“Listen, here’s the thing. If you can’t spot the sucker in your first half hour at the table, then you ARE the sucker.”
Those are the first words in the 1998 movie Rounders. Now unless you play cards or really love young Matt Damon, my guess is you probably haven’t seen it. It’s actually a who’s who of late 90’s actors. Damon, Edward Norton, John Malkovich, John Turturro, Famke Janssen, and more.
Rounders is about a bright college guy who has earned a good amount of money by playing cards. See, he’s a gambler. And he knows when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em. But when his friend (Norton’s Worm) is in deep with loan sharks, Mike McDermott comes out of retirement to go after the big payday that he hopes will save his buddy.
You get one of the all-time great lines from Malkovich, who is a Russian poker great and likely criminal known as Teddy KGB. Spoiler alert, at the end, Damon’s character wins, and they have only one choice.
It’s hilarious because it’s not a good Russian accent. But it will forever live in Hollywood lore.
That you don’t see in this clip is that the card on the river is the same card in 2006’s Casino Royale, the ace of spades. Now I admit that I watched some Bond movies before Daniel Craig took on the lead role, but Casino Royale was the first Bond movie I ever owned, and is probably my favorite. I think I can credit the Texas Hold ‘Em tie-in for that.
I love playing Texas Hold ‘Em. I don’t say that to mean you’ll see me on the World Series of Poker or anything. I mean, I’m not good. But I enjoy it. I enjoy the camaraderie of sitting at the table, usually with friends, and having laughs over some cards and usually beer.
I remember the first time I played Hold ‘Em. I was in Colorado Springs visiting my friends Joe and Danielle. We were hanging out at the bar they frequented with people they’d known for some time. We sat down and started a game, and in said game, I eventually was dealt pocket rockets. Talk about poker face – I’m sure I was damn-near sweating trying to contain my excitement. Turns out that of the five cards dealt on the table, the other two aces were up. BAM! Four of a kind. It was amazing.
A couple years later, the Jaycees organization of which I was a member had a little poker tournament. I eliminated my friends Dan and Kevin in a short amount of time by being, let me see if I remember it correctly…”a river-catching m@!#&% f@!#&%.”
I went to a casino once for a friend’s bachelor party and decided I was going to go sit in with the regulars in the Texas Hold ‘Em room. What I didn’t know until I got there was that it was a $60 buy-in and they weren’t as nice as the guys I played cards with regularly. I ended up losing all my money, but I won one hand, and did so with a full house.
The bulk of my card playing came from the guys in The Cellar on Friday nights. We’d get two games in each week, at $5 a game. Kick in a quarter each game for the straight flush fund (a couple guys would cash in big on that), and $5 all-you-can-drink from the keg, and you had a good, cheap night of entertainment with a good bunch of guys. I even managed to win a few times there.
So now I want to watch Rounders. But mostly, I want to play some cards. I’ll start with the boy. When he’s old enough, I’ll teach him War. That was a fun game. A lot better than that Go Fish nonsense.