Amazon Now: Poker Queens (2020) - Reviewed

The coronavirus pandemic has caused a lot of disruption to daily life across the globe. Many facets of our lives have been changed completely at the moment, with outdoor events virtually non-existent for the foreseeable future. An extremely popular such event, the World Series of Poker, takes place in Las Vegas every summer, but of course, had to be postponed this year due to the coronavirus. Poker fans can breathe easy though, since there is something available to sate their poker cravings.

Poker Queens is a new movie, directed by Sandra Mohr, streaming on Amazon Prime Video and Vimeo. It tells the story of the world’s best female poker players, and it is the breadth and range of those characters which makes for compelling viewing. Mohr, who is a more-than-competent player herself, has stated that the movie is not just for card buffs, but has proven to be the first introduction to the game for many people. The women in the movie have also served to be inspirational, especially as women make up less than 7% of the professional poker scene.

The game is still remarkably sexist, with many men openly discouraging the presence of women at their poker tables. No woman has ever won the top prize at the World Series, and the movie features an interesting sequence, where Sia Layta, a female professional, takes the help of a Hollywood makeup artist to transform into a guy and enter a game. She immediately ends up tripling her winnings, both in online play as well as at VIP casino games. The inherent bias in the sport can be seen when the World Series threatened to disqualify Layta and keep her $10,000 buy-in if she entered the tournament dressed as a male.

Some of the other ladies featured in the movie include actress and poker professional Jennifer Tilly, and poker royalty in the form of Muskan Sethi, Esther Taylor, Jan Fisher and many many more names from the sport. There are some notable male figures from the sport who show up as well, and all of them support more and more women joining them at the tables.

Poker Queens is an extremely enjoyable watch, not just because it tells the story of a sport where women are still considered outsiders, but also because each of those women featured is compelling and amazing in their own right, and deserves to have the same freedom to play the sport as their male counterparts.