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Shuffle Up And Deal
"Lucky You,” the new romantic drama from writer/director/producer Curtis Hanson, is set in the world of high-stakes poker in Las Vegas in 2003. A longtime poker player himself, Hanson offers, "I wanted to do a relationship story set in the world of poker because I've always been fascinated by the fact that the skills one must develop to be a good poker player are almost the exact opposite of the skills needed to be successful in a relationship. Deceit, or bluffing, which can destroy the trust needed for a successful personal relationship, is a big part of the game. There is also no collaborative spirit; it's an individual sport. Poker players must be completely self-centered; they can't have sympathy and win. They can't worry about whether their opponent can afford a loss. By contrast, warm human relationships are based on caring, empathy, honesty and often putting the other person first. Because of this dichotomy, it seemed poker could be both a metaphor and a mirror for the different relationships in a story.”

Screenwriter Eric Roth actually began writing the original script for "Lucky You” before the spike in poker's popularity. "I wanted to create something different about gamblers and gambling because I think all great gambling movies are love stories at heart, about winning and losing and finding your way,” he says.

Hanson adds, "We set the story in 2003 because that was the year the world of poker dramatically changed. Three things came together to make that happen. Internet poker was exploding, allowing amateur players from all over the world to hone their card skills online. The hole card camera was introduced that year, which made the game much more popular on television because it allowed the audience at home to see the players' hole cards and learn about the nuances of betting and bluffing from the top pros. And it was the year an unknown amateur internet player named Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker, making it possible for everyone to say, ‘That could be me.'”

Hanson and Roth collaborated on a final script even as the fast-growing poker craze was bringing a new dimension to the story of a dynamic young poker pro named Huck; his estranged father, legendary poker champion L.C. Cheever; and an aspiring singer named Billie, who comes into Huck's life and becomes, at once, his muse and his conscience.

Producer Carol Fenelon remarks, "I think Curtis believes the ability to distinguish truth from artifice is an important element of any relationship. In many ways, the world of professional poker in Las Vegas provided the perfect opportunity to explore that idea. Poker can only truly be mastered by those who excel at discerning the difference between honesty and deception. The ability to read people—to understand their ‘tells' and then act on that knowledge to one's personal advantage—is perhaps the biggest key to conquering the game.”

Producer Denise Di Novi notes that the poker boom coming when it did was "a nice coincidence because more people are playing and watching poker and understanding the game. Poker really is used as a kind of metaphor for how the characters lead their lives and deal with their relationships, so the more people understand poker, the more meaningful that aspect of the story is to them and the more they can get out of the movie. It's about the game of life and how you play it to get the most out of it. How much risk do you take and how much do you open up?”

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