Thursday, May 10, 2012

Rounders’ Game of Tell & Show

Mike McDermott after pushing all in at the start of 'Rounders' (1998)Kind of wiped out today thanks to a late night following some of these marathon SCOOP tourneys on PokerStars. Meaning there ain’t a lot in the tank for posting here at the moment. So let me send you over to another blog for an interesting read.

Not long ago I had the chance to read Zach Elwood’s new book Reading Poker Tells and ended up reviewing it over at Betfair. I enjoyed the book quite a bit, which does a neat job categorizing and describing a number of revealing behaviors at the poker tables. Check out my review for a full run down of what the book covers.

Zach also keeps a blog where he posts further on the subject of tells in poker. Over the last few months he’s posted some interesting analyses of the Pius Heinz-Martin Staszko heads-up battle for the 2011 WSOP Main Event bracelet. Those are some interesting reads, especially for those of us who watched that more-than-six-hour heads-up match play out on ESPN last November.

Anyhow, yesterday Zach published a post discussing tells in Rounders, going beyond the one we all remember -- Teddy KGB and his Oreos -- to point out others exhibited by both Teddy and Mike McDermott. Both characters are pretty transparent, really, with regard to their tells, although as Zach points out in his post the characters’ failings in this regard could well be considered part of the film makers’ intentions to convey certain things to the audience, including the non-poker people watching.

Thanks to my “Poker in American Film and Culture” course, I’ve been watching Rounders over and over again for the last few semesters as one of the films I assign to my class. Thus have I become pretty familiar with the tells Zach is describing in his post, as well as some other idiosyncracies in the presentation of poker scenes that may or may not have been intended.

Worm and Mike in the gym in 'Rounders' (1998)I’m also picking up on other small things with each viewing, such as the neat symmetry between the backstory about Mike and Worm being involved in fixing a basketball game back at prep school and the later scene in the church gym. As back at prep school, Mike agrees one last time to team up with his friend in a plan to make some scratch, although like before things won’t work out.

Anyhow, check out Zach’s analysis of some tells in Rounders. Kind of thing would be neat to do with a lot of poker films, actually, since there is lot of overlap -- potentially -- between the non-verbal types of communication that happens at the poker tables and the language of cinema.

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