Friday, October 18, 2019

Movie Review: 7 Days to Vegas

7 Days to Vegas is the very amusing new gambling film starring Vince Van Patten, known to all of you as the host of the World Poker Tour on television.  It's available in select theaters but can also be seen on V.O.D. (Amazon, iTunes, etc).  I watched it from the comfort of my home this past weekend and I have to say, the movie is a total delight. 

Vince is no stranger to acting, being the son of actor Dick Van Patten (of Eight is Enough fame) and having been a child star himself.  After he grew up, he became a professional tennis player and played (and beat) the great John McEnroe, among many others.  Since I have been a lifelong tennis fan, I do remember Vince from his tennis days.  Of course we all know him now for his poker commentary on the WPT.

Vince co-wrote the film and it is based on a true story.  I'm going to guess that the word "loosely" belongs in there before the word "based" but I have no direct knowledge of that.

Anyway, Vince plays Duke, who bears a remarkable resemblance to one Vince Van Patten.  Duke was a child actor, then a pro tennis player before he turned to hosting (and crushing) private poker games for his friends, including a lot of Hollywood types.  That's how he makes a living.  In fact he's so good at poker (and recruiting bad players with money to play in his game), he has to bury his winnings in the backyard.  The first part of the film lays all this out, and introduces us to all the colorful characters who populate his games.  Of course, they are all incurable degens, and that sets up the main story of the film.

These degens like to make prop bets, as degens do.  And we see a few of these ridiculous bets, which leads to the most ridiculous bet of all.  Duke manages to get swindled out of all his hard earned poker winnings and ends up broke and in debt.  He lucks into a $1MM inheritance and decides to risk it all to try to make a bigger killing.  So he bets the villain of the piece, an obnoxious big-time movie director named Sebastian, the $1MM against Sebastian's $5MM that he can walk to Las Vegas from Los Angeles in 7 days.

Yeah.  It's totally insane.  It sounds even more insane to me than some of you because I am so familiar with the trip from L.A. to Vegas, having done it dozens of times.  Of course I never walked it….because I'm not totally nuts. Also, because I have a bad back.  But mostly because of the not being totally nuts thing. Nevertheless, recognizing some of the landmarks and towns they travelled through (on foot) made it even a little bit more fun for me.

Well, they establish the ground rules and Duke starts to walk to Vegas—280 miles through the desert in seven days.  Apparently it is summer when he does this since they mention temperatures of 110-120 degrees.  Oh, and he has to wear a suit!  I do wish they had established what kind of footwear Duke was wearing.  Was he able to wear tennis shoes or did he have to wear the dress shoes that would be more appropriate for his suit?

All the degens from the poker game of course have action on whether Duke can make it.  So they all follow him in an RV, which Duke can use for regularly scheduled bathroom visits.  But Duke must sleep outside, not inside the RV.

Of course the journey takes all sorts of surprising—and very funny—twists and turns.  All the characters are funny and crazy, just the sort of folks you might encounter at a big poker game like this, or perhaps even in a more normal poker game in a casino.  Well, maybe not.  But if you follow the poker world (and of course you do if you read my blog), you know all about these kinds of degens and these type of crazy prop bets.  Hell I read about crazy prop bets (almost) like this one nearly every week.  Don't you?

The crazy, funny degens are what keep the movie so entertaining.  Vince and his co-writer have    created some great characters to keep the viewer fascinated.  Sebastian, the villain, is a wonderfully smarmy, vile creature.  Another character thinks he's a ventriloquist. Angry Jim is always, well, angry.  The role of Vince's bother is played by Vince's real-life brother, James.  For that matter, his real wife, actress Eileen Davidson, plays Duke's wife, though she has a relatively minor role.

Among the degens that show up during Duke's walk, all playing themselves, are Vince's poker pals Antonio Esfandiari, Phil Laak and of course Jennifer Tilly,  Great casting, as the two guys are two of the most notorious prop bettors around, and of course, how could you cast real poker players playing themselves in a movie and not ask Jennifer Tilly to join the fun, since she is an extremely talented actress as well as a bracelet-owning poker player.  I do wish the delightful Ms. Tilly had been given a little more to do because you can never get enough Jennifer Tilly.

I should warn you that although the first half of the movie introduces us to this big private poker game Duke runs, this is not a poker movie, per se.  There is not a single bit of poker strategy discussed, there are no hand histories depicted.  But you will definitely recognize bits and pieces of most of the players as poker playing types.  The setting of the underground poker game reminded me of the recent film, Molly's Game, but this movie has a much, much lighter touch than that.  It doesn't take itself anywhere near as seriously as Molly's Game did.

Which is great, because the movie is funny, entertaining, and mostly just plain fun.  I had a smile on my face pretty much the whole time I was watching.  I really think that anyone who likes this blog would enjoy it similarly.  It's just a really good time for 90 minutes.  I heartily recommend to all my blog readers.

One final note.  I said at the outset that this is a gambling movie.  Well it is, but as it turns out, there's really another genre that this movie belongs to even more.  However, if I told what that genre is, it would spoil it for you, so I won't tell you.  You can find out for yourself.  Enjoy!

Congrats to Vince Van Patten for a fun, fine movie.  So, Vince….do you think you could still beat McEnroe?  How about Antonio?


  1. Thanks for posting this, Rob - one of your better written blogs. Particularly enjoyed the, "But mostly because of the not being totally nuts thing." line - well done, sir!


  2. Great review.

    because you can never get enough Jennifer Tilly.

    There's a dirty joke in there somewhere.

    1. Thanks, MOJO. With great restraint I resisted the urge to make a sleazy joke at the lovely Ms. Tilly's expense.

      Just proving there's a first time for everything.

    2. I was in a tournament once where a player at my table was a dealer and had dealt to Tilly. Somebody wanted to know how she looked. The dealer said she was dressed down wearing jeans and she looked fantastic.

    3. Our friend AlaskaGal told me that she was once sitting right next to Jennifer in a ladies event. She didn't mention how she looked (I assume she looked great) but said she was a really nice person and didn't take the bait when she bet her big hand against her.

  3. I agree and enjoyed it too. If you like some Jen Tilly and degen movies, have you seen Let it Ride? It's an all-time fave of mine.

    1. Thanks, Dave. You know when I heard about Let it Ride recently, it sounded vaguely familiar. I can't remember for sure but I do have a feeling I saw it when it came out. I just have such a bad memory. I think I will try to watch it (again?) soon and see if I can figure out whether I saw it way back when. Sadly there are plenty of movies like that for me.

  4. I think it was way too early to "let it ride" to knock someone out. That was ridiculous. He just wanted to get free cards in hopes of winning the hand. You obviously needed to protect your hand. You can never believe a poker player. Though I have heard some experts say players have a tendency to tell the truth because they think it is deceptive.

    1. Thanks, Makarschuk, appreciate the support. Obviously I agree with you.

      BTW, looks like you posted this comment to the wrong post, obviously meant for the post after this, but that's ok.