Released in 1998, Rounders is perhaps the best poker movie in the last 20 years. With Matt Damon and Edward Norton as the protagonists and John Malkovich as the antagonist, you cannot go wrong. If you are an avid poker player, there is really no need to explain what a rounder is. However, for the benefit of those who are in the dark as to the term, a rounder is a person who plays cards for a living. In fact, a rounder plays cards as his only means of living.
In the movie, Matt Damon plays a former rounder, Mike McDermott. As with many other movies, Rounders follows a general plot wherein the main character is torn between two opposing forces. In this movie, Matt Damon is torn between his girlfriend (played by Gretchen Mol) and his bestfriend Worm (played by Edward Norton).
Gretchen, of course, wants him to stay away from gambling. On the other hand, Worm just got out of prison and has an enormous gambling debt. Quite obviously, Worm wants Mike to help him out by playing high stakes poker to win money to pay off his debt. Worm’s problem is that he was a known cheater even before he got into prison. While in prison, however, he continued to sharpen his poker skills.
The movie shows scenes wherein Mike is constantly trying to juggle his commitments to both his girlfriend and his best friend. On top of this, he is also trying to go on with his law studies. He tries to help out Worm by vouching for him in poker games – with the strong word of warning to Worm that he must not cheat. Of course, old habits die hard and Worm eventually gets into trouble with the Russian mafia. The movie ends with Mike playing high stakes games. The World Series of Poker even makes an “appearance” as Mike heads off to Las Vegas in the end to participate in it. (Sorry about the spoiler guys).
If you want to see a poker movie with a whole lot of poker action wherein you could actually pick out a tip or two, Rounders is the movie for you. You will see a lot about the underground world of high stakes poker games in this movie. More so, you will even witness cameo appearances – legendary Johnny Chan being one of them.
Though Rounders didn’t really make a big bang when it was released, it has since then become a classic among poker players. Any self-respecting poker player would have seen the movie at least once. Many say that Rounders has helped poker become the highly popular game it is today. On the other hand, some say it became popular because of the widespread love for poker. Whichever it is really, the fact remains that Rounders is up there on the list of best poker movies of all time.
My parting quote from the movie for you is: “Listen, here’s the thing. If you can’t spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, then you are the sucker.”