‘Rounders’ – One reason why not to be friends with anyone who is nicknamed “The Worm”

by Nathan Braised

While mindlessly scrolling through Instagram last week, I came across a recommended page for a Troy Poker Club, which I had no clue even existed. I’m a huge poker player, and I thought it was really cool that there’s a group of people that get together and play in the common area of Rushing Hall. 

This led me to rewatch my favorite poker movie, “Rounders.” “Rounders” is a 1998 John Dahl film starring Matt Damon and Edward Norton. 

Mike McDermott, played by Matt Damon, is a law student in New York, as well as a hardcore gambler that loves the game of poker. At the beginning of the film, he’s in the middle of a high stakes game playing heads up (1v1) against Russian mobster Teddy KGB, played by John Malkovich. 

Mike flops a full house (the 4th best hand in poker) and puts Teddy onto a flush draw. Knowing he’ll have Teddy dominated in this situation, Mike throws in a ton of money on the turn and river, with Teddy calling each time. 

Mike has $30,000 invested in this pot, and is dreaming of what he’ll do with double the money. That is until Teddy flips his cards over, revealing that he has a stronger full house than Mike does. 

After losing nearly all of his life savings on one hand, Mike swears off gambling to focus on his law degree, and also gets a part-time job to help with finances. 

His life is going good for over half a year until his best friend and poker partner Lester “The Worm,” played by Edward Norton, gets released from prison. Worm owes a lot of money to one of Teddy’s associates, and goes to Mike for help. Mike agrees, and the pair have to pay back $15,000 in the next 5 days, or Worm will face the consequences. 

Worm catches word of a high stakes game that a group of state troopers host every so often, and concludes that it’s the best opportunity to earn the money. Things are looking promising as Mike goes on a hot streak, but Worm gets greedy and decides to join the game and cheat for Mike. 

Being that they are literally cops, they notice Worm bottom-dealing, and the two kinds of people that hate being cheated on the most are cops and gamblers. 

The cops beat the duo up, take their money, and throw them back out onto the street. Back at square one, Worm decides to run and not look back, leaving Mike with the crippling debt. Mike decides the only chance he has now is to play Teddy again, all or nothing… 

This is easily the pinnacle of poker movies. It shows the damaging effects of gambling as well as the intricacies and beauty of poker in such a great dynamic. You don’t have to be Phil Ivey to understand “Rounders,” it’s a great film that has appeal to everyone. Give it a watch sometime.

RATING 9/10 “I wanna see a movie where they pay off their student loans with a slot machine.”

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