Directed By: John Dahl

Starring: Matt Damon, Edward Norton, John Turturro, Famke Janssen, Gretchen Mol, John Malkovich, and Martin Landau

When the 1998 film Rounders was first released, fans of the game of poker hailed it for being one of the most realistic portrayals of poker in cinema history.  Since the film's release, the game of Texas Hold'em has exploded and is now the most popular form of poker in the world.  In the 15 years that has followed, several filmmakers have tried to imitate the film, but Rounders is still the gold standard of poker films.

The story revolves around former rounder and law student Mike McDermott played by Ben Affleck.  Mike has built up a sizable bankroll and decides to take a shot at the high stakes game run by underground game boss KGB played by John Malkovich.  Mike loses his nerve and vows to never play the game again.  This changes when Mike's old friend Worm (Ed Norton) is released from jail.  Worm convinces Mike to go back to the game and from there Mike rediscovers his gift for the game.

Mike's association with Worm comes with a high price as Worm racks up debts and his own old debts catch up to him.  Mike tries to help Worm out and win enough money playing poker to cover the debts, but Worm gets caught cheating and they get beat up and lose their bankroll. Worm eventually skips out on town and Mike is left to handle the debts on his own.  He has a couple of days to come up with the money and eventually has to play a heads-up match with the man that took his initial poker bankroll in an attempt to clear his debt.

We won't spoil the ending for you but we will say that Mike finds out what type of card player he really is.  That is really part of the reason behind why Rounders resounds so well with modern-day poker players.  Unlike films made prior to Rounders, this film gave you true insight into not only the underground world of poker but also the mindset of those that play the game.

Poker is not a game where the winners have an angle or superior luck.  It is a game where you learn how to manipulate and outthink your opponents, and, for the first time, the game was presented in the way it actually is played by serious players.  It also introduced a lot of popular catchphrases that players and film lovers love to quote to this day such as "in the game of life, women are the rake" and "Pay that man his money."

Poker exploded in popularity after 2002 and many filmmakers tried to recreate Rounders in their own image but just have not found the right balance that David Levien and Brian Koppelman did in 1998.  It is truly a film that defined an era, the modern era of the game of poker.