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Gambling Brawl

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A pair of sixes beats four aces!

A staple of The Western. Several characters are playing Poker (or some reasonable equivalent). One is accused of cheating, and a fight breaks out. Guns may be drawn, and one or more people are likely to end up dead. In its mildest form, the result will be a Mexican Standoff, until cooler heads can prevail. If no guns are involved, may simply result in a Bar Brawl.

If someone was cheating, it's likely that they're the one who will die, unless they're an important character. False accusations are more likely to result in the death of the accuser. But there's no guarantees either way.

Usually used to show the relative lawlessness of the location where the game is being held, or to show what a low value human life has there.

Will often involve the Professional Gambler and/or the Card Sharp. Often started by The Gambling Addict on a losing streak. Will sometimes be foreshadowed by revealing the Dead Man's Hand, which is, according to legend, the hand held by Wild Bill Hickok when he was killed in just such a scenario. Despite that possibly-real example, though, this is far rarer in real life than Hollywood suggests. Don't be surprised by Tar and Feathers. Can overlap with Game Night Fight.


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    Comic Books 

    Film — Animation 
  • The Road to El Dorado: When Tulio and Miguel were caught cheating with loaded dice, the two knew that they were in for a brawl so they started accusing each other, and began a fight with each other, using the guards' swords. They used this fight to get away from the guards and the angry gamblers.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The plot of 5 Card Stud kicks off when a stranger is caught cheating in a poker game and is lynched by the drunken locals he is playing against.
  • Parodied (of course) in Airplane!: During Striker's first flashback, there's a close-up of two people playing poker, with only their hands visible. Suddenly one of them pulls out a knife and they start fighting. The camera pulls back to reveal that the players are Girl Scouts.
  • In BloodRayne II: Deliverance, Flintlock accuses Rayne of cheating, accompanied by Flipping the Table. He calls her out for a Showdown at High Noon. At midnight. In this case, it seems that Flintlock was just a sore loser, rather than there being any cheating on Rayne's part.
  • Subverted in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Sundance is in a poker game with several other men. When Butch arrives, one of the other players accuses Sundance of cheating and wants to have a shootout with him to settle things. When Butch calls him "Sundance", the challenger is familiar with his reputation and realizes that if they fight, he'll be killed. This allows Butch to use his charisma and diplomacy skills to get Sundance to leave without a fight.
  • Gremlins (1984): A group of Gremlins are playing poker in the bar when one of them tries to cheat. Stripe pulls out a gun and shoots the other Gremlin dead on the spot, which causes the rest of his ilk to burst into laughter.
  • In The Legend of Frenchie King, the Sarrazin brothers realize that the Leroi sisters are cheating at poker and denounce them, which leads directly to a Bar Brawl.
  • In A Man Called Sledge, Sledge is visiting his prostitute girlfriend when one of his gang is shot over a poker game.
  • Maverick
    • Subverted twice during the first poker game, between Maverick, Angel, Annabelle and several others:
      • First, John Wesley Hardin (a famous Real Life gunfighter) tells Maverick that a hand of poker Maverick won shouldn't count. Instead of starting a gunfight, Maverick backs down and lets Hardin take the pot. He then demonstrates his lightning fast quick draw skill, thus making it clear that if there had been a gunfight, he could have shot Hardin before his gun cleared his holster.
      • Angel accuses Maverick of cheating and wants to fight him, but a group of men suddenly appear and want to fight him too. They go outside and Maverick handily beats the men up, causing Angel to retract his accusation out of fear. Later it's revealed that Maverick arranged to have the men intervene and lose to him if anyone threatened to physically attack him.
    • Played straight during the final poker game between the Commodore, Angel and Maverick. When Maverick pulls off a miracle play and wins the tournament, Angel accuses him of cheating again. Angel and his two henchmen draw their guns, but all three are shot and killed by Maverick and Marshall Zane Cooper.
  • Missile X: The Neutron Bomb Incident: Alec swings one punch and instantly creates pandemonium in the Baron's casino.
  • In Never Grow Old, Dutch cleans out a young man in cards who cannot pay his debt. When Dutch refuses to let him leave, he pulls a gun, so Dutch kills him. He claims to have killed the boy in self-defense, and no one says otherwise.
  • Rimfire: After being bluffed out of a winning hand in a game of poker by The Abilene Kid, Blazer loses his temper and punches the Kid. The two get involved in a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown, which remarkably does not spill over into a Bar Brawl.
  • In Rounders, the character called "Worm" attempts to cheat a bunch of cops in a game, and ends up getting violently beaten for his troubles.
  • Played with in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. The actual fight is between Holmes and a Cossack assassin, but during the struggle they knock over the kitty at a table where Watson has just won a large sum of money. After a momentary pause, all the losing gamblers start fighting Watson and each other for the money.
  • Titanic: Subverted. Jack wins a game of poker fair and square, and the guy who lost seems like he's about to start a fight with Jack when he instead punches his friend for betting their tickets away. Hilariously, this restraint ends up saving their lives.
  • In Trinity Is STILL My Name!, Trinity wins big in a poker game and is accused of cheating by a fellow cardsharp. Rather than accept his challenge, Trinity simply demonstrates his quick-draw skills by (repeatedly) slapping the man across the face and then pointing the gun at it with the same hand, forcing him to retreat.
  • In Within Our Gates, a dealer is caught using a mirror to see the other players' hands, which precipitates a shootout.

  • It All Started with Columbus:
    Card players, who played for high stakes and sometimes for money, had a nervous habit of shooting each other over trivial matters, such as almost invisible marks on cards or one or two extra aces in a deck. Persons who pulled their pistols out of their holsters first were known as the Quick; the others were the Dead.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Subverted in The Almighty Johnsons: Mike, whose divine powers make it impossible for him to lose a game of chance, has already been thrown out of the local casino, so he seeks out an underground poker game, at a dive filled with bikers and thugs and other undesirables. His brother is sure they're both about to be killed, but when violence starts to erupt, the club's bouncers intervene and throw the pair out on their asses.
  • In Auction Kings, the fact that this trope can be Truth in Television is implied when Paul sells an antique gambler's chain that has a hidden pistol on the end. While the viewer never sees it, the expert is able to determine that it had been fired.
  • Frontier Circus: In "Quick Shuffle", Ben catches a crooked dealer cheating him at poker. The dealer pulls a derringer and Ben is forced to shoot him in self-defence.
  • In the Legends of Tomorrow episode "The Magnificent Eight", when the team is visiting the Old West, an outlaw accuses Prof. Stein of cheating at cards, and tries to shoot him, only for Snart to shoot him first. The result is a big Bar Brawl, a couple dead or badly beat ruffians, and a pissed off gang of bandits who want revenge on the Legends and the town

  • Happens in the "Devil's Right Hand" by Steve Earle:
    Got into a card game in a company town
    I caught a miner cheating, I shot the dog down
    I shot the dog down, I watched the man fall
    He never touched his holster, never had a chance to draw
  • In "Lay It Down'' by Samantha Fish, the protagonist shoots a man who tries to cheat her in a card game. The official music video features her dragging a body off to the woods and digging a shallow grave.
    Got an ace up his sleeve and a pistol by my side
    And if he calls first, I'm going to give it to him right.
  • In "Me & My Uncle" by The Grateful Dead, the uncle is accused of cheating in a poker game with some cowboys, one of whom starts to draw his gun, but the protagonist is quicker, manages to shoot all the cowboys, and he and his uncle escape with all the gold.
  • In many versions of the African-American folk/blues/whatever song Stagger Lee, the dispute between Stagger Lee and Billy Lyon begins with an argument over a dice game. The versions vary over whether Billy was actually cheating or whether Stag was just a sore loser.
  • In "Little Willie the Gambler" by Townes Van Zandt, Willie ends up being shot during a poker game by someone who was angry at losing all his money.

  • Porgy and Bess's first scene centers around a crap game that abruptly turns into a fight to the death between Crown and Robbins, the latter just having made a nine and the former having taken his bad luck with generous doses of liquor and "happy dust."
  • Un morto da vendere (Corpse for Sale) by Dario Fo: The main characters are CardSharps who cheat at poker, swindling the drunkard. When the customer arrives, he quickly deduces that it's a card-in-sleeves variant, requests a new version of the game called "Merceilles Poker" where he springs up two different rules in two deals, before pulling out three pistols. Eventually, Marco and Father grab the pistols, enter a standoff. The drunkard arrives pulls out a pipe, and the first shot is fired. It's revealed that the former customer is Pietro Gambone also known as Magnaccio with a 1,000 gold sovereigns reward. The team argues about how to handle the corpse, eventually making the decision. Also, the customer's death was also a ruse involving the daughter Mario and the shoemaker's son, and the real Magnaccio was the drunkard who's pipe is a weapon.

    Video Games 
  • In the second chapter of Killer7, a group of diplomats are playing mah-jongg. One is accused of cheating, and all of them end up shooting each other dead.
  • Red Dead Redemption has a scene where John is accused of cheating by a German player, and everyone ends up in a Mexican Standoff.

  • The Lovable Rogue Sam Starfall of Freefall plays poker with two men in the Friday 4 August 2000 strip, and claims the pot because "I've got four kings. You've only got two." The angry faces indicate the other players are well aware there should be only four kings in the entire deck. Sam is face down in a garbage dumpster by the next strip.
  • In Widdershins, Jack O'Malley and Heinrich Wolfe get arrested when Jack is accused of cheating in a card game, gets punched, and has Wolfe come to his defense. After the fact, Jack argues that having innate Aura Vision that reveals people's emotions shouldn't count as cheating, but the police aren't convinced.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation