Poker in the Ozarks

We interrupt the series of guest blog posts for KKing David himself to weigh in on an important topic.

One of my favorite Netflix series of recent years is Ozark. This features a money manager, Marty Byrde (played by Jason Bateman of Arrested Development fame), who has become a money launderer for a Mexican drug cartel and relocates his family from Chicago to the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri in search of opportunities to launder even more money using the heavily cash-based summer tourism businesses there.

Anyway, Season 3 just dropped and I watched the first episode earlier today, and lo’ & behold! it features a poker scene.

At the end of Season 2, Byrde and partners opened a new casino – named the Missouri Belle – on a refurbished paddle wheel boat moored to a dock on the lake, taking advantage of a loophole in Missouri law and his wife’s political maneuvering.

In a plot twist from Seasons 1 and 2, Ruth Langmore, a potty-mouthed, 20-ish trouble-making girl cast straight out of a white trailer park trash stereotype (capably played by Julia Garner), has become an indispensable manager for Byrde’s various businesses, despite having murdered her two uncles, her father having murdered an FBI agent who was trying to bust the cartel, only to be himself murdered by the Kansas City mob, and having herself tried on multiple occasions to steal Byrde’s money. Now Ruth has an unspecified managerial role in the new casino.

Ruth is attempting to organize the casino’s inaugural poker game. The Kansas City Mob is a partner of Byrde’s in the casino (in addition to the Mexican cartel) The mob’s top boss’s son – a constant presence at the Missouri Belle –  wants to play.  His name is Frank. Meanwhile the Mexican drug cartel is applying pressure to launder more money, and Byrde is fearful that his every move is being watched carefully by the FBI.

One gets the impression that having the first big poker game will somehow make the new casino stand out as a high roller destination. As if poker is a big money maker for casinos. Finally the game is organized.

Instead of a poker room manager or tournament director, it’s Ruthie herself who introduces the game. A crowd has gathered as Ruthie begins…

First of all, I want to say how much we appreciate y’all playing in the first ever Missouri Belle Classic. (applause) And to the folks who are here to watch and gamble, it is a privilege to have you, so thank you!

(dramatically) The game… is No Limit Texas Hold’em. It’s a Sit-n-Go tournament. The buy-in is $50,000. Blinds will increase every 45 minutes. Does anybody have any questions? (there are none)

No? Alright. Players… introduce yourselves.

At this point, the players begin introducing themselves and shaking hands with opponents on either side, and play begins.

Since Mrs. was watching with me, and doesn’t play poker, and has never set foot in a casino, I had to pause the show to explain a few things.


  • The first poker game in a new casino would not be a high-roller nor a sit-n-go
  • Players who could and would put up $50K for a tournament aren’t flocking to the Lake of the Ozarks. If they did, it would be for a multi-table tournament
  • If the high roller event were part of a series of tournaments, it would be held at the end of the series, not the beginning
  • Somebody with experience running poker tournaments would be in charge
  • There is no need for a dramatic statement that “the game… is No Limit Texas Hold’em.” Everybody would already know that. [The same thing happened in a poker game scene in another favorite Netflix series, White Collar.]
  • Casinos don’t make much money from poker. It is the least profitable form of gambling they offer. If Marty Byrd is under pressure from the Mexican drug cartel to make more money, poker isn’t going to be the source
  • Tournament directors do not instruct players to introduce themselves to each other

A bit later, after a large bet, Frank takes umbrage. “What the fuck? Aw, come on. Are you really trying to sweat me like that? Hey… hey, I’m fucking talking to you! Do you really think you’re going to bluff me on a flush?”

Without being called over by the dealer, Ruth takes on the role of the pot calling the kettle black: “I’m sorry, there is no swearing or addressing others at the table.”

It turns out not to be a bluff. After Frank calls off his remaining chips, he proceeds to call the other player an asshole. This leads to Ruth saying, without a hint of irony, “get him the fuck out of here.” Two beefy security guys are only a couple steps away.

This requires another pause to explain to Mrs, again, this isn’t representative of a casino poker scene.

Near the end of the episode, Ruth and Frank encounter each other on the top deck of the paddle wheel boat. After an exchange of threats and “fuck you’s” Ruth kicks Frank in the nuts and hurls him overboard into the water.

Why, oh why, can’t poker representations in pop culture be more authentic?


Who wants to write the next guest post?


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