No one can really pinpoint the start of poker’s mainstream popularity: lipstick cams, World Poker Tour, online poker, Chris Moneymaker. You’ve heard the list a thousand times. But what few people realize is Moneymaker may never have started playing poker if he never watched Rounders. So, if Moneymaker is the keystone holding the “poker boom” theory together then we really have Miramax to thank for it.
Well, now Miramax is promising a sequel. It’s been about 13 years since we saw Mike McDermott get into a cab and head to Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker. No details on a script or release date have been announced, but why let that stop us from having a little fun?
On the next page is a short “treatment” of what Rounders 2, The Vegas Years might be like. And, hey, Weinsteins, call me, we’ll have lunch!
A red LED light of an office phone blinks, but the ringing only can be heard faintly at the outside receptionist’s desk. The camera scans from left to right. The sound of typing on a keyboard is interrupted by a young man’s voice on the intercom.
“Someone named Mike McDermott is on Line 2 for you. He said you’d know what it was about.”
The camera stops its pan on neatly manicured nails just as they stop typing. Then the camera slowly works its way up to see the almost smirking face of Jo, the beautiful blonde who “folded” McDermott 15 years earlier.
A plane lands at McCarren International Airport. Jo walks through the gate with someone in tow, and they catch a cab to Clark County Jail. McDermott comes to the visitors’ area wearing the standard orange scrubs, looking almost as forlorn as he did when those staties roughed him up in Binghamton. He sits at a square table and half-smiles.
“I’m in deep.”
The camera glides across the table to see Joey Knish seated at the other side.
“You know, Mike,” Knish says, “It seems like I’ve heard you say that before.”
That’s when it fades to black and ROUNDERS 2: THE VEGAS YEARS flashes on the screen.
Turns out McDermott gave up his dream of winning the WSOP main event after flaming out five straight years without a cash. With the grind proving too much, Mike started a bogus small business that “tricked” banks into processing deposits and withdrawals for players to play on his online poker site called ChesterfieldWest.net. But he didn’t have the cash to start the venture, so he borrowed money from guys who made Teddy KGB look like Bruce Jenner (Teddy wore a tracksuit in Rounders, keep up with me people!). That’s when Knish tells McDermott that Teddy died from surgical complications after he needed some toes amputated due to onset diabetes.
“Too many Oreos.’” Knish says. They start to laugh when an annoyed Jo shoves Knish out of the way and explains just how serious the charges are. A prevailing Republican Congress had ramped up its crusade against online poker (sound familiar?) and made it so that every dollar earned by online operators would mean one day in prison if convicted. Mike is staring at 8,957 consecutive life sentences.
“How’d you end up here?” Knish says.
“I was set up.”
Someone had hacked his site and dumped all of the players’ funds, and the rake, into an offshore account. The DOJ also was alerted to Mike’s true identity and it dragged him out of his room at the El Cortez in the middle of the day. He not only had no way to repay his underworld investors, but 70,000 players were looking for their bankrolls.
A somber McDermott, in a suit and tie, sits in a courtroom as we hear a familiar voice coming down from the judge’s bench.
It’s Abe (Martin Landau), Mike’s law professor who had moved to Vegas after his wife died. He sentences Mike to 10 years’ probation and, as part of his sentence, he must play poker every day wearing an ankle monitor to try to repay his patrons. This is when we learn the true reason for Knish flying to Vegas. He will manage Mike’s bankroll and put him on a plan. Jo had worked out this deal ahead of time.
“Finally you’ll learn to use the playbook I put together from my beats,” Knish says from the courtroom gallery.
Cue a montage of Mike grinding it out at Bobby’s Room, Ivey’s Room and in Larry Flynt’s home game. Knish tells Mike he needs to enter the WSOP main event because it was believed 10,000 players were expected and first place would pay $20 million, just enough to pay back the players, the investors and after taxes it will leave him with three stacks of high society.
Cue yet another montage of Mike busting players, showing bluffs and the nuts. Eventually he makes the final table second in chips, and who’s the chipleader? Johnny “F——” Chan! But it’s the November Nine, so we have nearly four months to investigate who framed McDermott. Jo cashes in some favors and finds out the hacker was a felon who served time with, wait for it, Worm. Jo hits Worm with all kinds of charges in New York. Mike is flown in as a star witness, and there’s a huge fight between Mike and Worm.
“I had to hitch five hours back from Binghamton and those Russian idiots from Petra’s place picked me up on the GW and kicked my ass!”
Mike gives him the “you’ll never change” speech and Worm laughs and says he had help framing Mike.
“Yeah, I know, he was your cellmate,” Mike says.
“No, not him, it’s much deeper than that,” Worm says as he bangs on the door. “Guard!” Just as the guard opens the door Worm says, “You shouldn’t spread lies, Mike. It will always catch up with you.”
Worm disappears behind the door.
One final November Nine montage of only-in-Hollywood cooler hands and eliminations gets it down to Chan and Mike. There’s a raising war preflop and Mike finally just calls. The flop comes nine-high and both players miss. Chan shoves and Mike has him covered.
“I’ve been waiting for this for 20 years,” Chan says.
“What’s that, John?”
“You’ve been telling people for years that I laid down a limit hand to you in AC for one more bet. Who would believe that?”
“Knish bought it,” Mike says, smirking.
“That figures,” Chan says. “Knish knows all the angles but he never has the stones to take one. Well, I do; that’s why I helped Worm frame you. You don’t screw with the reputation of a world champ!”
Mike smiles: “You’re right, John. I guess I’ll just have to beat you on the level this time.” He shoves his chips in the midde and says, “I call!”
He turns over A-10. Chan shows 3-8 and doesn’t improve.
Inspirational music builds as Mike’s friends and fans bombard him. The music quiets and the classic McDermott voiceover begins:
“In poker you can only bluff for so long. Eventually you have to lay your cards on the table. Sure, I lied about Johnny Chan, but just like in poker I needed to bluff early on to set him up later when I had the nuts. And everyone knows A-10 is the nuts.” FADE TO BLACK …