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Belfast theater to go All In'

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Poker documentary to be screened at the Colonial Theater

BELFAST - Poker is big business. There's no disputing that the game has experienced an exponential surge in popularity over the past decade or so. It's been so big, in fact, that it can be easy to forget the years of ups and downs the game faced before this recent explosion.

'All In: The Poker Movie' is a documentary that aims to determine the root causes behind this 21st century poker boom. The movie is currently being screened in theaters all over the country, including a number of Maine locales. The film has already screened at the Portland Museum of Art and will be coming to Belfast's Colonial Theater on April 19.

The film, directed by Douglas Tirola, explores some of the history of poker, looking back at a time when the poker player was viewed as a somewhat shady, almost sleazy character. We get introduced to some of the legendary underground poker rooms in New York City (a number of which served as inspiration for the seminal poker film 'Rounders'). The game's popularity ebbed and flowed in Las Vegas, but in 1973, Binion's put together a six-man tournament that they called 'The World Series of Poker.'

The WSOP gained in popularity as it became televised, and became a true spectator sport with the introduction of the 'hole cam,' allowing viewers at home to see what cards the players held. However, the gains made by this innovation were dwarfed by the influx of players created by online poker. Suddenly, there were thousands more players than there had ever been, capable of playing many more hands than they ever could have before.

And lest we forget, amateur Chris Moneymaker's $2.5 million win at the 2003 WSOP proved to the world that literally anyone in the tournament can conceivably take home the victory. Millions more flocked to the poker rooms, online and brick-and-mortar alike.

However, it's not all sunshine and rainbows. Recent legislation has made the legality of online poker unclear, while the two biggest US sites (Full Tilt and Poker Stars) both stand accused of significant financial misdeeds. The wave has peaked; the only question now is, how far does poker fall?

The film follows the timeline nicely, establishing the significance of the past while focusing primarily on current names and faces in order to maintain currency. The interviews are a veritable who's-who of the poker world. Not only are there more than a dozen prominent players featured players like Chris Ferguson, Howard Lederer, Phil Laak and the aforementioned Moneymaker but there's some great stuff from people who are connected to the game in a different way. Matt Damon (who starred in 'Rounders') features prominently; there are also a number of writers, administrators and assorted behind-the-scenes types who lend an additional perspective.

The film does miss a few opportunities. For instance, they kind of gloss over the fact that prominent players Ferguson and Lederer were involved in some of the online financial shadiness. For the most part, however, this is an honest and heartfelt look at a game that the filmmaker clearly loves.

What 'All In' is telling us is simple: The American poker boom may have peaked, but the game isn't going anywhere.

'All In: The Poker Movie' will be screened at the Colonial Theater in Belfast on April 19. Visit allinthepokermovie.com for more information.

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