In the Skin of a Poker Player – Mississippi Grind

Posted: January 27, 2015

Updated: January 27, 2015

The film ‘Mississippi Grind’ mirrors the addiction and redemption of poker players in Southern USA in the seventies. 

To prepare for their roles as expert gamblers, the two actors Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn who stars in the film ‘Mississippi Grind, got on-the-job training in small casinos, while being escorted by a “poker czar”. They were then left on their own in real US Poker rooms to fend for themselves, 14 hours a day.

This was the only sure way to bring to life the road-trip movie, set in the seventies – a story about two near-strangers travelling from Dubuque, Iowa to New Orleans. Playing at real casino tables was a thrill for Reynolds, being an inexperienced poker table, playing real poker, made real poker players scared of him as they didn’t know what his next move could be.

In the movie, the protagonist Curtis is a good omen, and the poker addict Gerry, persuades Curtis to join him as he gambles his way along the Mississippi River down to a big poker game in New Orleans, with a whopping $25,000 buy-in. Curtis gives him a head start in high rolling, betting $2,000.

Portray of players consumed by addiction

To film the movie, the small production team traveled the beaten tracks of Mississippi, Missouri, Louisiana and Alabama and set up their stage in real live casinos. They often went unnoticed by real patrons. The casinos mostly allowed shooting in off-peak hours between 2 a.m. and 1 p.m. when high rollers recovered from grueling hours spent at poker tables.

Reynold revealed that the movie made him aware that who he considered as ‘dregs’ of society were real people with real passions for the game. In that era, gambling was prohibited by US gambling laws, which made the players all the more ‘slaves to the self-destructive, can’t-lose mentality’ that have been portrayed in many a gambling flick.

Mendelsohn, an Australian actor and Reynolds enjoyed the once-in-a-lifetime experience playing roles of two men bonding contentedly over alcohol and cards, racetracks and billiards, while revealing their lives. The film which premiered at Sundance recently, may just be up for a Grammy award, we bet.

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