I Think About This a Lot: The Poker Game in The Parent Trap

Photo: Walt Disney Pictures

I Think About This a Lot is a series dedicated to private memes: images, videos, and other random trivia we are doomed to play forever on loop in our minds.

The 1998 remake of The Parent Trap had everything my prepubescent self could have wanted: Cool Dad Dennis Quaid, Natasha Richardson as both a perfect mom and fashionista businesswoman, a makeover montage, a secret handshake with a butler, and two Lindsay Lohans. I blame this film for my constant longing for a near-identical twin as well as the Olsen twins’ dominion over my childhood.

The premise for the movie — if you never saw the original 1961 Parent Trap, didn’t come of age during the late ’90s, or were just more of a Hilary Duff stan — is this: Hallie (played by Linsday Lohan) goes to summer camp, where she meets Annie (played by Lindsay Lohan with a British accent). The identical strangers hate each other at first, as identical strangers are wont to do. While spending forced bonding time in a cabin, they discover they each possess opposite halves of the same torn photo of their parents. (I assume every child whose parents aren’t together carries a torn photo of their estranged parent in the back pocket of their frayed denim shorts.) The identical nemeses realize they’re actually twin sisters, reconcile over peanut-butter-dipped Oreos, and devise a scheme to reunite their divorced parents. Sister-swapping antics and sexual tension between divorcés ensue.

If you boiled down “’90s girl nostalgia” into a sparkly, saccharine sauce, you would get this movie. There are matching bomber jackets, hairdos held up with banana hair clips, and a soundtrack that still makes me bust out in hormonal bacne. There’s an ear-piercing scene that’s forever changed how I look at apples and 12-year-old female aggression. There’s a wedding photo shoot in which Natasha Richardson’s character bravely — and I cannot stress this enough — suggests putting a top hat under a bridal veil. However, it is the movie’s poker scene that’s stuck with me to this day.

We see British Lohan counting American dollars, clearly cleaning up at the makeshift poker table splayed out in one of the camp bunks. “So, that’s it?” she asks with a cheeky confidence I have yet to perfect in my 28 years of life. “No more takers?” Then, American Lohan walks into the cabin with a career-making line read of, “I’LL take a WHACK at it.” Sunglasses on, sock of quarters swinging, she comes into frame as the intro of “Bad to the Bone” plays.

Some teen movies have girls hash out their issues with dance battles or secret three-way calls. “No, no,” The Parent Trap said. “We shall show interpersonal tension in a language that speaks directly to 12-year-old girls: poker.” The two Lohans say things like “deal me in” and refer to each other by their last names, both crucial elements of Cool Girl canon. I still have no idea what kind of poker game they’re playing, but the child actors in the scene make a good show of acting like they do. The campers ooh and ahh and make knowing eyebrows because I guess this is a camp for card-shark child prodigies. Both Lohans bet quarters and dollar bills among a pot of orange scrunchies, purple hair clips, lip gloss, what looks like maybe a bobby pin or two, and metallic-blue nail polish. Yes, 8-year-old me thought to herself, This is Cool Girl currency.

I never went to summer camp. I say this with zero wistfulness or preteen resentment. My childhood summers were for trips to my grandparents’ house, going to the community pool, and hiding in the pool’s bathroom when suburban girls made fun of my too-tanned skin or hairy upper lip. I’d heard tales of sleepaway camps where girls claimed they flirted with cute camp counselors, sang songs I can still recite the words to (I’d learned them just in case I ever found myself at such a camp), and made friends from across the state they’d keep in touch with forever or at least until next summer. The summer-camp scenes in The Parent Trap, especially this poker one, let me sit quietly on a bunk bed above a room of the pretty white girls who would have been far too cool to hang out with me in real life.

After assessing their hands, American Lohan and British Lohan decide to “up the ante” or “make a deal” or some other poker lingo that means “the loser has to go skinny-dipping in the lake.”

British Lohan reveals her hand, a straight flush. (We all know that this is a good hand and didn’t have to Google it just now or anything.) However, American Lohan beats her hand with a royal flush. She shows her cards and employs one of my favorite acting techniques: a character doing the accent of another character whom they also happen to be playing. (See: Vanessa Hudgens in The Princess Switch.) You have a higher likelihood of getting struck by lightning twice, being eaten by a shark, or finding your identical-twin stranger at summer camp (I’m assuming) than both these hands occurring simultaneously in a poker game. I know there are plenty of logical flaws throughout the movie, but this is my favorite.

The scene cuts to British Lohan fulfilling her end of the bet, diving into the camp lake completely naked. While submerged, American Lohan and the other girls secretly take all her clothes, leaving her to walk back to camp in the nude save for her shoes. Not even a fake British accent will save you from Cool Girl schemes.

Sometimes I wish I hadn’t spend so much of my youth wanting desperately to be loved by people I only sort of liked. (My constant desire to be accepted by Cool Girls is likely the reason I’m still kinda scared of and a little bit horny for Meredith Blake, the movie’s hot and mean stepmom-to-be played by Elaine Hendrix.) Other times I wonder if anyone feels like they have a good poker face all the time. I mean, even people with cheeky confidence and British accents end up showing their whole ass sometimes. In the end, maybe it’s fine if I accidentally show all my cards once or twice or every day of my life. Read ’em and weep, baby.

I Think About This a Lot: The Poker Game in The Parent Trap