Poker Movie Review - Rounders (1998)

Rounders is undoubtedly the most popular poker film of all times, one that probably every Texas Hold’em player knows about. This is the movie that made people start playing poker even before the era of poker ads on TV. This is the movie that every poker player has to see at least once in their lives. The poker society altogether has a lot to thank to this cult film for poker players.

I think that the above thoughts already express my admiration for this movie. I wasn’t even really clear with the rules at the time I watched the film, but it still instantly grabbed my attention. The atmosphere and the magic surrounding the players and the buoyancy of Mike (Matt Damon) make this film a must-see.


Do I really need to introduce the plot of this film? Is there a reader of this blog that hasn’t seen it?

Mike – who happens to be studying law – collects all his past poker winnings and decides to start playing big. Thanks to a very unlucky hand he loses a huge lump of cash. After getting himself burnt, he contemplates on abandoning his poker career and decides to earn money as a courier. His plan works out well, until his best friend Worm (played by the also ingenious Edward Norton) gets out of prison. Worm instantly convinces Mike to sit down and play poker again.

Matt Damon - Rounders

Basically, there are two main differences between Mike and Worm: Mike strives to play clean, win more and more and improve his skills. Worm goes for the easy money and besides his ’clever shuffling techniques’ he also is a cunning player.


The main reason for the basic conflicts in the movie is that the two guys need to settle Worm’s huge debts as soon as possible. Given that Mike also owes the very dangerous Teddy KGB, the options are quite limited: they have to collect thousands of dollars in just a few days (Worm’s debts are $15,000 in total).

Teddy KGB

As it can still occur that someone missed out on this film, I am not going to reveal the ending. Let’s just see some fun facts about the movie now!

Did you know, that..

  • Both main actors were sposored by the Binoin’s Horseshoe Casino at the 1998 WSOP. Matt Damon sat at one table with Doyle Brunson. Norton got eliminated with a full house against four of a kind, tens. Matt Damon got busted about an hour later against Doyle Brunson. Damon went all-in preflop with KK when Doyle said: "I hate to do it to ya, Matty" and called the all-in with AA.
  • Johnny Chan only took part in the film because his daughter wanted to meet Mattt Damon.
  • According to Chris Ferguson, the real hero of the film is Joey Knish, who played poker for a living in the movie.
  • The scene in which Mike analyzes the Judge’s Game is very over-exaggerated. In reality, players can only guess the hand range of their opponent. Exactly knowing what two cards the opponent holds is almost impossible.
  • Mike keeps his poker money in Doyle Brunson’s book Super/System. Although this book says we should never risk our whole bankroll in one game, this is exactly what Mike is planning to do.
  • The American punk rock band Public Uproar wrote a song named ’Rounders’, wich was inspired by the film.
  • We do not know what kind of hand Teddy KGB (John Malkovich) had in the film. According to the general public’s opinion, he must have had AA. This is also hinted by Teddy saying ’That ace could not have helped you’ at the end of the hand.

Best quotes:

Mike: „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”
Worm: „I guess the sayings' true. In the poker game of life, women are the rake man. They are the fuckin' rake.”
Mike: „It's immoral to let a sucker keep his money.”

Some goofs in the movie:

When Mike and Worm go to Gramma, Worm is chewing a straw, which he spits out when he starts shouting with Gramma. When Gramma suddenly grabs hold of him, he has the straw in his mouth again.

In the scene when Mike and Worm go to the police officer’s party, the sirens on the top of the cop cars are red and blue. In truth, the New York police cars only use red lights. Also, the police officer uniforms are not the traditional New York ones.