We are fast approaching the 15th Anniversary theatrical release of Rounders, the best poker movie of all-time. It is no secret that Rounders’ booming success (funny enough only a year or two after its release) had a minor part in the poker boom of the mid-2000′s and to this day, it’s hard to meet a poker player on the live tournament circuit who hasn’t seen the flick or doesn’t list it on their list of top movies.
We’ll countdown to the 15th Anniversary celebration with a few lists taking a fun look back at the moments from Rounders and reminisce on the movie that changed the landscape of poker movies forever.
This GPI Six Pack take a look at our “Fave Characters” from the movie:
#6 | Johnny Chan (Johnny Chan)
He won’t win an Oscar for his role nor was he in the movie for more than like 10 minutes but, he became an overnight legend in poker playing himself in the film. “Did you have it?” That was it, the only time Chan would speak in the movie AND he doesn’t even speak the line! Mike McD speaks the actual words as Chan says it on screen … PLUS, the footage of Chan trapping Erik Seidel to win the 1988 World Series of Poker displays Chan as the most feared poker player on the planet, further cementing his legendary status.
#5 | Joey Knish (John Turturro)
John Turturro turns in a solid performance as a live cash-game grinder who has to work for every penny he makes. He serves as a mentor for our hero in the movie although Mike forgets to listen to the advice of the wise Turturro on a few different occasions during the film. The Golden Globe nominee (Quiz Show, 1994) also won for Best Actor at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival for his stunning performance in Barton Fink. Turturro is also known for his performance in The Bronx Is Burning, O Brother Where Art Thou?, The Big Lebowski and most recently, the Transformers trilogy.
#4 | Lester Murphy “Worm” (Edward Norton)
“In the poker game of life, women are the rake”. That line perfectly describes Lester Worm Murphy, our hero’s “best” friend who ends up being the worst thing to come back into his life. You’re never sure if Worm is coming or going and most of the things that come out of his mouth tend to not make any sense (see the quote at the beginning) but somehow he really, truly has the best of intentions. Played by the brilliant Edward Norton who would bookend his Rounders performance with a pair of Oscar Nominations for Primal Fear (1997) and American History X (1999). Fight Club (1999), in which Norton takes on the role of “The Narrator” sits 10th all-time on the IMDB best films list, as voted by users.
#3 | Abe Petrovsky (Martin Landau)
Anytime you can add an accomplished Oscar winner in a role that seems to fit him so well, it’s a can’t miss prospect! Martin Landau’s fantastic performance in the role of Abe Petrovsky its a credit to the acting abilities of a man who’s been on television and making movies since 1953. Landau won an Academy Award for his supporting performance in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood (1994). He has also received two other Oscar nominations and is a three-time Golden Globe winner, most notably for his starring role in the Mission: Impossible television series, decades before Tom Cruise to the series to the silver screen.
#2 | Mike McDermott (Matt Damon)
Ah, our hero. We’ve all wanted to be Mike McD at some point in our lives. Skilled, bright, good looking, fair, honest, Mike McD had it all! Played by Matt Damon, one of America’s top actors and biggest box office talent, Damon’s role in Rounders was key to the movie’s success. It’s hard to pin-point what film the Oscar recipient is better known for. Good Will Hunting, The Bourne Trilogy, The Oceans series, Saving Private Ryan, or his excellent performance in The Departed are all films where Damon shined. “First prize at the World Series of Poker is a million bucks” - did Mike ever win it?
#1 | Teddy KGB (John Malkovich)
From Dangerous Liaisons to Con Air to Being John Malkovich to Transformers: Dark of the Moon, there isn’t a role that John Malkovich hasn’t done in Hollywood. It’s his role in Rounders that could very well be the one that’s most quote, in fact, that’s probably a given. From “Just like a young man coming in for a quickie, I feel so dissatisfied” to “bad judgement” to “check, check, check” I dare you to tell me that you’ve never heard anyone use any of these lines at some point at a poker table, bad Russian accent and all! PS, was Malkovich Russian? We love the man and his role lands him at #1 but, let’s be honest, that accent was a little off, wasn’t it? … don’t tell him I said that though, he may send Grama after me!