daniel negreanu Dara ‘Kearney David Lappin Doug Polk Poker Poker on Screen The Lock-In

Poker on Screen special: Polk guests on The Lock-In to break down Heads-Up victory


If you’ve never seen Dara O’Kearney and David Lappin hosting The Lock-In before, then you’ve already missed out on some of the best poker content that has been out there during your country’s version of lockdown.  If that’s the case, then head here for a more general look at The Lock-In and enjoy the whole canon. If you’re already a confirmed fan, however (guilty as charged), then this week’s detailed look at the action between Doug Polk and Daniel Negreanu by the challenge’s winner – Polk if you’ve been living under a soundproofed rock at least a continent away from Las Vegas – is just for you.  In it, Doug Polk answers a range of questions from the Irish poker legends as he goes deep in terms of analysing his win and talking the boys and viewers through how he did it. Crib notes – it was a lot of hard work. In this episode of the Lock-In, it would be easy for Lappin and O’Kearney to simply gloat at Negreanu, especially as the Canadian six-time WSOP bracelet winner was both ignorant and disparaging in equal measure to their award-winning podcast when The Chip Race (presented by the Irish duo) was given due credit by their peers at The Global Poker Awards of 2019.   That they don’t is to their credit and the very reason why both The Chip Race and The Lock-In have become essential viewing over the last few years, with the questions both detailed and knowledgeable and the pace of the interview perfect for their subject, the eponymous Polk – to eulogise on exactly what went right and wrong.  There’s not a sausage in sight and Polk is refreshingly honest and open about how he structured his attack on Negreanu and in breaking down the closing half of the challenge, we learn a lot about how even the best heads-up online players stay at the level they’re at – hours and hours (and more hours) of work.  Polk’s success, of course, came to the tune of $1.2 million eventually, but that took a huge winning session in the last yards to mean a seven-figure win was confirmed and was done so with a modicum of humility by Polk. He was the player many saw as the aggressor early on, but opinions have rightly changed on that. Negreanu frequently believed that he played ‘perfect poker’, but Polk laughs at the very idea, admitting to making hundreds of errors as anyone would do in a massive heads-up challenge, even the best in the world.  Polk is honest enough to admit that should the heads-up game have been live, then he may have been a marginal dog in the fight, but between the three men, they go into some great detail around exactly why this kind of game would not have been totally to Negreanu’s advantage had it gone ahead. Of course, had the pair arranged to play 25,000 live hands of heads-up poker, it’s likely we would be covering it by the time Donald Trump runs for U.S. President again in 2024. Don’t shake your head; it could happen.  Polk is called ‘hyper aware of his weaknesses’ by David Lappin and in a complimentary fashion, which Polk responds to very well, taking the time to talk about ‘knowing what he doesn’t know’, and as he describes, he has always been perfectly prepared to look at solvers, analyse his play and be open enough to look at where he has been wrong. The more you watch of the episode, you more that you realise Polk’s strength in the challenge was actually to appreciate that every session is full of mistakes by both players and being ‘hyper-aware’ of that was the edge.  If you haven’t seen the hour-long special, then it’s essential viewing and can be viewed right here:  Doug Polk is pure gold throughout, but he’s helped more than adequately by two of the best presenters in poker. If only they weren’t so successful at the felt, we might be treated to O’Kearney and Lappin presenting the game on a more regular basis whenever live poker returns, because apart from high-beef content sausage proprietors, who wouldn’t watch them?  

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Hank’s Home Game Online Poker Poker Poker on Screen PokerStars

Poker on Screen: Hank’s Home Game (2021)


It’s often a risk commissioning a new show for any platform. That’s why you often see the same sorts of series pop up. A disgruntled detective with a drink problem? It’s worked before. A dysfunctional family who snip cynical put-downs at each other? Why change the habit of a TV production lifetime? But in terms of poker on screen, it can often be exactly the same.Gangsters chucking cards at each other, East End bad boys risking the roof over their head on four of a kind? We’ve all seen these poker tropes before.So why does Hank’s Home Game on PokerStars feel like a fresh take on the celebrity cash game format that has been around since the 1980’s?For one, the stars of the show are pretty impressive. There’s Hank Azaria, star of The Simpsons, of course, but he’s by no means the only big name. He’s joined in Episode 1 by Josh Charles, Jon Hamm, Michael Cera, Michael Ian Black and Don Cheadle – a stellar line-up of superstars.The aim of the game was simple – win the most money at the table and it translates into money for charity, with a $20,000 top prize.With plenty of banter and the European Poker Tour dream team of James Hartigan and Joe ‘Stapes’ Stapleton providing commentary and their considerable interviewing skills, it’s a great watch. The talk about movies might be sporadic, but surprises do pop up and delight you.There was enough at stake for play to actually get competitive, too, although this was bookended by both a slower beginning and an ending which became a bit of a shove-fest. Players didn’t seem to know when it was the last hand, either, but fear not, we did and here’s how the first episode ended up after a dramatic final hand went to Michael Cera to book the win.Place Player Chips PrizeCharity1st Michael Cera 45,525 $20,000 First Responders First 2nd Josh Charles 39,675 $12,000 The Actors Fund 3rd Hank Azaria30,050 $8,000 Dream Yard 4th Michael Ian Black 28,600 $5,000 Mark Twain Library 5th Jon Hamm 6,150 $2,000 Red Trunk Project 6th Don Cheadle0 $3,000 Blackbird Alliance You can look up all the charities in question right here by heading to:First Responders FirstThe Actors FundDream Yard New YorkMark Twain LibraryRed Trunk Project Blackbird AllianceIf you enjoyed Hank’s Home Game, then there’s some good news, as the show will be back. You can follow PokerStars on YouTube, subscribe and you’ll get a notification whenever Hank decides to get the band back together.It’s sure to be a whole lot of fun!

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Poker Poker on Screen Smile Thor Hansen

Poker on Screen: Smile (2021)


The latest example of poker on screen isn’t a glitzy Hollywood movie or a stylish cameo to bulk out a gangster film. It’s not a tournament or cash game highlights show, either.Smile, produced by Norwegian filmmakers Kari Wåle and Linn Amundsen, is a documentary that follows the last steps of Thor Hansen’s journey in poker and in life itself. Diagnosed with incurable cancer, Hansen’s prolonged battle against the disease took in the making of the film and it one of the single most fascinating films you’ll ever watch.It goes without saying that Thor Hansen is a poker legend, but the two-time WSOP bracelet winner is also a hero to Norwegians who play the game and it’s not hard to see why in a documentary where Hansen, despite the impossible battle he faces, is constantly smiling.While the jovial Norwegian has not yet made his way into the Poker Hall of Fame, it is an induction that surely will come in time. He’s impossible not to like, not only because of his infectious lust for playing poker (“I’ll be playing on my deathbed, you guys can bring cards!”) but his humility and acceptance of his fate.Lasting 75 minutes, this poker film is a deep dive into Hansen’s life and motivations, and it’s a study which is often upsetting, purely because his personality is so vital and his humour so touchingly infectious that throughout the movie one is struck by sadness that his isn’t around any more. He is missed in the current scene, though what he would have made of poker behind Perspex screens and face masks is anyone’s guess.Hansen deals with his terminal cancer diagnosis like he might have dealt with bad cards he’s miscalled the flop with; accepting that he may lose the hand but determined to go down cracking jokes. It is a testament to his mental strength and while it’s not a theme of the movie, we couldn’t help wondering if his love of poker helped to prolong his life, given that he endured 300 chemo treatments and six years of such battles to continue living as long as he could.Part of the film touches on his love of the game in its purest form and it seems to a large extent to have consumed him. The question isn’t posed directly, but lingers like sepia on old film anyway; is a whole life dedicated to poker something that is a good thing or bad for a human being?There’s no correct answer, of course, purely because everyone is different, but while many of poker’s modern success stories have an ‘escape route’ planned, pivoting to Bitcoin or investment opportunities or a completely different gaming discipline, Thor Hansen hails from an era where poker consumed its players, and dominated their lives.Passing away aged just 71, Hansen was by no means the oldest of men by the time he died and that is the big takeaway, how full of life he could seem to be while simultaneously rowing in tandem with those on the longest journey of all, life itself going into whatever lies beyond. His viewpoint on life and poker mix and meld beautifully and it’s clear that his love of the game runs like a second skin under his own.A gregarious character of vast personal charm, it’s impossible not to love Thor Hansen. The filmmakers spoke to PokerNews about the project, telling the poker reporting site that, “We thought Thor deserved this film, and we also got the impression that he was a bit proud that we were making a film about his life.”It’s impossible to argue with such a wonderful sentiment and the film, while capturing Hansen at his physical nadir in terms of his life, captures the essence of what makes him – and his wife Marcella – so special too.You can watch the trailer for Smile right here:If you want to buy the film, you can do so on Vimeo via this link.

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