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Go all in with "Bet Raise Fold"

21 June 2013

Online poker in the United States has gone through an incredible evolution. From initial misgivings to blind trust, players have had an interesting relationship with the sites that took their money and allowed them to play. Some players were good enough at the game to make a living playing poker on their computers, and Bet Raise Fold chronicles three of those players as they navigate the industry's murky waters.

The film documents the forces that drove the online poker boom, and later, its bust. The narrative, which is loosely chronological, allows those who aren't as familiar with the industry to develop an understanding of its short history, while at the same time allowing those that have been part of it for the last decade to gain new insights thanks to the outstanding group of players and experts who participated in the film.

But what really makes Bet Raise Fold stand out is how the story is told through its three main characters: Tony Dunst, Martin Bradstreet, and Danielle Moon-Anderson.

Dunst may be recognizable to casual poker fans as the man behind the World Poker Tour's "Raw Deal" segment. He represents what many perceive the online poker pro to be: A young man living large in Las Vegas, partying with his friends.

Dunst, however, showcases a complexity that belies the simple stereotype. He struggles to deal with the realities of a "real job" after spending the last few years making his own schedule. And in the months following Black Friday, he shows real anger at having his money locked up as a result of the government's indictments of PokerStars and Full Tilt, while still being responsible for paying taxes on money he never received.

Bradstreet represents another online poker stereotype -- "the gamer." He’s an Australian who picked up the game after learning about it through friends he played Starcraft with. But Bradstreet turns out to be a well-rounded individual who is actually more interested in his music than poker. He has a cerebral view of the game, but it seems as if poker is just not interesting enough to be fulfilling to him as a life-long career.

But the real star of the film is Moon-Anderson, a young, married, mother of one living in rural Minnesota and supporting her family by playing online poker. The daughter of an admitted problem gambler, Moon-Anderson talks at length about how difficult it was to grow up in a household that struggled to get by. Her success as a poker player allowed her to provide a stable income for her family, something that she lacked growing up.

Some of the most compelling moments in the film document her as she processes Black Friday's aftermath. The loss of income and the fact that she has funds locked up online hurts to be sure, but more crushing is the loss of the dream of becoming a sponsored pro.

Bet Raise Fold includes the traditional trappings of a documentary, with interviews with players (e.g., Daniel Negreanu, Phil Galfond and Tom Dwan), media (e.g., Paul McGuire, BJ Nemeth, and Jay Newnum) and industry leaders (Nolan Dalla, David Schwartz and Stuart Hoegner). The musical score is perfect, especially the track used for the footage of Chris Moneymaker's 2003 Main Event win that so closely mirrors ESPN's original WSOP theme music.

There were areas that could have been improved. Someone unfamiliar with the industry could easily walk away thinking that every person that plays online poker is a winner, while the reality is only a small percentage wins. While there is a segment devoted to the inevitable downswings winning players must endure, it would have been nice to see the perspective of the long-time losing player. And the end credits indicate that no attempt was made to include representation from the Department of Justice. I would have liked to have seen a government official talk (or the attempt made to talk to one) about the decision process behind the Black Friday indictments and when U.S. players can expect to see the money from their Full Tilt balances.

But on the whole, Bet Raise Fold is a captivating documentary that poker players – and friends and family of poker players – should make every effort to see.

Bet Raise Fold will be available for digital download on June 30 at www.betraisefoldmovie.com. Supporters of the film's Kickstarter fundraising efforts can also receive DVD or BluRay versions of the film.

Go all in with "Bet Raise Fold" is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
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Best of Aaron Todd
Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.

Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.