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April 17, 2005

Rounders Movie Review

Posted at April 17, 2005 05:22 PM in General Discussions , by Greedy Gecko.

Unfortunately for the poker fan, quality movies about poker are few and far between. However, one film that is owned by nearly every poker aficionado is Rounders starring Matt Damon and Edward Norton.

Caution – There are some spoilers below.

Rounders begins almost as a cautionary tale, demonstrating the devastating impact poker can have on the life of a gambler. Having lost his law school tuition money in a poker game, Mike McDermott, played by Matt Damon, vows to leave the world of backroom poker and abandon his dream of playing in the World Series of Poker.

However, when his degenerate friend Lester ‘Worm’ Murphy, played by Edward Norton, drags him back in, everything in his life suffers. He loses his girlfriend, grades, and plunges into debt with loan sharks. Ultimately, he relies on a large loan from a friendly professor, earns enough to pay back all his debts, and leave law school with a renewed passion for poker and the intention to play in the fabled poker tournament.

While the movie is very enjoyable and is a must-see for every poker player, I believe that the moral is misguided. Your hero loses everything, but is still shown to come out ahead. Looking at the poker “celebrities” on television today, many of their histories are fraught with bouts with drug addiction and poverty as they cannot control their gambling impulses. Many may be on the top of the world right now, but how many others have fallen from grace that ultimately we never hear about. Rounders seems to glamorize and make losing everything you care about exciting, because the rewards on the other end are worth.

A contrasting story within the movie is that of Joey Knish played by John Turturro. Unlike his gambler friends, Joey advises that poker can be a lifelong income stream with minimal risk by carefully and patiently grinding out profits. The Knish (Kin-ish), as he is called in the movie, has supported his family and set aside for his children’s college by playing poker not with a gambler’s mentality, but with that of a risk-averse long-term planner. While nowhere near as exciting to watch and execute as the gambler, his story emphasizes that grinding allows everyday individuals to make supplemental or primary income from poker without gambling, per se.

Overall, this is an extremely enjoyable movie, with enough poker to make it exciting for all poker hobbyists. If you don’t own this movie, then what kind of poker player are you!?

The Greedy Gecko