The rounder meaning is someone who travels city to city or venue to venue, seeking high-stakes card games. The poker world cult classic, Rounders, was written in 1997 by first-time screenplay writers, Brian Koppelman and David Levien. The film was directed by Jon Dahl and released in 1998 to moderate box office success. The film follows Matt Damon’s character, Mike McDermott, and his childhood friend Lester “Worm” Murphy, played by Edward Norton, as they play in high-stake poker games to clear a large debt. Filmed mainly in New York City and New Jersey, the movie follows the friends from New York City to Atlantic City, where stakes become higher than Mike anticipated. Check out various screen facts below.
World Series of Poker Promo Tour
Miramax, the studio behind Rounders, paid a $10,000 buy-in for both Matt Damon and Edward Norton to enter the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas in 1998 as a promotional stunt for the film. Matt Damon ended up getting knocked out of the competition by former poker champion, Doyle Brunson. Damon had pocket Kings and went all in; Brunson had pocket Aces, beating Damon. Doyle’s book Super System appears early in the film, with Damon quoting lines from the book towards the end of the movie.
Neve Campbell Declined
Mike McDermott’s girlfriend, Jo, is played by Gretchen Mol. The role of Jo was initially offered to Neve Campbell, but she turned it down. Though the part is small, Jo serves as a plot device to advance the storyline and the drama of the grip the underground poker scene has on Mike.
Adjustments for Norton’s Character “Worm”
Worm was supposed to be a heavy smoker, but Edward Norton refused to take up smoking. Norton is a serious non-smoker and prioritized his health. The role was adjusted for the actor. Norton also ad-libbed many of his lines in the movie, which made it into the final production.
Though the Rounders script was their first screenplay, writers Brian Koppelman and David Levien would write many projects together, including Ocean’s Thirteen, Runner Runner, Tilt and Billions.
Director Jon Dahl brought on a team of frequent collaborators of his own, including composer Christopher Young. He would have to create two original scores for the film. His first score was a dramatic work that did not go with the director’s image. Young made a more jazz sound and intertwined the original score to the updated jazz sound, meeting Dahl’s liking.
Many Poker Variations
Although No-Limit Texas Hold’em is played at the beginning and end of the movie, they play a wide variety of poker styles, including many 7 Card Stud variants, Forced Rotation, Limit Hold’em, Draw, and Pot-limit Omaha. All these styles are played in the World Series of Poker, while No-Limit Texas Hold’em is the main competition event.
All the poker chips and decks of cards used in filming are authentic casino grade. Atlantic Standard Molding made the poker chips, and United States Playing Card Co. made the playing cards; both companies make official casino chips and cards.
Goatee from American History X
Edward Norton had just finished filming American History X before filming Rounders. He kept his goatee from that role and shaved it off in Rounders, as Worm, just before getting out from prison.
Screenwriters Made Film Appearance
Both the screenwriters, Brian Koppelman and David Levien, make a cameo appearance in the film. In the scene where Mike gives examples of tells in poker, the screenwriters are the examples. One of the tells is smoking.