this increase in odds does not make calling a hand without looking at your cards a wise move in any respect. Although some poker players will call all in without looking at their hand because they are too low in the stack for it to matter (perhaps to get a little rush at the end of the game rather than being whittled down by the blinds), never rely on luck to win a hand, however dramatic you envision poker to be.

Maverick does give some indication of how to properly bluff and maintain a straight face when playing poker in real life. Notice how Maverick maintains the same carefree attitude regardless of the position he is in when playing poker in the movie. Whenever you sit down to play poker in a tournament with friends, you should try to maintain this same sort of attitude. This not only keeps you from giving anything away about your hand, but also has a tendency to relax other players around the table into making foolish or quick decisions to try to catch you in your game. Many times, this type of poker face can result in you winning some substantial pots by tricking other players into thinking that you have a much better hand than you really do.