David Harbour claims he knows the real Teddy KGB, the Russian crime boss and main antagonist of 1998s poker-classic Rounders.
Harbour is currently doing the press tour for his role as Alexei “Red Guardian” Shostakov in the Marvel ECU’s Black Widow movie.
One of Harbour’s stops on the press junket was the show Hot Ones for the Youtube channel First We Feast. In the show, Sean Evans interviews celebrities while they eat a series of brutally Scoville-intense hot-wings.
One of Evans’s earliest questions led Harbour down an unexpected memory side-alley. Evans led by asking Harbour for some dramatic tales from his time as an underground poker player in New York. Harbour was surprised Evans knew about his misspent youth, asking: “Did we play together?”
Harbour went in early with the Rounders reference. That’s something every poker player in the world can instantly say “I get that reference” to.
“You know that movie Rounders?” Harbour asks the interviewer. “That’s what’s in my head.”
Having played with David Levien and Brian Koppelman back in the 90s, Harbour had some inside scoop on the movie’s production too. He even claims to know who the real Teddy KGB was. According to Harbour, he was not a looker.
“Those guys who wrote that movie[, Levien and Koppelman], I used to play with. I know the guy who is Teddy KGB. He does not look like John Malkovich, he looks like kind of a dumpy little dude.”
Harbour might want to keep one on his kneecaps and the other eye out for whoever the real-life Grama is.
“A real beautiful moment…”
The New York poker scene was heavily tied up with the world of game players. Chess and pool hustlers abounded on the felt. The Mayfair Club — one of the most famous of the underground poker clubs, and the model for the Chesterfield Club in Rounders — started life as a meeting spot for bridge and backgammon players. These players found that the element of luck in poker meant you could shear the sheep instead of butchering them.
The fish just keep bringing their money back to the sharks in poker. But with the money came an element of danger, as Harbour explained.
“I never saw anything go down. But one of the reasons those places got shut down was because — they were sort of sanctioned, I mean, under the table, by the cops for a long time — and then what happened was, guys would break-in. A guy broke in — I guess a couple of guys broke in — with shotguns and just accidentally one of them went off and shot an old guy.”
He still clearly thinks warmly of those times, despite the dark edge to some of the stories.
“Yeah. There was a real beautiful moment in the underground poker scene in New York,” he says. “I wish it lasted forever.”
I think we’ve found our lead if they ever get Rounders 2 off the ground.
Featured image source: Flickr by WPT