cheek by jowl

How Does the Celebrity Poker Ring Compare to Rounders?

Photo: Ethan Miller/2005 Getty Images
Photo: Ethan Miller/2005 Getty Images

Earlier today, the entertainment world was rocked to its core by the news of an FBI investigation into secretive games of super-high-stakes celebrity poker. The reason the feds are poking around: Imprisoned hedge-fund manager Brad Ruderman apparently lost $25 million playing alongside Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Tobey Maguire, and others at these games, and now the powers-that-be are trying to get some of that money back. This is all a lot to process, right? In order to assist your comprehension, Vulture has broken down the case the only sensible way possible: by comparing it to 1998 poker classic Rounders.

  Rounders Celebrity Poker Ring
Is there illegal gambling involved? Yes, in dank, uninviting underground poker clubs. Yes, in swanky hotel suites. Also, occasionally, at the house of the guy from the Paris Hilton sex tape.
Is Matt Damon involved? Yes, as Mike McDermott, a law-school student conflicted by his poker skill. Yes, as himself, a movie star.
Is there cool terminology involved? So much: “Rolled up aces,” “lays down a monster,” “kid’s got alligator blood,” etc. Most likely, because if Matt Damon wasn’t taking every opportunity he could to quote his own movie — well, then, what the hell kind of high-stakes celebrity poker is this?
Are there people losing money they can’t afford to lose? Yes. Damon’s character loses $30,000 at the beginning of the movie and ends up having to drive a delivery truck to make ends meet. The real one’s actually more dramatic: Ruderman apparently got a Ponzi scheme going to attempt to cover his losses. A pending lawsuit is trying to get Maguire to pay back $311,300 of his winnings.
Are there super-climactic hands? All day! Most notable: the one at the very end, when Damon bests Teddy KGB by flopping the nut straight. Also yes: Maguire apparently once took $110,000 off Ruderman in a single hand.
Are there girls trying to ruin everything? Yes. Gretchen Mol plays Matt Damon’s girlfriend, and she’s an overly sensible, poker-hating drag. And yes: TMZ says Leo stopped playing with the guys when he started dating Bar Rafeali.
How about a happy ending? Damon gets all his money back, quits law school, and rides off into the sunset, a.k.a. the World Series of Poker in Vegas. Well, Ruderman’s already in prison, so not for him. But Tobey’s coming out of this kind of looking like a badass, right?
How Does the Celebrity Poker Ring Compare to Rounders?