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Gambling Brawl

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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.


Examples:

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     Film — Animated  

  • 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  

  • In Within Our Gates, a dealer is caught using a mirror to see the other players' hands, which precipitates a shootout.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Gremlins: 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.

     Live-Action TV  

  • 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 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.
  • In the Legends of Tomorrow episode "The Magnificent Eight", when the team is visiting the Old West, an outlaw accuses Snart of cheating at cards, and tries to shoot him, only for Snart to shoot him first. The result is a big Bar Brawl.
  • 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.

     Music  

  • 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 "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.
  • 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 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.

     Theatre  
  • 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."

     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.

     Webcomics  

  • 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.
  • 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.

     Western Animation  


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