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From the felt to film: Poker documentary screens in Tulsa

‘All In' takes viewers on a trip through the history of poker
BY SEAN CHAFFIN, For The Oklahoman Published: April 25, 2012

Bluffs and bets, backrooms and bars — the recently released “All In: The Poker Movie” reveals its hand to Oklahoma audiences through Friday at the Circle Cinema in Tulsa. The film has garnered nice reviews since its premiere in New York City and Los Angeles in late March and will be shown at theaters across the country throughout April. It then will be released to Video on Demand, iTunes, Netflix, DVD and other platforms.

Directed by veteran documentary film maker Doug Tirola, the film takes viewers on a trip through the history of poker — from its Mississippi River and Civil War beginnings to the modern-day poker boom and online crash. The filmmakers spare no expense at capturing the game's place in Americana — from pop culture icons like Kenny Rogers to poker industry insiders and pros like Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth. Other interview subjects include a wide range of cultural icons including actor Matt Damon, poker legend Amarillo Slim Preston, National Public Radio's Ira Glass and recently deceased sports writing legend Bert Sugar.

“When I hope when someone watches this, I hope they, ‘Wow, we're pretty inside here. They got to sit down with some pretty key people,'” Tirola says.

Oklahoma takes its own place in the film, however briefly. Tirola travels to Oklahoma City's National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum to flesh out the game's Wild West past. Always a game of risk, the game meshed well with an outlaw frontier and self-reliant attitude.

While the film indeed focuses on the history of the game, 2003 World Series of Poker champion Chris Moneymaker's story is interwoven throughout. Moneymaker's unlikely $2.5 million win, after qualifying in a $39 online “satellite” tournament, sparked a poker boom that continues today. The money couldn't have come at a better time. Moneymaker details his life before the win — a sports-betting problem and family debt. It's a riveting story mostly unknown to the public.

Shooting for “All In” began in 2008, and the idea came about after Tirola and 4th Row Productions produced several successful documentaries. Poker instantly came to mind when Tirola began considering his next production. The subject was a labor of love for the director, who harbors fond memories of playing poker growing up.

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