Dir. John Dahl. USA. 1998.

Talking Pictures alias







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While the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event is largely considered the beginning of the modern poker boom, many players that frequent the tables at the casinos nowadays will tell you that they got interested in poker after watching the 1998 film Rounders.  Find out more in our Rounders full review.

Rounders is considered by and large the best poker-related movie in the history of modern cinema.  The movie follows the story of Mike McDermott, played by Matt Damon, and his journey through the underground world of poker.  At the start of the film McDermott is a law student who no longer plays the game of poker after being cleaned out by KGB, played by John Malkovich.  KGB runs one of the underground illegal card rooms in New York and in one hand destroyed Mike's bankroll.

McDermott was doing well in his law studies until an old friend known as Worm, played by Ed Norton, gets out of prison.  Worm needles Mike into getting back into poker, and soon Mike is back to rounding.  His studies slip, his girlfriend dumps him, but Mike continues to play poker.  

The turning point comes when Worm needs $15,000 to pay off old debts and the two try to earn the money playing poker.  During a poker game with a group of off-duty cops, Worm is caught cheating and they are beaten and robbed.  Mike then finds out KGB is who Worm owes the money to and Worm tells Mike they should run.  Mike not only does not run, but he cuts all ties with Worm.

Mike struggles to try and find a way to pay back the debt and one of his professors offers him a $5,000 loan, which Mike accepts.  He then goes to play KGB in a heads-up No-Limit Texas Hold em poker match for the money.  Mike wins and actually wins enough to pay off the debt.

However, KGB decides to turn the screws on Mike, reminding him that he still had $15,000 of Mike's stakes.  Mike's ego forces him to take the $15,000 and try and double it up to get his original stake back.  The plan almost fails as Mike is down to his last few thousand and in a hand that he almost will certainly go broke on.  Mike then notices a key tell at the right time and folds.  This unnerves KGB and Mike proceeds to make a comeback and win his $30,000 stake.

In the final scene, we learn that Mike repaid all his debts, including his professor and is going to go to Las Vegas to play at the World Series of Poker $10,000 Main Event.  He leaves not knowing what the future will bring.

Rounders is so popular among poker fans and enthusiasts not just for the great story telling, but also the insight that it gives into the world of poker.  You don't just see big hands unfold and players win or lose, but you also get a glimpse into what they are thinking, why they are making the plays they are, and the actual mindset it takes to be a poker player.  If you are a poker fan and have never seen Rounders, it is a must see movie.

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