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Movie review: No Limit a compelling poker tournament documentary1 December 2006
No Limit is a compelling documentary that traces Susan Genard's eight-month journey through the tournament poker circuit as she attempts to raise enough money to save her independent film company. Susan's four-year old son and her business partner (also the child's father) accompany her, and interviews with top professional poker players complement the narrative.
The title No Limit is somewhat disingenuous. Susan is a Hi/Lo split specialist and only competes in Omaha or Seven-Card Stud Hi/Lo tournaments -- not No Limit Hold'em as the viewer may expect. But while the games are different, the movie drives home the point that trying to make a living through the tournament circuit creates a "no limit" lifestyle.
Susan's journey gets off to a very rocky start when she busts out of her first few tournaments early. The pressure on Susan is palpable -- tournament poker is stressful enough without knowing the documentary you are producing depends on your performance.
When Susan is told that she is the third person to bust in her first documented tournament (two other women busted out before her), you squirm in embarrassment at her reaction as she whines about bad cards and bad luck.
The cameras also captured Susan's complicated family life. Several scenes depict tension between Susan and business partner Tim Rhys (also her ex) in a casino hotel room while their son vies for their attention.
The dynamic between the two is interesting, as Tim admittedly does not comprehend poker. After Susan busts out of her first tournament, Tim reflects on the $540 entry fee that was lost in a period of two hours.
"To me, that's a lot of money," Tim says.
"That's not a lot of money," Susan quips.
Susan is constantly forced to defend her gambling decisions, and Tim wonders if traveling the poker circuit "makes sense for our lives." In one poignant moment, Susan breaks an agreement she made with Tim to not play cash games, only to win nearly $4,000. While Tim is angry that she broke their agreement, it is tough for him to argue with the results.
Interspersed with Susan's story are a series of interviews with poker's biggest stars. While star players (Phil Hellmuth, Daniel Negreanu, Doyle Brunson and Scotty Nguyen to name just a few) pepper the lineup, some of the most entertaining moments come from successful players who are not today's superstars, like Puggy Pearson, Thor Hansen, and Robert Turner.
"I could lose $100,000 on a football game, and then go eat," Turner says in one of the movie's best lines.
The result is a dynamic interplay between the world that the players describe and the experience that Susan lives out on the screen.
No Limit can be purchased for $24.95 at www.nolimitmovie.com and is available for $25 at www.amazon.com.
Best of Aaron Todd