Matt Damon and Edward Norton
The story starts off with a small time rounder Matt Damon who is studying to become a lawyer and uses his poker skills to pay for law school. After playing a few hands with two time WSOP champion Johnny Chan at Atlantic City, he decides he is able to play with the best, and takes a shot at high stakes poker. He takes his entire fortune of $30,000 and loses it in a sleazy backroom game to a Russian Mafioso played by John Malkovich. His girlfriend, a fellow law student played by Gretchen Mol hates his gambling, and he promises to stop. He does quit, and instead has to work a night deliver route. However his long term friend, played by Edward Norton recently released from prison, gets him to start rounding again. However while Damon plays by studying his players unconscious gestures, Edward Norton takes any advantage he can, as in dealing from the bottom of the deck, which gets both into a deeper hole they already in. The story ends with Matt Damon having to go back to Teddy KGB’s place which will entertain you with numerous table quotes that are used throughout VPP poker league talk, and just numerous table talk references that you will be lost if you do not watch the movie. Though the movie had a very predictable ending, and some of KGB’s tells seemed pretty easy to any poker player to spot, John Malkovich’s performance was his best ever. He will leave you hating him, but loving how funny he can be.
Rounders is one of those movies you have to watch if you have any interest in poker. It may be one of the major factors for the recent popularity of the WSOP (World Series of Poker). Rounders was released in 1998, and in that year the WSOP main event featured 350 people and that rose to 839 people in 2003 when the previously unknown Chris Moneymaker won the WSOP championship, which is regarded as the pivotal event that caused poker to really blossom to what it is today. But without the steady increase, who knows if we would have had Moneymaker in 2003.
This is my favorite movie, not just poker movie, but overall movie. Matt Damon was excellent; Edward Norton and John Malkovich were at their best. You can watch this movie over and over again. It has the suspense in there, and also is very funny. This movie is not just for entertainment, but shows you what a mistake of bankroll management can do to you, and also shows you of the opposite of tilt, the dreaming of pipe dreams, dreams of winning the WSOP, the confidence factor of poker, and shows you what happens when you are dreaming big, and not focusing on the hand in front of you. To find out how to be a pro, check out the forums; there is a special section there called ask a pro. In this section you can find out what a proper bankroll is to become a pro like Matt Damon in the movie wanted to be, and how to handle the tilt factor. There is also a lot of other advice you can get from the pro if you just want to make your game better.
Now don’t get me wrong. I love poker as much as the next guy, but when I picked up Rounders, it was not because it was a poker movie, it was because it was a Matt Damon and Edward Norton movie. The fact that it was about poker was simply a bonus. That being said, I did watch it with poker in mind, not just for the cute boys.
For sheer entertainment, I loved it. I thought it was a great way to spend a couple of hours. Did it give me any insights into how to improve my poker game’ Well, maybe a few; but lets face it, Hollywood is prone to hyperbole and this movie is no different. However we now always offer Oreo cookies at our home poker games in hopes that another Teddy KGB tell will arise and we can pay off the mortgage on the house (lol!).
I didn’t think that the acting was all that stellar in this one. Matt Damon was just being Matt Damon (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing) and this was certainly no Primal Fear for Edward Norton. John Malkovich was great, but isn’t he always’
The story was a little canned, no surprises. We knew the girlfriend wouldn’t stick around (why would you want her to anyway’), we knew Mike was not lawyer material and that the bad guy would end up losing. Of course, everyone likes it that way. Sorry to spoil the ending for those of you who haven’t seen it.
Probably the best part of this movie for me was Damon’s voiceover work and the exploration of the mind of a gambler. We all love the line, ‘If you can’t spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, you are the sucker’. But there are other interesting insights provided by his narrative about playing the man not the cards, not needing luck to win and just the sheer mental agility that a poker player must possess to truly be successful.
I was intrigued by the underground poker rooms that were portrayed in the movie and found myself wondering how close the reality they really were. How does one get involved in the underground poker world’ Where does one amass the bankroll required’ Who do you have to know’
What this movie has done is give a meteoric rise to the game of poker. Movies have a way of bringing subculture into the mainstream. And poker is no exception. When ‘Rounders’ was released I think poker was still viewed as a bit of a vice, not to be attempted by the weak’now, EVERYONE is playing. I can’t seem to go anywhere without bumping into poker talk’and surely Rounders had something to do with it.
All in all, this is a truly entertaining movie providing interesting insights and snippets into the mind of a poker player. As a movie, it’s great, but as an instructional video, it’s not really very useful. So just be sure to go in knowing that you’re watching a movie about life and its ups and downs with poker being the backdrop.