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Why Rounders Is The Best Film About Poker

There are lots of films featuring poker over the years. It’s understandable why. The game is inherently dramatic and, when the stakes get really high, poker, particularly in its Texas hold’em style, provides the same sorts of cinematic thrills found in high-speed police chases or superheroes saving a city.

You can go back to Laurence Trimble’s A Cure for Pokeritis (which was released in 1912) to track Hollywood’s love affair with the popular casino game. Since then we’ve had a number of bona fide classics such as The Cincinnati kid (1965), The Sting (1973), Honeymoon in Vegas (1992) and more recently Lucky You (2007) to have featured poker prominently.

But the game’s attraction rose in the late 1990s and 2000s thanks to televised Texas hold’em (a form of poker that lent itself to television because of its use of five community cards laid face-up on the table) and the opportunities for new fans to hone their skills at online poker tables. Rounders, which was released in 1998, successfully captured the drama of this poker variation, and had a massive influence in driving Texas hold’em’s popularity.

With an all-star cast, director John Dahl’s effort focuses on poker culture and why people fall in love with the game. Matt Damon plays Mike McDermott, a master tactician who took on another great player and lost. Deciding to retire from the game, partly to save his relationship with girlfriend (Gretchen Mol), he’s forced to return to the poker table by friend Worm (Edward Norton) who, after getting out of prison, needs some money to pay back a bunch of gangsters. Mike, who wants to avoid his friend getting hurt or even killed, decides to try to make enough cash to cover Worm’s debts. But he puts more than money on the line to do so.

What the film does well is recreate the suspense of playing the game; the details in the skill as well as the luck that’s involved. The film was influential because it inspired people to go out and play. That saw an abundance of platforms to play poker online emerge.

It also furthered the popularity of the online casino with Texas hold’em and other variations influencing the themes of slots games, generating buzz for video poker, and inspiring the best operators to offer live dealers for their casino Hold’em games as well as great offers for you to get started such as BGO’s “Golden Chips” for new players.

Without Rounders popularising terms like “nut straight”, “the flop” and “splash the pot”, poker’s pop culture growth may not have been as potent. Similarly, films like this Matt Damon-fronted drama celebrated the attraction of the online casino and the high stakes tension players can enjoy, not just in card games like Texas hold’em but in other table-based games like roulette, blackjack and baccarat.

The growth of poker online is due to a number of factors including the variety of platforms on which to play, the ease of access thanks to new technology and software, and the increased awareness of responsible gambling in general. But it’s also down to how Texas Hold’em became a massive hit thanks to televised tournaments and films like Rounders which celebrate the thrills associated with the much-loved card game.

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