Lincoln Lawyer

Netflix just dropped The Lincoln Lawyer, a new series starring Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as a Los Angeles attorney who does his best work while riding around in his Lincoln. (There’s also a movie version of this story that was released in 2011.) While the new show is entertaining, they desperately need a poker consultant.

Let’s unpack a few reasons why.

In episode #5, Garcia-Rulfo’s character, attorney Mickey Haller, is getting ready for jury selection on a high profile murder trial. His client is a wealthy technology entrepreneur accused of a double murder, who refuses to pay for a jury consultant. So Mickey visits an old friend he knows to be a people-reading expert based her skills as a poker player, in search of free consulting.

The audience meets this poker player as Mickey walks in on a No Limit Hold’em game in a private room above a gentlemen’s club. The expert stares at the center of the table for a second, then places two white chips forward and announces “call.” We see a large pile of plain white and green poker chips; no logos or denominations.

The next player holds her cards in front of her face like it’s a once-a-month low stakes dealer’s choice game at a senior center, staring at them the entire time. She laments “the chances that somebody doesn’t have a full house are not good,” and slaps her poker-sized Bicycle brand coated paper hole cards down on the table.

A close-up shows a large pot brewing, and a board of 3♥ A♠ A♥5♥.

The dealer, working with no chip tray imbedded in the table in front of him, pulls the folded cards into a muck pile, in the middle of which a solid red cut card innocently lays. Then comes the river card: K♦

The first player to act is former NBA basketball player turned boxer turned actor Glen “Big Baby” Davis, playing all 280 pounds of muscle of himself. He pushes a stack of 10 white chips forward and announces, confidently, “ten-thousand.” This is apparently an all-in bet as the action never returns to him.

The next player declares “all-in.” He advances two stacks, totaling 21 white chips and a single green chip on top. The dealer picks up one stack, ostensibly to confirm the amount, but doesn’t say anything.

Back to the expert. After a minor hesitation and shrug, she pushes what appears to be fewer chips forward and states “call.”

The dealer looks at Big Baby in anticipation. He drops his cards face-up and smiles menacingly. “Kings full. Caught it on the river.”

The next guy says, “Sorry Big Baby, four of a kind” and casually flips over AA. With a shit eating grin, he practically leaps out of his seat and reaches for the pot. There’s no reaction from Big Baby, nor really from anyone else.

Except the expert, who speaks up quickly after patiently waiting for the others to show their cards. “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” She turns over her cards and casually says “Straight flush.” The camera zooms in on her 4♥ 2♥.

There’s a soft whistle and mumbled “fuck” as quads-guy stands and starts to walk away. Everyone else acts like it’s just another day at the office. The scene quickly ends with the dealer packing the poker chips into a silver briefcase-style poker chip case.

A lot of Hollywood types are quick to profess their love of authenticity. And conflict. If this were an authentic poker game at these stakes, what would be different?

Let’s compile a list in the comments.

And another thing. The entire raison d’etre of this scene is to introduce an expert at reading people. It’s a set up, with the payoff to come when these skills help Mickey select a favorable jury for his client.

All she did was turn a straight flush and call two all-in bets. Easy game, amiright? Where’s the people reading in that?! The scene fails the authenticity test. And fails the screenwriting test as well.


  1. I watched this series last week and was also rolling my eyes at that scene. It was not a bad series overall, but things like that really take you out of the story to groan. On a related noted, I recently re-watched Casino Royale (the more recent one with Daniel Craig) and was similarly shaking my head at the poker scenes. The final poker hand was something like straight flush > full house > full house > flush. There was no real “poker” being played; instead, it was just a series of cooler hands that are dealt to the players. Bond didn’t really “play the man across from you” as he states so emphatically to his love interest; instead, he gets to see a cheap flop and picks up a straight flush draw, sees a cheap turn and hits his nut hand. I think they dumb this down, thinking the average audience watcher wants this sort of hand-strength situation, but I think if they played it more real it would be much better overall and even the most clueless audience members would still appreciate the scene the same or more. Plus it wouldn’t make all the real poker players watching the scene groan.

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