Would you invite the new guy back to a private game back that doubled up on his first hand, slow rolled the host, left immediately after because the game “was too rich”, then insulted the host by chugging a drink and slapping a ten on the table?
That’s exactly what Jack Pearson did in the Season One finale of NBC’s new hit drama “This Is Us.” Too often Hollywood portrays poker as comic relief but NBC turned the page and shot a dark, believable poker scene stripped of gimmicks and implausible action.
Millions of Americans have been following the story of the Pearson family through a jumbled timeline that leaves more questions than answers. The Season One finale drew nearly 13 million viewers as it showed the beginning of Milo Ventimiglia’s Jack and Mandy Moore’s Rebecca relationship and a tumultuous fight that pulled on the heartstrings of viewers.
**Spoiler Alert, Story Details Ahead**
In the finale, Jack sits in a poker game with his entire savings on the table in a gritty, dimly-lit scene. The game takes place in 1972, before Jack and Rebecca began dating, when he was 28-years-old and an out of work Vietnam veteran living in his parent’s attic. Jack earns money through odd jobs and dreams of opening an auto repair garage.
Jack’s friend, Darryl, has a cousin that can get them in the game, but Darryl warns Jack that it’s dangerous and the guys that run it are bad guys. Jack ignores the warnings, falls victim to his own hubris and ends up beaten, bloody and broke.
The scene opens with Jack and Darryl going to the back door of “Ray’s Tavern” for the game. The pair arrive with four players waiting for action to start. Ray, the game’s organizer, enters the room tells the room that they’re playing $10 ante No Limit Five Card Draw and that he runs “a nice, clean game.”
Initially, Ray wasn’t going to play but decided to play with a shrug. Strangely, they don’t use poker chips – more on that later – and each player pulls out stacks of cash on the table.
The first hand of the night begins with Player 1 limping, Player 2 raising to $20 and a third calling – Player 2 actually string-bets but it’s one of three in the scene and inconsequential to the outcome. Jack peels his hand and is holding Qh Qd Qc Ah 3c.
Jack says, “I’m in and raise you $40,” bringing the total bet to $60. Darryl mucks and Ray raises another $40, bringing the bet to $100 before the draw. Player 1 mucks, Player 2 calls and Jack calls as well.
Tension rises in the scene with just the sound of cards and the stifled chat of announcing action. With the pot at $400 Player 2 draws one card, Jack takes two – mucking the ace and three – and Ray draws two. The camera cuts to over Ray’s shoulder to show his cards – Tc Th Ts 5c 5d for a full house. He had trip tens before the draw and picked up the pair of the fives.
Player 2 checks, Jack bets $75 and Ray says, “Ok handsome, I’ll see you,” and pulls out his wallet. “And I’ll raise you – how much you got left?”
Jack taps his cards thinking and Darryl says, “Jack…” trying to caution him.
“Shut up,” says Ray, instantly changing into someone to be feared. Jack counts out $360, Ray makes the bet and Jack snap-calls. Jack doesn’t say anything and waits for Ray to table his hand.
Ray rolls over a full house and Jack waited for a beat before saying, “Queens,” and showing quad queens. His pause wasn’t long enough to be considered a slow roll but long enough to be rude. Jack drags the pot of $1,270 and says, “Just a lucky hand fellas.”
Jack stacks his cash, the dealer shuffles for the second hand of the night and Jack says, “You know what, I think this game is a little too rich for my blood, I think I’m gonna call it a night.”
“Whoa whoa, excuse me,” says Ray. “You played one hand and you’re done?”
“Like I said,” Jack backpedals.
“I heard what you said,” Ray interrupting. “You didn’t even finish your drink.”
Jack slugs back the remainder of a club soda, slaps $10 on the table for the drinks and leaves with Darryl. They’re barely out of the door when the two start celebrating Jack’s windfall. But as soon as they leave the alley two of Ray’s thugs knock them down, beat them up and take the money.
Playing without chips was crucial to the scene as Jack couldn’t have made such a quick exit if he had to cash out. While Jack losing his money and getting beat up in the process built sympathy for the character, most poker players probably sided with Ray after Jack’s lack of table etiquette.