Thursday, September 28, 2006

Rounders Revealed

Worm: I guess the sayings' true. In the poker game of life, women are the rake man. They are the fucking rake.
Mike McDermott: What the fuck are you talking about? What saying?
Worm: I don't know. There ought to be one though.

For about the millionth time I watched rounders on the weekend. It was just one of those things, turned on the TV and there it was. The movie that started so many poker journeys throughout the world. While it did not start my interest in poker, it was my first introduction to Texas Holdem. I watched that move many years ago, before the poker boom and before I thought about gambling a cent of real money on this precious card game. Now I am older and wiser, I have decided to take off the rose coloured glasses and for once and all dispel one of the greatest myths perpetrated by this movie. Out of all the fantasy and "willing suspension of disbelief" that is present, there is one fallacy that I can not forgive, and it is so unrealistic that to entertain the thought that it was possible would to defy nature.

Let us run through a few of the occurrences and see wether they hold up against the Test of the Truth.

Mikey McD funds his law school through poker.

While to the outsider this may seem outlandish, we know that this can be true. I'm sure there are many people out there that can attest to having their education paid for by poker. In fact, it has been said that electoral campaigns in the past have been funded by the 52 playing cards, including many links to the American Presidency. With the amount of money floating around in poker these days, funding something like tertiary education without full time employment is a possibility, and a reality for some.


Mikey McD puts $30K into an underground game run by the Russian Mob, trying to make a run for the World Series.

While never having set foot in such an establishment, I have no doubt that New York is home to many underground poker clubs. When there is a desire to play, poker players will seek out games no matter where and when they are held. There is that little devil of a gambler in us all. Would a Russian Mob guy be running an underground card room? Why the hell not – it's not like crime syndicates have had an aversion to poker in the past. And even if it was just a pastime for Teddy KGB, outside of his alluded links, this is still very possible.

As for the run at the World Series part, now days it might be a bit different. He would probably be playing more satellites online and at the casinos if it were 2006, but in the mid 90's this would be more likely so it will not fail on that account.


Mikey McD looses his entire bank roll in one session, when he was drawing dead from the flop.

Seen it. Done it. Didn't have the money left to buy the T-Shirt. Especially for someone of his age and with that amount of money behind him, this is a definitely possibility. We've all seen it happen before, when someone goes for a big score and then in an instant it is all gone at the turn of a card, and it was lie you never had that money in the first place. While I do not personally know anyone who has last that amount in a single session of poker, I don't exactly move in the circles of people that gamble that amount either. I'm sure bigger bank rolls have been lost in a single session, many times the world over, and I'm sure many more will be.


Mikey McD gives up poker and starts driving a truck after Teddy empties his pockets.

This one is a bit tricky to understand. For someone with the obvious gamble in them like Mikey, walking away from the game after a loss like that is probably a pretty quick thought. The hard part to understand is that he actually abided by the embargo for such a long time. How many times have we said silly things like "That's it, poker and I are finished!" It's much like the famous "I'll never drink again" after a big night on the grog. Sure, at the time we might feel like we never want to drink again, but the feel of a new cold beer in the hand quickly deletes any memory of the promise made a day ago. The fact that Mikey does get back into the game later in the movie makes this believable, though it was hard to think that he would stay away as long as he did.

VERDICT: An eventual pass.

Mikey McD and Worm get caught trying to cheat at a game, and get the living shit kicked out of them for it.

If anything, this is one of the most believable parts of the movie. The only thing worse than being called a cheat is being caught. While the game may have been born from nefarious roots, there is an eternal optimism amongst most players that the game has an unquantifiable spirit and respect that all players admire and honour. Any violation thereof would be met harshly in any circumstance – the fact that the game in question was a bunch of cops who ended up giving them a gentle face massage with their fists does nothing to deter this event from passing the test.


Mikey McD goes on a 60+ hour poker playing binge/bender.

My best is over 12 hours, and even then I felt like I could go another SNG or two. There are many documented cases and anecdotal evidence of players going past the 24 hour barrier in a game or many games. These days with so many people interested in poker, there is a game on 24/7 somewhere – even in a place like Sydney, let alone the setting of New York for Rounders. This would have been harder 10 years ago (finding the games), but by no means impossible. Actually, I doubt it was even that hard back then. Have chips, will gamble – the door is always open somewhere.


Mikey McD borrows $10K to try to get back the money he owes.

Possibility? A damn near certainty again. Would a professor give a student $10K straight away like that? While I know none of my professor would have even given me change for a parking metre, there are plenty of documented cases were teachers have done much more than cut a check for a student, and it is not past the realms of possibilities that the law professor would do this to save a student, given their recent history in the movie.


Mikey McD bluffs Johnny Chan out of a pot with nothing but rags.

I don't see a problem with this. If a pro is pushing a table around and winning easily, then the guy in the corner who has been folding for an hour suddenly comes to life, I'm pretty sure he would give him the benefit of the doubt on that hand. And the accessibility for anyone with enough scratch to sit down with a pro is easier today than probably any time before. Certainly easy enough in the mid nineties setting of the movie.


Mikey McD doesn't tell anyone about bluffing Johnny Chan out of a pot with nothing but rags.

Now THIS is where I call shenanigans. No self respecting poker player in the world would keep this to themselves. Not only did he bluff Johnny Fucking Chan out of a pot, but he had the balls to give him a "Sorry John, I can't remember" as he flings his cards in to the middle. In reality, he would have stepped away from the table and got on his phone – called his girlfriend, called Knish, called Worm in Prison, called his mum, called Johnny's mum, called the number he found written on the bathroom wall. I can not believe that he would not have recounted this story around a card table in the few months that have passed. We as self respecting poker players are meant to believe that he kept the story to himself until giving it up at some Turkish Baths to a man dressed only in a towel after he has already lost his respect.

Anybody who had even a passing acquaintance with Mikey McD would have heard this story from him a million times before the next weekend came. It is understandable that he might want to keep the bragging rights to himself when trying to establish an image at a table sometimes, but this story would be just too great to keep. I know people that tell stories about how they won a coin toss against C grade celebrities at a greyhound track, and they tell that story every time I see them.

If I had made Johnny Chan believe that my last name was really Smith, I would have told everyone I saw for the next 12 months about it. With every thing else happening in this movie, THAT is the one thing I can not let pass.

VERDICT: Never. Not ever.

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