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Open Stakes Poker
Fictional poker games violate a basic betting rule
Needs Examples Tropeworthy?

(permanent link) added: 2012-07-21 08:14:43 sponsor: IronLion (last reply: 2012-08-12 05:30:46)

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Note: This is currently mentioned on The Magic Poker Equation among "related TV poker phenomena", but I think it ought to be a trope in its own right.

In a poker game, the hero holds a monster hand against the villain. So sure is he of winning that he borrows vast amounts of money to stake, either from the villain himself or from someone else at the table. Invariably, the villain cleans him out, leaving the hero Trapped by Gambling Debts and forcing him to come up with a Zany Scheme to raise the money.

This may once have been how poker was played in real life, but the game is now always played for table stakes: you can only bet with the chips you have at the table, and may only buy more chips between hands - a rule which exists to prevent these situations.

This trope is often a Necessary Weasel, since most poker plots require someone to end up way over their head, and that's not going to happen if they're able to pony up the cash in the first place. Nonetheless, it's discredited now that poker is popular enough for audiences to have a familiarity with it.

See also Absurdly High-Stakes Game, as in many cases the villain will attempt to use the situation to gain more than money from the hero.

Although poker is mentioned here, the trope can apply equally to related games which have a similar betting system.

Examples

Film
  • In the three-card brag game in Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels, the putative Professional Gambler Eddie borrows half a million pounds from his opponent, the Loan Shark Hatchet Harry, who has the advantage of an associate signalling Eddie's hand strength to him via a device attached to the back of his leg.
  • In Honeymoon In Vegas, the villain rigs a game so that the protagonist holds a jack-high straight flush against his own queen-high straight flush; the hero ends up $65,000 in debt.
  • A Big Hand For The Little Lady: A woman who knows nothing about poker ends up in a deadly serious game for some reason, and when she can't match the bet, she leaves the table, taking all the other players with her, goes to the bank, asks for a loan, and offers her cards as collateral. The banker says he's never seen such a good piece of collateral and gives her the loan, causing all the other players to fold. Of course, it was a bluff.

Live Action Television
  • In an episode of M*A*S*H Trapper John has a hot poker hand but he doesn't have the cash to cover the bet, so he goes aound the camp asking for loans.
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