The Cincinnati Kid – Film Analysis
24 Tuesday Jan 2012
You need to remember two things if you ever decide to watch The Cincinnati Kid. First, it is a movie set in an era where Stud Poker was king and as such will look very alien to those that picked up the game of poker in the last few years. Next, the purpose of this movie was drama, and not realism when it comes to the game play. However, when it comes to the actual main gamblers, the characters are timeless.
Steve McQueen plays “The Kid”, a fantastic young gambler who is renown for being one of the best players in the world. To go with it, he has the devil may care attitude that often accompanies youth and as such, he thinks he can take on the world. In the poker world of that era, the best in the world is named Robinson, also known as “The Man.” The Man is the best in the world, but he is aging, and as many of us know that age can cause the mental faculties to deteriorate. The Kid thinks he can take him and tries to do so.
While The Kid may come off as brash and a showboat, he is not without honor. This is put to the test when Tom, a player that is seeking revenge on The Man, tries to help the kid by cheating. The Kid does the honorable thing and gets an honest dealer into the game so he can find out if he is good enough to beat the man.
As the big game progresses, The Kid looks to be in control. The final hand goes down between the two and in the final hand, The Kid has aces and tens showing against a the queen, ten, nine, eight of diamonds. The Kid puts all of his money at risk and The Man raises. Nobody believes The Man has it, and neither does The Kid, who calls the raise even though it will put him $5,000 in debt.
The Man shows the jack of diamonds for the straight flush and after being asked about continuing on a three flush when the kid had a pair showing, the line given is one that is very applicable to poker in, “That’s what it is all about. You make a bad play at the right time.” The Kid shows an ace in the hole for aces-full, and shows that The Man is both lucky and good. The Kid then leaves realizing that he is second best, a cruel fate dealt to him by lady luck. The Man goes on to celebrate his new found winnings, once again proving his dominance.
While the odds of someone having a straight flush against aces full in the same hand are astronomical, the final hand is a bit like life. Sometimes, no matter how good you are, someone is out there that is better. At the same time, it is not always about how good you are, sometimes it is about how fortunate one can become.
The Cincinnati Kid can be viewed as a story about many things. It could be a story of youth vs. experience, a story of the school of hard knocks, or even a lesson on humility. However, in the end the movie could be best summarized by saying that “sometimes it is better to be lucky than good.”
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