Is the game of poker realistic in Rounders

Criticism from the FILMSTARTS editorial team
By Thilo Podann
Only when an American amateur player with the absurdly fitting name of Chris Moneymaker won the World Poker Championship for $ 2.5 million in 2004 did the global poker boom begin. A little too late for the film "Rounders", shot six years earlier, in which John Dahl ("Joyride - Joyride") captured the atmosphere of smoke-filled poker rooms and the addiction to easy money. Rather unnoticed on its debut, the film is now considered one of the best and most realistic of its kind, especially by professional poker players.

Mike McDermott (Matt Damon) is a dedicated law student, but in addition to his interest and talent for law writing, he is obsessed with playing cards. At night he hangs around in seedy underground clubs and pulls the money out of the gangsters' pockets. But despite his mathematical talent, he loses a large part of his fortune to the Russian mafiosi Teddy KGB (John Malkovich) and wants to keep his hands off the cards from now on. But when his old friend Lester Murphy (Edward Norton), who is only called Worm because of his clever and slimy manner, gets out of prison, the game really starts: Thanks to Mike's poker and Worm's dexterity, the duo quickly gets too much Money. But then there is another big showdown and again the opponent is Teddy KGB ...

"If there was no luck involved, I would win everytime" said the American poker superstar and record winner of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Phil Hellmuth once in an interview. In other words: Poker has a certain luck factor, but the strategic part predominates , and that's what makes the game so appealing. This is exactly where "Rounders" comes in: No portrait of a pathological gambler is drawn, but that of a clever student who is superior to his opponents through intellectual abilities and not because of his luck. And yet it is precisely this luck or bad luck factor that costs him almost all of his fortune at the beginning of the film, despite his superior playing strength.

It is precisely in this interplay between skill and luck that Mike's conflict lies. Again and again, the actually rational lawyer is drawn back to the poker table. Of course, he is also interested in money, but unlike his buddy Worm, Mike is at least as fascinated by the strategy and mathematics of the multi-layered card game. In any case, he does not correspond to the biography of a gambling addict, which makes it easy to identify with him.

Shortly before his big breakthrough, Matt Damon gives the poker-playing law student just as convincing as Edward Norton the charming petty criminal Worm. And with his Russian oreo fan Teddy KBG, John Malkovich once again creates a cult figure that is as fascinating as it is threatening. John Turturro and Martin Landau play at her side, while Gretchen Mol as Mike's friend Jo and Famke Janssen remain rather pale.

Conclusion: "Rounders" is a gripping milieu study that portrays the game of poker more realistically than almost any other film. Those who have not yet been infected by the poker virus will feel the twitching in their fingers after enjoying the DVD at the latest.
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