Rounders is such a part of everyday poker vernacular it's hard to think about life before Rounders. It's been imprinted on my brain ever since I saw the film in the fall of 1998 at an actual movie theater in Seattle's U District at the old Neptune Theater. A friend from a home game suggested I see this new poker movie with Ed Norton because I grew up in New York City. A couple days later I went to check out Rounders and the film blew me away. There had been plenty of movies and TV shows that featured poker in a scene or cards as a plot line (e.g. The Flamingo Kid), but up until that point in the late 1990s I had not really seen a modern film that captured the underground poker world.
The older I get, the more I appreciate the fact that Rounders captured NYC in the 1990s at a time the city was starting to get cleaned up by Rudy Giuliani. It also captured the poker world before lipstick cameras and Chris Moneymaker and online poker became a vital part of the industry.
For a hot minute in 2013, poker players thought they were getting a sequel to Rounders with Runner Runner, but instead we got a garbled up film remotely associated with online gambling featuring Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck. The guys from Rounders wrote the script but they had zero say on what actually got filmed and made the final cut. Ah, what could have been!?!
Last year, Matt Damon appeared on the Bill Simmons podcast to discuss a little bit about Rounders.
Along the way I attempted to write and sell a sequel to Rounders. Of course it went nowhere. I still try to write a Rounders sequel every January, if only for my own personal amusement and to illicit some shits and giggles from people in my home game. Of course, all of these 14 ideas were rejected and never went anywhere.
Rounders 2: The Fixer... Mike McD is a well-known poker pro who won a couple WPT titles and a bracelet in PLO, but he has a thorny relationship with estranged son back in New York. His kid is a highly recruited football player at Syracuse who gets involved in the wrong crowd and helps his Uncle Worm fix a football game by shaving points. The kid did such a good job that Teddy KGB wants him to shave points in more games. Everyone gets in over their heads and it's up to Mike McD to fix everything before disaster strikes at the upcoming Orange Bowl.
Rounders 2: Crypto Queens... Worm gets Mike McD involved in a cryptocurrency scam with the cokehead daughters of a powerful Senator. Worm steals billions of dollars and goes on the lam in New Jersey. Only Mike McD's old nemesis Teddy KGB can help find Worm before the federales haul him in.
Rounders 2: Stranger Things... Mike McD quits poker, gets married and moves out to the suburbs. His kids ride bicycles and play D&D in the basement of their quiet house in Westchester. One of the kids opens a portal to the sideways world. Mike's son is trapped by a demon named Teddy. Mike McD has to convince his old buddy Worm, who works in their old high school as the alkie groundskeeper, to help him fight Teddy the demon to rescue his kid in the sideways world.
Rounders 2: Revenge of KGB... Teddy KGB becomes a powerful figure in the Russian Mafia, while Mike McD has a quiet life in Buffalo as a DFS fantasy pro. Teddy KGB tracks Mike McD and forces him to play him heads up poker once again, but this time it's triple flop Big O. Instead of money, Worm's life is on the line. Worm got into his old tricks and ran up a huge VIP Room tab at one of Teddy KGB's karaoke bars in Koreatown.
Rounders 2: The Dragon Hand... Mike McD gets called back into action by his ex-girlfriend Sansa Stark when the White Walkers invade New York State. Mike McD must convince Worm and his new girlfriend Daenerys to loan Mike McD her three dragons (aptly named Ivey, Devilfish, and Johnnie Fucking Chan) to fend off a White Walker attack on the Empire State Building.
Rounders 2: Jungle Jokers… Mike McD is a consultant for an online poker company in Costa Rica. His old pal Worm shows up out of the blue with an idea to rob a stash house owned by the biggest drug lord in South America. Mike McD loans him money so he doesn't have to do the robbery, but Teddy KGB forces Mike McD to go along with the plan because that's the only way Worm will be able to pay back all of his debts. Mike McD calls up a couple old friends from Las Vegas to help him pull off the job. Outnumbered, outgunned and completely isolated in the jungle, the crew successfully overcomes the security detail and but discover an empty stash house. In a fit on anger, Mike McD punches the wall only to discover the money was hidden in the walls. Worm tries to kill Teddy KGB, only to blow them both up and the rest of the crew. An injured Mike McD is alive and carrying a couple million dollars, but he's lost in the jungle.
Rounders: Wonder Geeky Years... The rare-prequel and origin story about Mike McD and Worm takes place in the early 1980s in the Bronx. Mike McD and Worm are relegated to hanging out with a geeky crowd while they try to avoid the clique of drugged out freaks and vegetarians that includes Mike McD's older sister Lindsay. When Lindsay gets involved in a drug deal gone bad with a young immigrant loan shark named Theodore, Mike McD and Worm must payback Theodore before he force-feeds his vegan sister 20 White Castle cheeseburgers. Worm drops a dime on Theodore who gets deported back to the USSR.
Rounders 2: Taken... Mike McD is a washed-up poker pro living in Reno when he stumbles upon a human trafficking ring when his estranged daughter gets involves with the wrong crowd. He travels all the way to Albania to fight the head of the syndicate in hand-to-hand combat, but he quickly discovers that he's facing his old nemesis Teddy KGB.
Rounders 2: Worm's Bachelor Party... Mike McD flies back to Las Vegas for one last bender when his old friend Worm invites him to a bachelor party. Mike McD blacks out and wakes up missing two teeth. He's trapped in a suite with Mike Tyson and a foul-mouthed llama named Oreo and discovers that Teddy KGB has kidnapped Worm until he gets his llama back. Kevin Kline plays the voice of the Oreo the llama.
Rounders 2: The Notebook... Mike McD falls in love with a banking heiress from the Upper East Side of Manhattan. But war breaks out and Mike McD and his fuckup friend Worm enlist in World War II. Mike McD becomes a war hero, while Worm goes AWOL after the Battle of the Bulge. Mike McD returns home to discover that his old flame is engaged to a wealthy Russian scion named Teddy.
Rounders 2: Run It Twice... Mike McD discovers he has a twin named Troy. Mike and Troy decide to pull a fast one on their divorced parents in hopes of getting them back together. But Worm is jealous that Mike McD has a new BFF and he threatens to ruin the ruse.
Rounders 2: Powerful Pills... Worm gets Mike McD's new wife and Instagram influencer involved in a protein powder scam. She goes to jail after allegedly killing two Kardashians. What Mike McD doesn't realize is that the special herbs and healing powder from China is actually a cover so Worm can import Fentanyl into the USA for Teddy KGB's drug junta. Mike McD infiltrates the underground gambling world in Macau in order to prove his wife's innocence.
Rounders 2: Love and Light... Worm becomes a leader of a hippie cult in the Colorado Mountains. He visits Mike McD in Las Vegas, where he's humping a graveyard shift as a poker room manager at the Mirage. Worm offers Mike McD a chance to find enlightenment if he can help drive a briefcase back to New York City. Along the way, the briefcase gets stolen by robbers knocking over a Denny's and Mike McD must find the thieves and return the briefcase to New York before Teddy KGB blows up Worm's mountain retreat.
Rounders 2: Bourne Busto... Mike McD wakes up on park bench in Switzerland without remembering a thing. When two cops approach him, he kills both within seconds. He then befriends a German woman with orange hair who drives him Paris to help uncover his true identity. We eventual discover Mike McD is really named Jason Bourne and he's a CIA assassin and part of a secret government black ops project to use poker players playing global tournaments as a cover for covert operations. Meanwhile his old friend Worm is released from prison for the sole purpose to kill Mike McD/Jason Bourne.