Screenwriter Brian Koppelman Releases ‘Rounders’ Screenplay

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Brian Koppelman released the “Rounders” movie screenplay he co-wrote David Levien. The text, he says, was written more than 20 years ago and was the original screenplay he sent to talent agencies he used to find actors.

Rounders Brian Koppelman
Fold your hand, Mr. Teddy KGB. He’s got the nuts! (Image:

“Rounders,” released in 1998, is the most iconic poker movie in history. Many poker players consider it to be their all-time favorite movie.

Koppelman, who also wrote the movie “Ocean’s Thirteen” and created Showtime’s “Billions,” shared what he believes, but isn’t certain, is the third screenplay he co-wrote for the poker flick. Fans can view the document on his blog. You might notice a few differences from the movie, most notably the main character, played by Matt Damon, was originally named “Matt McDermott,” but eventually became “Mike McDermott.”

The screenwriter said on Twitter they decided on “Mike” after casting Damon. “We felt like it might seem weird to have Matt play Matt,” he wrote.

Most Important Poker Movie Ever

There aren’t many major motion picture poker flicks throughout history. In 2017, director Aaron Sorkin released “Molly’s Game,” based on the true story about Molly Bloom, a former world-class skier who moved to Los Angeles and became the host of an illegal high-stakes poker game for celebrities that was eventually shut down by the FBI.

While that movie received a higher score on Rotten Tomatoes than “Rounders,” – 82 percent compared to 65 percent – it isn’t as beloved within the poker community. Movie critics aren’t necessarily poker fans.

“Rounders” was released in the late 1990s, five years prior to the start of the poker boom era. It was the top grossing movie during its first weekend in theaters in September 1998. But it only grossed $8.8 million.

The ‘Rounders’ Story

Many poker pros such as Brian Rast and Dutch Boyd claim “Rounders” is responsible for their interest in poker. In the movie, Matt Damon played a character (Mike McDermott) who dropped out of law school to play poker.

When McDermott’s friend, “Worm” (Ed Norton), was released from prison, he decided that gambling was more appealing than a high-paying job at a law firm. McDermott’s girlfriend, “Jo” (Gretchen Mol), who was also attending law school, wanted nothing to do with that lifestyle and dumped her boyfriend.

Damon’s character had some similarities to Anthony Zinno, one of the top poker players in the world. Upon graduating from law school and passing the Bar, Zinno never practiced law and instead became a poker player. That turned out to be the right decision. He’s a three-time WPT winner and has made millions in tournaments and cash games.

We aren’t sure how well McDermott’s decision played out. The movie ended with him heading to Las Vegas to compete in the World Series of poker, moments after defeating his arch nemesis “Teddy KGB” (John Malkovich) in a high-stakes heads-up match. But we’d like to think he’s still palling around with “Worm,” taking money off Johnny Chan and unsuspecting tourists at the now closed Trump Taj Mahal which remained open in this alternate world.

Sorry, if we spoiled the ending for you, but if you read Koppelman’s screenplay, you already know what happened. Not that many poker players haven’t already seen “Rounders” multiple times.

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