It’s the back bone of prime-time TV, the sitcom. It’s a genre that has given us so much joy over the years… including some hilarious poker scenes.
There may be spoilers ahead!
Friends- The One with all the Poker
This is not so much as a scene but an entire episode. For the girls, their trouble is not so much with learning the rules but letting go of being nice, even when you’re playing with friends. From giving your card to an opponent who’s missing one to not accepting a bluff as anything but lying through your teeth, they slowly find their tough streak with a little help from Monica’s Aunt Iris. This is a great little introduction to the game as well as being ridiculously funny.
The Simpsons- ‘They called me slow!’
Sometimes not knowing the first thing about poker can work in your favour. In an oldie but a goodie, this early episode of the Simpsons sees Homer try to recover from his ridiculous tell (D’oh!) when he’s dealt a bad hand. Moe goes all in while Homer forlornly shows his cards, not knowing he has a winning straight flush.
How I Met Your Mother- Blueberry Bluffin
As tells go, the Stinsons have the worst one of all. In season 9 the gang and the Stinson family sit down to an episode-long poker game, where Robin notices some rather obvious tells from Barney, his mother, and his brother. They casually chat about ‘bluffalo wings’, an ‘all-you-can-eat bluffet’ ending with Barney stammering through all the possible combinations of a ‘bluffberry bluffin’ before composing himself.
That ‘70s Show- ‘Raise me a lipstick!’
What do you do if you’re stuck at the shops looking after your woman’s handbag? Play poker with all the other orphaned boyfriends, of course, staking any makeup, chewing gum, and perfume that they find. Maybe not one of Fez’s best ideas. He empties Jackie’s handbag into the pot, going all in to only to put down ‘2, 4, 6, 8, 10! All evens.’
Red Dwarf- Strip Poker
It’s rare that the stakes include one of the player’s heads. Well, that what happens when you’re three million years into deep space and you need a mechanoid to make up the numbers and all you have is the clothes on your back to gamble with. Poker etiquette about leaving the table during a hand is different from house to house, but the red alert to abandon spaceship is a universally accepted excuse.
The Office US- Jim vs Dwight
Talk about a masterclass in faking a tell! As Jim says, ‘It’s the weirdest thing. Every time I cough, he folds.’
30 Rock- ‘Oh my God, my wedding ring!’
Jack Donaghy is not a man to be messed with. So why did the guys think it would be a good idea to play poker with him? After rinsing them for all they have, including a wedding ring and an Emmy, he goes on to reveal all of their tells, some subtle and some as in-your face as having your hand the wrong way around.
Peep Show- “All I need is some beef jerky and somewhere to spit…”
Lead characters who don’t know how to play poker seems to be a running theme in sitcoms and Mark and Jez are certainly out of their depth in this little scene. How they apply their poker ignorance to their advantage makes for a stand-out scene for this episode. Jez unwittingly passes off misplaced confidence as incredible bluffing.
Veronica Mars- ‘I was this close to saying the butler did it!’
Not strictly sitcom, but rarely has a detective series been the source of so many laughs and we all love that moment when a detective mystery all comes together. In this Christmassy episode of Veronica Mars, the titular heroine reveals the thief from the guys’ late-night poker session in her usual cool, calm delivery. This clip spoils the ending for anyone new to Veronica Mars so be sure to catch the entire episode first.
Only Fools and Horses- Two Pair
Possibly the most classic poker scene to ever grace British TV screens comes from Del Boy, Rodney, Grandad, Trigger, and Boycie around the kitchen late at night with everything except the kitchen sink staked. It’s down to just two hands, with Boycie calling four kings, to a spluttering Del Boy who admits to only having a two pair. When the others mourn their losses and head for the door, Del Boy stops them saying they need to show all cards before bets are collected. Then with precise smugness, he reveals that his two pair are, in fact, two pairs of aces.