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Pop-Culture Poker – Rounders

📁 articles 🕔09.April 2018
Pop-Culture Poker – Rounders

Casino Royale may be more famous, but if you ask a true poker aficionado what their favourite poker movie is, ‘Rounders’ is pretty likely to be the answer you hear. Twenty years ago, however, Rounders was not an unmitigated commercial success when it released in 1998. But with the growing popularity of poker and a fascination with high-stakes poker, it has become a cult classic in the intervening years. Let’s take a look and see if we can explain why!

Summary

Rounders is a 1998 drama film about the underground world of high-stakes poker, starring Matt Damon and Edward Norton. The duo play two friends who need to win at high-stakes poker to quickly pay off a large debt.

Playing the odds

There’s a scene early on in the movie where Matt Damon’s character Mike is speaking to a fellow poker veteran called Joey Knish, who urges him to not risk everything, be a little more cautious and play the odds. This is good advice, and Mike admits as much, but he feels like he’s got to take his shot nonetheless.

So he does, and proceeds to lose everything.

This sequence perfectly illustrates one of the most sacred tenets of poker – always play the odds, and don’t be blinded by emotion or recklessness. Although there is definitely a place in poker for aggressive play, it’s arguably much more important to learn restraint – and Rounders demonstrates that memorably.

The good and the bad

Another point in Rounders’ favour is that it showcases the good and the bad of poker. We see high points in Mike’s life, but we also see what happens when things don’t go his way – his troubled relationship with his girlfriend Jo, his clashes with the dangerous Grama, and him having to ask his professor for financial help. It’s worth commending that Rounders doesn’t portray a rose-tinted view of high-stakes poker – it’s important to see both sides.

The enduring legacy

There are so many memorable moments in Rounders, that have earned their own references in other movies since. The scene where Mike accurately predicts what cards each of the poker players around a table is holding, the Oreos, John Malkovich’s sneering time-bomb of an antagonist, the unbearable tension of that final game – it’s really hard to pick just one, they’re all wonderful. If we had to, though, the opening line of the movie (originally said by Paul Newman) would probably be our pick:

“Listen, here’s the thing. If you can’t spot the sucker in your first half hour at the table, then you are the sucker.”

And that was Rounders, a poker movie for the ages! Stay tuned for more Pop-Culture Poker and more from the world of online poker in India!

 

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