5 Things You Didn’t Know About the Poker Movie Rounders

Poker movie Rounders

Earlier this year, PokerNews ranked Rounders as the best poker movie of all time. The film, which was written by screenwriters David Levien and Brian Koppelman, celebrates its 25th anniversary this Monday, September 11, and much like we did five years ago, we thought it would be fun to share some facts about the cult classic you may not know.

The film has a 7.3 out of 10 rating on IMDB, and on Rotten Tomatoes it has an 87% audience score and 64% on the Tomatometer. It tells the story of Mike McDermott, played by Matt Damon, a reformed gambler who gets pulled back into the game due in no small part to his friend Worm, played by Edward Norton. John Malkovich, Grethchen Mol, John Turturro, and Martin Landau all played supporting roles in a well-conceived New York underground poker world.

If you recall from our 20th anniversary article, here are some fun Rounders facts and trivia as listed on IMDB:

  • Worm was originally supposed to smoke but avid nonsmoker Edward Norton refused.
  • Writers David Levien and Brian Koppelman have cameos in the Atlantic City poker scene; they're two of the players used to illustrate giveaway poker tells.
  • Scream queen Neve Campbell turned down the role of Jo, played by Gretchen Mol.
  • In the original version of the script, Mike McDermott was going to make a move on Phil Hellmuth in the Atlantic City big-money game, not Johnny Chan.
  • The chips used in both KGB's place and the Chesterfield Club were made by Atlantic Standard Molding (ASM) which makes custom chips for casinos and home games.
  • Rounders was set in New York City but all of the law school scenes were filmed in and around Rutgers Law School in Newark, NJ.

All that is quite interesting, but here are five other facts you may not know.

Rounders
Phil Hellmuth & Edward Norton in the 1998 WSOP Main Event.

It Was a Fast Shoot

In one DVD commentary track featuring director John Dahl, the two screenwriter, and Norton, the actor revealed that he received the script in November 1997. Despite the filmmakers not thinking they could land Norton, who was coming off some successful films, the up-and-coming star signed on and was on set filming a month later.

It wound up being an accelerated shoot of approximately 45 days. Interestingly, screenwriter Brian Koppelman decided to write a poker film after losing $750 in an underground New York poker game on December 15, 1995. It was exactly two years to the day that filming began.

Highlights from 'Rounders' Screenplay Posted by Brian Koppelman

Midnight Run a Bonding Experience

In the same commentary track, Norton revealed that he and co-star Matt Damon, who met on this film, quickly bonded over their shared love of the 1988 film Midnight Run starring Robert De Niro and the late Charles Grodin. That film is about a bounty hunter pursues a former Mafia accountant who is also being chased by a rival bounty hunter, the F.B.I., and his old mob boss after jumping bail.

It was a favorite of both Norton and Damon, who both claimed to be the bigger fan. They tried to prove it by reciting lines from that film during their downtime on Rounders. They both proved exceptional and they ultimately decided to agree that their fandom was on an equal level.

Brunson Busts Damon

Rounders
Edward Norton & Matt Damon register for the 1998 WSOP.

Before the film was released in September, the 1998 World Series of Poker (WSOP) took place from April 21 to May 19. The Binion family invited the stars of the film to participate in that year’s $10,000 Main Event, which they did with the intent of promoting the film.

Director John Dahl revealed that Norton busted “with a full house” while Damon fell at the hands of the late Doyle Brunson after running kings into aces all in preflop.

“There was a raise, a reraise, and Doyle came over the top of both those guys,” Damon explained in a special feature on the DVD, “and I just went all in with everything I had. Doyle Brunson just looked down at the table and then looked up at me and said, ‘I hate to do it to you, Matty.’ That was it, he flipped over aces and took my money.”

Rounders
Matt Damon versus Doyle Brunson in the 1998 WSOP Main Event.

The Inspiration for Worm

Edward Norton’s portrayal of the character Worm was one of the highlights of the film, and during the commentary track, he shared that he had two inspirations when it came to the character. The first was Keith Richards, who inspired his wardrobe, and the other was Bugs Bunny in terms of attitude.

In regards to Worm, two-time WSOP champ Johnny Chan said, “Worm reminders me of Stu Ungar.” He said so in reference to Worm’s carefree attitude, willingness to put it all on the line, and seeming lack of concern for consequences.

A Bad Joke

One of the commentary tracks on the DVD special features was by poker pros Johnny Chan, Phil Hellmuth, Chris Moneymaker, and Chris Ferguson. It was during that commentary track that Ferguson shared a joke:

“What’s the difference between a large cheese pizza and a poker player? … A large cheese pizza can feed a family of four.”

Five Times Rounders Schooled us on Modern Poker

*Images screenshot from Miramax's Rounders.

Sharelines
  • Rounders is celebrating its 25th anniversary this week. Here are five things you might not know.

Name Surname
Executive Editor U.S.

Executive Editor US, PokerNews Podcast co-host & 2013 WSOP Bracelet Winner.

More Stories

Other Stories

Recommended for you

Poker's Greatest Movie, Rounders, Celebrates 25th Anniversary Poker's Greatest Movie, Rounders, Celebrates 25th Anniversary