Rounders is perhaps the most iconic poker movie ever made and has a cult-like following among card players. The story follows friends Mike (Matt Damon) and Worm (Edward Norton) as they move around New York City looking for high-stakes poker games while running into Russian mobsters.
The timing of the movie’s release was nothing short of exquisite, as it premiered on the big screen just before the poker boom era of the early 2000s, winning the film a huge number of fans.
Practically since its release in 1998, poker players have been clamouring for the release of its sequel – Rounders 2. But is a sequel on the cards? And why is Rounders such a legendary film within the poker community? Let’s take a closer look.
Rounders: A legendary tale of underground poker
Rounders tells the story of likeable law student Mike McDermott (Matt Damon) as he seeks to fulfil his dream of becoming a professional poker player. He is joined by his roguish best friend, Lester “Worm” Murphy, portrayed by Edward Norton. They are never too far from the tumultuous world of notorious Russian gangster Teddy “KGB”, played by John Malkovich.
Mike manages to win $30,000 from underground poker rooms in NYC before entering a poker room that Teddy and his Russian cronies run. Needless to say, he loses it all in a heads-up game with Teddy and then decides to quit poker to appease his girlfriend Jo (Gretchen Mol) and focus on his studies at law school.
But when Worm is released from prison, he racks up a massive debt in the underground poker scene under Mike’s name, dragging his buddy back into the unscrupulous world he has just ditched. As a result, a high-stakes (and life-defining) poker game ensues between Mike and Teddy, which sets Mike on a career path that doesn’t look likely at the start of the movie.
We don’t want to spoil the ending for you – so be sure to stream Rounders if you haven’t yet seen it, as it’s one of the best poker movies ever made.
Rounders 2 release date?
Rounders debuted on the big screen in the years before the 2000s poker boom, which saw the World Series of Poker dominate the imagination of card players from all around the world.
In this sense, its timing was perfect, providing newcomers to the game with a popular culture reference point for the underground version of the game that was becoming so popular online.
As such, ever since the turn of the century, the question that has been on the lips of every poker fan is this – will Rounders 2 ever happen?
Despite the lack of official confirmation from the filmmakers, it is clear that there is a high demand for Rounders 2 and that it has the potential to be a highly successful film, given the huge interest in the original even now, more than 20 years after its release.
However, in the past few years, rumours have circulated that filmmakers are at least talking about a sequel. For instance, when Matt Damon appeared on the Rich Eisen Show in 2016, he said:
“Rounders 2 is in the talks; Brian Koppelman and David Levien have a really good idea for the sequel. So much has happened in poker ever since these young kids, the new generation has entered the game. They have seen millions and millions before the age of 21, and the game is much-much different than what it used to be.”
Despite Damon’s positivity, there has been little in the way of action to pursue the release of Rounders 2, and it seems like a plan that has been shelved, at least for the time being.
So, just for fun, what could Rounders 2 look like? Well, for a start, it can’t include scenes at the Mirage in Las Vegas, one of Mike’s favourites, as that poker room is long gone. So, how would the plot play out? Let’s take a look.
Rounders 2: Potential plot ideas
The biggest challenge facing the filmmakers would be whether to follow Mike’s career on the World Series of Poker or to head back to the streets to follow some new up-and-coming poker stars trying to make their reputation.
However, the biggest stumbling block is capturing the risk and reward that was central to the original storyline. Not only was Mike risking a lot of money in high-stakes poker, but he was also risking his life against a maniacal Russian gangster in underground poker rooms in a dangerous New York City.
Today, poker is much more regulated than in the 1990s, and most youngsters (like Mike) play poker online, particularly when studying at university. In other words, the duo of Mike and Worm would be extremely difficult to recreate, particularly the problematic situations they managed to get themselves into throughout the movie.
It would seem more achievable for the filmmakers to focus on a US poker player overseas, perhaps getting into difficulty when playing in high-stakes poker games in countries where casinos might be controlled by organised crime groups.
Of course, Rounders fans would insist that Mike and Worm were included in the story somehow, even if they weren’t the plot’s primary focus. Perhaps Mike could serve as a mentor, or we might even get to meet his poker-playing child (it’s been 20+ years since Rounders, after all!).
And, of course, where does Teddy KGB come into this? After letting Mike leave the table in one piece after that nut straight, does he want revenge after 20 years against this well-educated kid who embarrassed him? Or does he want to seek out Mike for other, perhaps conspiratorial, reasons?
One thing is for sure – if Rounders 2 is to happen, it needs to include Mike, Worm, and Teddy. And a pack of Oreo cookies, of course!
Recap: Will Rounders 2 ever happen?
In the last five to ten years, there have been various suggestions that Rounders 2 might happen, but as of 2023, nothing has materialised.
As Matt Damon himself said, the cast would love nothing more than to join back up for a sequel, and the poker community is dying to see more from Mike, Worm, and Teddy. But in reality, there is nothing concrete to suggest that Rounders 2 will happen anytime soon, but we can certainly keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best.
Feature image from Miramax publicity shot