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Film: Rounders
Take it down.

Rounders (1998) is about the underground world of poker in New York City starring Matt Damon as Mike McDermott and Edward Norton as Worm and a bit part for John Malkovich as the Russian gangster Teddy KGB. This movie has become a cult classic, especially because of the current popularity of Texas Hold 'Em style poker.

The plot involves Edward Norton's character Worm being heavily in debt to gangsters, so how do they decide to pay off their debt? Why playing poker of course.


This movie contains examples of:

  • Big Applesauce
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: Subverted, one of them doesn't want to cheat, they get caught anyway.
  • Cyclic National Fascination: This film, along with the invention of the hole-card camera (which made it possible for Poker to truly become a spectator sport) and the rise of online poker sites, is credited with the sudden rise in popularity of Texas Hold 'Em Poker at the start of the 21st century.
  • Duel to the Death: Strongly implied in the climactic match, though only on Mike's side. If Mike failed to win enough to cover the debt, Grama was present to make his bones with Teddy's organization - and the most common way to do that was killing someone. He would have really preferred killing Worm, but was quite content to make his bones with Mike. When Teddy lost, he told his mooks to pay Mike off and let him go, leaving a disappointed Grama to flip a table and stalk off, bones ummade.
  • Evil Debt Collector: Grama
  • Fake Russian: Teddy KGB, as played by John Malkovich.
  • Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job: How do you know when a guy's recently been wiped out at the table? He's driving a delivery truck.
  • Fixing The Game: Worm just can't help himself. It's like Chronic Cheating Disorder.
  • Karma Houdini: Grama, who is a thoroughly mean and sadistic brute. In the end the only comeuppance he gets is that he's cheated out of killing Worm - but in exchange he gets about sixty thousand dollars (the money Worm owed him, plus interest).
  • Large Ham: Teddy KGB.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Worm and Mike catch one when they get caught cheating in a game against state troopers.
  • The Obstructive Love Interest: Jo, who spends most of her screen time acting cold and distrustful towards Mike.
  • Old Friend: The basic relationship between Mike and Worm after Worm is released from prison.
  • Poker: Just in case you hadn't noticed yet, this movie is about poker.
  • The Magic Poker Equation: In the last hand in the game against KGB at the beginning of the film.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Worm decides to cheat at poker in a room full of New York state cops. When he gets caught, the cops beat the shit out of him and Mike and take away all their winnings.
  • Sherlock Scan: Mike, when reading the table at his law school professor's round, impressing everyone.
  • Stock Footage: From the World Series of Poker, specifically the 1988 main event's final hand between Johnny Chan and Erik Seidel. (Chan also makes a cameo.)
  • The Tell: Mike figures out in the film's climactic poker match that Teddy KGB's tell is linked to the Oreo cookies he always has: when he pulls apart a cookie but doesn't eat it, he has nothing and he's bluffing; when he does eat it, he really does have a winning hand. Mike, who needs to win quickly, then reveals the tell to Teddy to rattle him into making a bigger mistake.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Teddy KGB really freaks out after experiencing a bad beat and losing the film's climactic poker match to Mike. Thankfully, he's honorable enough to recognize that he lost fair and square and he gives Mike his winnings rather than ordering his goons to beat Mike to a pulp.
  • We Do Not Know Each Other: Mike and Worm use this trope when they work together at the same poker table several times throughout the movie. This backfires in a major way during their final game, where Worm gets caught cheating when dealing a winning full house to Mike, thereby pissing off a room full of New York state cops.
  • Woman Scorned: Kind of. Mike's girlfriend Jo leaves him and takes most of their stuff from their cohabitated apartment after she finds out he's been playing cards again.
    • It's mentioned that he lost all his money at least once before the start of the movie, so she is somewhat cold and untrusting right from the beginning. When she finally leaves it's mostly her stuff anyway. Still, though, he never gets with her again, and even their final words to each other are uneasy.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Teddy KGB is ostensibly Russian, but his accent appears to be an entity all its own. And yet it works.
  • Work Off the Debt
  • Worthy Opponent: When Mike beats Teddy KGB in the climactic poker game at the end of the movie, he treats Mike as this.
    KGB: "He beat me. Straight up. Pay him. Pay that man his money."

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alternative title(s): Rounders
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