BET RAISE FOLD Inches Closer to Final Release
BET RAISE FOLD: The Story of Online Poker has been in the works for the last three years under the guidance of CardRunners co-founder Taylor Caby and DeucesCracked co-founder Jay Rosenkrantz. It will explore the birth, rise and fall of unregulated online poker in the United States from 2003 to the present.
The trailer, about two and half minutes long, features heavy doses of the three players that serve as focal points for the movie: WPT host Tony Dunst and online grinders Danielle Moon-Andersen and Martin Bradstreet.
The film formerly had a working title of BOOM: The Incredible True Story of Online Poker. Caby and Rosenkrantz recently changed the title to BET RAISE FOLD because they felt that BOOM “doesn’t convey much about the movie to those who weren’t [caught up in the poker boom], and our plans were always to make a movie that would communicate the spirit of the poker boom to anyone who watched.”
Caby and Rosenkrantz, then, are hoping to do for online poker what King of Kong did for competitive antique video-gaming.
They aren’t the first people to deal from the online poker deck. Last year, Doug Tirola released All In: The Poker Movie, a documentary that took an expansive look at poker in the United States. Tirola explored the history of the game, from the riverboat gamblers of the 19th century to Amarillo Slim Preston’s 1972 World Series of Poker Main Event win, before devoting the bulk of his film to Chris Moneymaker, online poker and Black Friday.
Tirola’s film was poorly received outside of the poker industry, by critics and by the public at large. Through 800 user ratings on RottenTomatoes.com, All In received an average rating of 3.3 out of 5. Variety’s reviewer felt that “[t]he film… spends an imbalanced amount of time with some of the principal figures in poker’s evolution [and] simply goes on too long and too windily for anyone but hardcore players.” The New York Times wrote that All In “is so padded with cheerleading that it doesn’t have time for a serious exploration of poker’s place in the broader culture or the consequences of its rapid rise and global reach.”
Both of these reviews point out the dangers of an online poker documentary, especially one undertaken by documentary filmmaking amateurs from within the online poker community. Getting up the documentary learning curve isn’t impossible for amateurs – especially with the types of guidance that the BET RAISE FOLD team has written about receiving along the way – but it does create a big challenge of the first order.
Beyond that, people who are inside the poker bubble, as Caby and Rosenkrantz most certainly are, have a tendency to overstate the appeal of poker, as a game and as a story, to people outside of the bubble (The Real Deal, anyone?). They have a tendency to focus on characters and stories that are appealing to the vocal minority of the community but less interesting to a mainstream audience.
Having anecdotally heard from people who were approached by Rosenkrantz and Caby but never interviewed, who were interviewed but aren’t listed as “Interviewees” on the movie’s website, and having looked over the list of interviewees myself, I’m concerned that Caby and Rosenkrantz may have moved in that direction with their movie. Is it possible that they’ve created a film that poker forum participants will enjoy but that won’t adequately tell the larger story of online poker in a way that will engage the interest of non-forum participants?
The truth is that we just don’t know yet. We won’t know for a few more months what the final cut of this movie looks like. We won’t know for a few more months whether BET RAISE FOLD tells the story of U.S. online poker in a fashion compelling enough to make ripples outside of poker and to get broader distribution (always tough with documentary films) than the individual digital distribution already planned.
We can hope it does, though. Watch the trailer and make your own first impression.