Rounders (1998)

 Rounders (1998)

Until the 1990's, when someone thought about poker in movies, they typically thought of the stereotypical scene where gamblers in a bar or saloon sat around playing five card draw and eventually come to blows over the game.  The reality behind the lifestyle of a poker grinder was rarely examined, that was until 1998 when the cult classic Rounders was released. Rounders would ultimately prove itself to be the quintessential poker film and would have a significant impact on real world poker and future generations of players.
 
Rounders has been called many things but in reality the film is a coming of age story for an extremely talented poker player Mike McDermott, played by Matt Damon. McDermott was a poker player who got hustled by an experienced player but rather than make a comeback, he decided to leave the game.
 
His exit from the game would not last as a fellow rounder and negative influence Worm reenters his life. Worm, played by Ed Norton, is a decent card player but also is a mechanic or an old school term for a cheat. Under the influence of Worm, Mike goes back to playing card regularly and has to deal with the realities of a life of a poker player.
 
Rounders didn't just look at one side of poker but rather the full spectrum. The good players were not always good and viewers for the first time got to see some of the true psychology behind the game. Poker is not about getting the best cards or playing your hand the best. Many times it is about playing the people regardless of your cards or even the cards they are holding.
 
In addition, the dark side of the game was also exposed more realistically than ever before. Back room games, gambling debts, addiction, and more were all revealed as part of the world of poker and these were concepts that were glossed over by many movies. In the past, the worst that could happen is a fist fight or a gunfight at a poker table. As long as you didn't cheat, everything was fine. That is not the reality of the game.
And let us not forget John Malkovich
 
Without spoiling too much of the plot, Mike eventually gets the opportunity to get his poker career back on track despite the many obstacles put before him. The turning point of the film revolves around the Oreo tell of the main villain of the film, but we will let you figure that out for yourself.  
 
Many of the current generation of professional poker players point to Rounders as their influence for getting involved with poker.  The film told the truth about the game of poker in a way not explored by filmmakers in the past and many were drawn to the mental aspect of the game.
 
Whether or not you are a fan of poker, you likely will enjoy Rounders. It is a well written story with a strong cast that will keep you engaged for the entire film.
 
This review is written in collaboration with Ash Williams  of Pokerlistings.com

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