An Oral History of 'Rounders'
September 20, 2018 1:39 PM   Subscribe

Going All In: An Oral History of 'Rounders'. How two first-time screenwriters, a guy from Montana, and a pair of up-and-coming movie stars made the greatest poker movie ever.
posted by rocket88 (26 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've never seen this movie, but I've always been curious because when it originally came out a big group of my friends went to see it in the theatre, and when it was over the woman who organized the outing stood up, faced everyone in her group and said "I'M SORRRRRRRYYYYYY!!!!!"
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:19 PM on September 20, 2018 [5 favorites]


*ctrl-f accent - 1 of 6 matches*

Alright, I'll dive in.
posted by mhum at 2:25 PM on September 20, 2018


I've never seen this movie
posted by The Card Cheat

posted by knownassociate at 2:29 PM on September 20, 2018 [16 favorites]


but I've always been curious because when it originally came out a big group of my friends went to see it in the theatre, and when it was over the woman who organized the outing stood up, faced everyone in her group and said "I'M SORRRRRRRYYYYYY!!!!!"

I remember kind of enjoying it, but a lot of what was happening in the poker playing scenes kinda went over my head; the movie doesn't take time to explain the lingo or the strategies. Now that poker is a bit more "mainstream", it might be worth a revisit.
posted by nubs at 2:34 PM on September 20, 2018


The film is fitfully enjoyable, but the poker scenes in Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels are better films, The Cincinnati Kid is better acted (and not so overacted), and The Sting is more satisfying. I know Rounders often comes up first on these lists, but so does Maverick and that movie stinks.
posted by maxsparber at 2:46 PM on September 20, 2018 [4 favorites]


Had an argument with a friend the other day when I said the poker scenes from the modern Casino Royale were more enjoyable and engaging than Rounders as a whole. I still stand by that statement.
posted by Baphomet's Prime at 2:52 PM on September 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


Man,this is one of those movies that was super cool at the time, but if you watch it for the first time now it won't be the same, because the poker craze has come and largely gone, so now it just seems a little passe. But at the time I really liked this film. Not all-time top 5 list or anything, but it was good.
posted by axiom at 3:06 PM on September 20, 2018


David Ansen and Richard Schickel in Time and Newsweek, those reviews for some reason came out one week before the movie. At the time those were very important magazines. All the other reviews were coming out a week later. Both of those reviews singled us out as sucking and also said that we ripped off Mean Streets when in fact we were ripping off The Pope of Greenwich Village.

Ha!

Had an argument with a friend the other day when I said the poker scenes from the modern Casino Royale were more enjoyable and engaging than Rounders as a whole. I still stand by that statement.

Yeesh (youtube link to final poker hand in Casino Royale)
posted by ODiV at 3:17 PM on September 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


I liked Casino Royale for the most part, and I enjoy playing poker (with friends for small stakes, I don't cheat) but the poker scene in that movie really slowed it down for me, in part because it seemed TRENDY, but mostly because it was pretty obvious that the game was going to end with Bond winning (and then, of course it wasn't enough for him to win, he had to win in an outlandishly unlikely way). This is the best Bond-playing-cards in a casino scene.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:26 PM on September 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


What I give Casino Royale credit for is having a major face-off with the villain occur over a poker table, instead of in a large set piece full of explosions.
posted by nubs at 3:34 PM on September 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


As a regular poker player, the Casino Royale poker scene was one cringe-worthy moment after another. Unrealistic betting, pot splashing, the dealer not separating main and side pot bets, the dealer saying "heads up" when there were still 4 players in the pot, the slow (and out of order) showdown, the dealer moving hole cards in and out of the board cards...it was horrific even without the one-in-a-zillion result.

As for Rounders...it's a pretty good poker movie and a moderate film in general. But Malkovich's fake Russian accent is laughably bad.
posted by rocket88 at 3:37 PM on September 20, 2018 [8 favorites]


I also heard the podcast about this from The Ringer. What kills me about Bill Simmons and The Ringer is how parochial navel-gazey they can be. And I'm a fan.

Bill Simmons likes basketball, gambling, pro wrestling and Boston, so seven out of ten things on the site are devoted to those topics.

One other topic is the general idea of "outsiders" coming to Hollywood and turning things on their ear, because that's what he imagines he himself has done. This article is about ... outsiders coming to Hollywood and making a movie about gambling.

And oh look, check out what else was above the fold this week -- LeBron James is a producer now.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:21 PM on September 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


The nuances of this movie also go over the head of this rube. I think without knowledge of the details it's just a fractured buddy caper, which is how I've always thought of it. Fine, you know, but nothing special.
posted by rhizome at 5:20 PM on September 20, 2018


*pulls apart Oreo while listening carefully*

Ees goood pooost.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:35 PM on September 20, 2018 [11 favorites]


Casino Royale's scenes were so terrible because it was incredibly obvious someone at the studio said: "Fuck! No one knows what Baccarat is anymore! Find some other game and just fucking bolt it onto the movie!!!!" Since ESPN had just figured out they should just show Texas Hold 'Em all day instead of actual sports like Major League Baseball or auto racing, that's what got chosen.

If they remade Casio Royale for a third time in 2018, James Bond would probably play Fornite for the same reason.
posted by sideshow at 5:57 PM on September 20, 2018 [9 favorites]


I'm not a poker player, but what I always found dumb about that scene in Casino Royale is that it doesn't demonstrate Bond's skill as a player, which is supposedly the whole reason he was chosen for that mission. He just got dealt a lucky hand. I thought that what marks a skilled player is their ability to bluff and to read other players, not to just luck out.

I mean, I would have won the $140 million if I had been dealt that hand and I barely know the rules.
posted by good in a vacuum at 6:10 PM on September 20, 2018 [4 favorites]


I'm OK with Idris Elba playing Fortnite.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:11 PM on September 20, 2018 [4 favorites]


Hah, if Bond ever incorporates e-sports as a plot thing (maybe an intro) I will simply pee my pants.

IF HE DIES IN THE GAME HE DIES IN REAL LIFE.
posted by rhizome at 1:32 AM on September 21, 2018 [2 favorites]




I'm not a poker player, but what I always found dumb about that scene in Casino Royale is that it doesn't demonstrate Bond's skill as a player, which is supposedly the whole reason he was chosen for that mission. He just got dealt a lucky hand.

I'll suggest that is the point of it; to make it clear in the subtext that Bond isn't all that special and gifted at everything outside of a narrow skill set involving the application of violence and ability to kill without compunction.
posted by nubs at 6:55 AM on September 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


My main nitpick with Rounders is that Damon's character can read all the cards in a room at the Judge's poker table in 14 seconds but it takes him how many hours of playing with Malkovich before he notices the most obvious fucking tell on the planet.

I do enjoy this movie. It's lots of fun.
posted by Fizz at 7:20 AM on September 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


I like it contrasted with Damon's first major project Good Will Hunting, about a brilliant mind choosing to put it on the shelf to follow the girl. In Rounders, Damon has a similar mind, but chooses to use it for its highest purpose, leaving the girl and the easy future behind.

I also love that they borrowed past historical phrases for modern times. I always loved when The Simpsons did that for Mr Burns. If I were one to offer writing tips, I'd say work that into every movie that involves plot exposition through mostly speech.

Also, didn't James Bond buy in again after the second (final) re-buy had passed? That's typically not allowed. Whatever.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:09 AM on September 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


I get scenes between Rounds and Win It All confused in my head as I saw them both for the first time essentially back to back. Certainly Win It All is a more cautionary tale, though the ending is a bit contrived/deus ex machina-y.
posted by Carillon at 10:31 AM on September 21, 2018


Well, *my* main nitpick with Rounders was that in the hand in which Damon lost all his money, the house-over-house situation, is one that's pretty common in poker and something that this alleged super-genius poker player would surely have *at least considered*. I mean, even I would have thought about it at least and I am very far from a super genius player.

That said, it's way better than, for example, when the "game theory professor" lead in Crazy Rich Asians is playing a kid in no limit five card draw (?!?!?) in the opening scene. I mean, why put a poker scene into the movie when you're not even going to do a minimal amount of research into the game?

Casino/card/gambling scenes in movies are almost always wrong in very predictable ways. Extremely unlikely deals, crazy behavior, the inevitable terrible end of the gambler. Rounders at least got the mechanics and feel of the game more or less right (or as right as you can get it without making it boring).
posted by lackutrol at 12:32 PM on September 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


Fizz: “My main nitpick with Rounders is that Damon's character can read all the cards in a room at the Judge's poker table in 14 seconds but it takes him how many hours of playing with Malkovich before he notices the most obvious fucking tell on the planet.

I do enjoy this movie. It's lots of fun.”
I always read this as him having noticed right away, but sitting on it until that moment. Which I guess gives the audience the chance to notice it too.

Anyway, this was the only movie I liked that my friend had when I would crash on his couch in the 1975 Georgia-Pacific House of the Future in Marietta, so I watched it a lot. It's certainly not great cinema, but it's a very satisfying story for people who were a little mixed up in their lives and pushing 30 when it came out.

"I'm sorry John, I don't remember."
posted by ob1quixote at 12:25 AM on September 22, 2018


Martin Landau is fantastic in this film. And I believe rocket88 meant to say Malkovich’s accent is laughably awesome.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:12 AM on September 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


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