A poker player gambles with both cards and love, almost loses, but gets the girl in the end. Eric Bana plays the lead character Huck Cheever. He is a professional poker player who considers playing poker his job and the money won or lost in the game as a way of keeping score. His bankroll swings widely from being flush to being completely broke. He goes to a pawn shop to pawn a digital camera. He asks for three hundred but the lady owner (played by Phyllis Somerville) offers him one hundred fifty. He has a fun barter session with her but she only gives him an extra $50 for the entertainment. To get the three hundred he needs, he is forced to pawn his lucky charm which is his deceased mother's gold wedding ring. He won this ring from his father in a poker game. His father L.C. Cheever (played by Robert Duvall) is a world-class poker player, having won the world championship two times.
Huck parlays the three hundred by first starting with the amateur players in the casino and working his way up to the larger stake tables. He takes a break from the casino play to attend a party. He flirts with a girl named Billie (played by Drew Barrymore). Billie is warned by her sister Suzanne (played by Debra Messing) Huck is bad news. Nevertheless Billie is intrigued. Huck goes back to the casino to play. His father L.C. shows up, giving him unwanted advice from the sidelines, then L.C. joins the game. In one hand, it is father against son, and Huck is down to his last money, so he has to bet the pawn slip for his lucky charm ring. L.C. takes the bet and wins the hand closely beating Huck. L.C. does not lose to Huck very often. Huck is angry at L.C. for stealing from his mother and abandoning them when he was younger. He has carried the grudge for a long time. Roy (played by Charles Martin Smith) watches the game. Roy lectures Huck about not having patience, always “blasting” forward even when the odds are against him. Still, Roy offers to sponsor Huck in the World Poker Championship, pay the $10,000 entry fee, and split 60/40 with Huck taking the smaller share. Huck turns the deal down.
Huck goes to see a friend named Jack (played by Robert Downey Jr.), who runs a 1-900 advice business by answering various mobiles phones as different persona. He asks Jack for the money by Jack says no. Then Huck goes to see Suzanne to ask her for the money. Suzanne is not home, however Billie is there. Billie gets a call while he is with her, telling Billie she got a job as a lounge singer, which has been her life-long dream. Huck encourages her to celebrate. He knows she has $1,000 in traveler's checks so he gets her to cash them so they can play poker while he teaches her to play. She is so excited she goes along with it. They have some good luck and Huck wins enough to give her the money back plus 20% extra. Billie has to go home. Huck is on a winning streak, so he does not want to leave. After Billie leaves, L.C. shows up. Huck wins the ring back from L.C. but then Huck loses all of his money again.
Huck goes to see Billie perform as a singer. After her show they go out to eat. Huck tells her his Dad taught him poker, playing for coins on the kitchen table, which was a good time in his life, then his father left. Billie wisely points out, even he hates L.C. he still followed in his footsteps. Billie and Huck go back to Huck's place. The apartment is empty except for a bed and a TV. They make love. Billie falls asleep. While Billie is sleeping, Huck steals her money and goes out to play poker again. He loses the money. Billie breaks up with him for stealing her money.
Huck tries to win a seat in the World Championship by playing in a game with a seat as the prize. It comes down to two and he barely beats his opponent, but they call a bad deal because the dealer forgot to discard a card. When the dealer discards the correct card, the other guy gets the card he needs to win Huck accepts the $10,000 offer from Roy to be able to play in the tournament. Roy now demands a 70/30 split in Roy's favor. Huck makes him give him $1,200 more and takes the money from Roy agreeing to the deal. Huck goes to see Billie. At first she does not answer the door. He slips the money under the door in an envelope where he writes I'm sorry on it. Billie opens the door and they reconcile. In a diner they run into L.C. While Billie watches, Huck and L.C. play high-stakes poker. L.C. beats Huck out of the $10,000 he just got. L.C. offers to give it back but Huck refuses to accept it. Billie tells L.C. he should have just left the money on the table. L.C. says then the waiter would get a $10,000 tip by accident.
Roy finds out the Huck lost the entry fee. Roy sends his goons to beat him up. They throw him into a swimming pool, which has no water in it. Huck takes a crazy bet for $10,000, which is he can both run 5 miles and play 18-holes of golf in less than three hours scoring a 73. Billie goes along to be the official timekeeper. Huck makes a miracle putt on the last hole which gives him the score to win, but the ball falls in the hole two seconds too late. Billie tells the truth and Huck loses. This makes Huck furious at first, but Billie says to him she is not going to cheat or lie for anybody. He is not able to argue with her because she has the moral high ground. They break up again.
Huck sells the ring back to L.C. for $500 so he has a small stake to continue playing poker. He plays all night and wins enough to enter the World Championship. Huck finds out from Suzanne, Billie went back to Bakersfield. Huck goes all the way to Bakersfield to tell Billie he won enough to enter the tournament and he thinks they have something special between them, if they give it a chance. She seems unconvinced. Huck returns to Vegas alone.
At the world series of poker, eight hundred players enter to try for the first place prize of $2.5 million. Huck makes it to the final table. Billie secretly goes to watch him play. When it gets down to the last three players, it is Huck, L.C. and one other player Jason Keys (played by Evan Jones). In one hand, it is Huck against his father. They both go all in, so the winner of this hand advances and the other is knocked out of the game. Jason sits this round out. L.C. is called and shows a pair of Kings. Huck has a winning hand, a pair of Aces but he decides to throw them away to let his father win, because his father's dream was to be a three-time world champion. Billie watches the game. Huck wins third place, a $650,000 prize. Unfortunately, his self-sacrifice does not succeed because Jason is the final winner by beating L.C. in the next hand. L.C. wins second place, a $1.3 million prize. L.C. knows Huck had him beat. They laugh because even he let his dad win the hand, L.C. still lost. They play head-to-head for coins. Huck beats his dad and wins $4.37 which he goes to show Billie at the lounge where she sings. Billie tells Huck she knows Huck let his dad win in the tournament. Huck is happy to hear she was there watching him and they get back together.
Best part of story, including ending:
I like poker, which made this movie interesting.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene is when Huck sinks a fifty-foot putt to win the crazy $10,000 bet, but loses by being two seconds late. It is fair when he loses, but it feels unfair at the same time.
Opinion about the main character:
Besides having a serious gambling addiction, Huck is a really great player. I was happy to see he found something to love besides poker when he met Billie.