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The Independent Critic

Matt Damon, Edward Norton, Paul Cicero, John Turturro, Gretchen Mol, Famke Janssen, John Malkovich, Martin Landau
John Dahl
David Levien, Brian Koppelman
Rated R
121 Mins.
Miramax Films (USA), New Films International (Non-USA)
Set-Top Game – "Heads Up Texas Hold 'Em";Behind-The-Scenes Special - Inside Professional Poker;Feature Commentary with Professional Poker Players Johnny Chan, Phil Hellmuth, Chris Moneymaker, Chris "Jesus" Ferguson;Feature Commentary with Director John Dahl, Screenwriters David Levien, and Brian Koppelman, and actor Edward Norton;Champion Poker Tips (From Four Professionals)

 "Rounders" Had a Significant Impact on the Poker World 
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By the time that the 1998 film Rounders hit theaters, the game of poker was highly stereotyped in modern cinema.  The game was either viewed as a way for degenerate gamblers to get a fix and lose money or was widely viewed as a game full of crooks and criminals and was a classic way to start a gunfight in many western movies.

Rounders widely changed the perception of many in regards to poker by displaying the game as it really is and it pulled no punches in looking at both the positive aspects of the game and the dark side to the world of professional and underground gambling.

For those that are not familiar with the film, it follows the exploits of Mike McDermott (Matt Damon) as he tries to live a "normal life" as a law student after having his bankroll decimated by a professional underground player and game host known as KGB (John Malkovich) 

Mike is not able to stay away from the world of poker for long as a long time friend and ex-con known as Worm (Ed Norton) is recently released from a stint in prison and convinces Mike to come play an evening of poker.  Mike quickly rediscovers his love of the game and soon begins to take up rounding once again.

As Mike works on rebuilding his bankroll, viewers begin to discover more about the mindset of professional poker players as Mike explains that the game is seldom about how strong or weak of a hand you have but rather on how you play against your opponents. 

The misconception about the game is that it is all about "knowing when to hold them or when to fold them" like the old song is sung by Kenny Rogers.  Rather, the game is more about playing on your opponents strengths and weaknesses and using their fears against them.

Poker is not put in a total positive light by this film as you quickly learn about the dark side of the game.  Worm has run up massive debt and Mike eventually gets involved to try and help out.  Ultimately, Mike winds up being completely responsible for a $15,000 debt that could cost him his life.  Mike then plays a very dangerous game of heads-up Texas Hold'em where more is at stake than just his money.

Rounders had a significant impact on the poker world as it portrayed the game for the first time how it really is for many professionals and this inspired many of today's poker pros to take up the game.  Many have come to view the film as the quintessential poker film and the standard for which poker films have to live up to.

If you are a fan of poker, you will likely love this film's portrayal of the poker world.  For those that are not poker fans, it is still a well written drama that gives viewers an insight into the world of underground poker in a way that has not been seen before or really since the movie's release.

Written in cooperation with PokerListings