Hitting the Nuts is an independent poker film about an annual small-town poker tournament and the players that play in it. Similar to the movie The Grand, this film was done in a “mockumentary”-style format but with a cast of unknown actors. The movie centers around several larger-than-life characters. There is Ezekiel Yoder, played by director Joe Boyd, an Amish farmer who has lost everything and is playing in this tournament in order to save his farm. Carol Marshal is a redhead waitress in her mid 40’s who is the eternal flirt but is also crafty at the poker table. Dean Livy is a two-time champion of the event who is a mix of Phil Hellmuth and the 40-year-old virgin.
Other characters include a pastor whose wife is the real leader of the family, a common-law couple who run the local funeral home and the tournament, a father and son team where the father constantly embarrasses the son, and the local mayor who isn’t as daft as players think he is.
While about half of the movie is spent building up to the tournaments, once the tournament starts, several stories develop including one that shows that the Ezekiel can not only play the game but actually is finding new purpose to his life as a result of the game. Dean ends up finding love during the event, and you see new sides to people that you would not expect, much like poker.
Ultimately, the poker tournament comes down to Ezekiel and Dean with the two relatively even in chips. Ezekiel goes all-in blind and Dean calls with kings. The board is run out and on the turn, Ezekiel has picked up a flush draw. The river fails to complete his flush to put a bad beat on Dean and take the title. Ezekiel is later shown to have saved his farm and now uses poker as a way to spend quality time with his family.
Hitting the Nuts is not your typical high-stakes poker story where the main character overcomes odds and takes down a huge score. Instead, it shows poker on the small scale and how casual players can not only enjoy the game, but also come together as a result. It is truly a movie where the story and the characters actually shadow the actual poker game. It is a must-see movie for any fan of poker.