Matt Damon and Edward Norton Cheated Bob and Harvey Weinstein at Poker

Posted on: September 23, 2018, 12:00h. 

Last updated on: September 23, 2018, 03:50h.

Matt Damon and Edward Norton once fleeced Bob Weinstein and his disgraced brother, Harvey Weinstein, at poker. The pair employed cheating skills they learned preparing for Rounders, the classic 1998 poker movie that the Weinsteins themselves produced through their company Miramax.

Matt Damon, Edward Norton, Rounders
Rounders was 20 years old this week, and its two male leads took method acting to a whole new level when they played in a poker game hosted by producers the Weinsteins, according to Edward Norton. (Image: Miramax)

It’s been two decades since the release of Rounders. The movie was a box-office flop, pulled from theaters by Miramax after just three weeks. But it garnered a cult following on DVD and is credited — along with Chris Moneymaker’s shock 2003 World Series of Poker victory — as igniting the “poker boom” in the 2000s.

“Listen, here’s the thing,” explained Norton’s character, Worm, famously in the movie. “If you can’t spot the sucker in your first half hour at the table, then you are the sucker.”

But one night, just before Rounders started production, it was the Weinsteins and their friends who were the suckers, according to Norton.

Signaling Systems

The two method actors had become so absorbed in their roles and so skilled not just at poker but also at cheating at poker, they decided to put their new skills to the test.

“Matt and I … had been taught how people cheated, played partner poker, by signaling. Because they do that in their games,” recalls Norton, as part of an oral history of Rounders, published this week by The Ringer. “We had had someone show us a fairly complex system for signaling what your cards were by the way you positioned your hold chips on your cards.

“And so we got very good at it and we were just like, ‘Should we do it?’ And we were like, ‘F*** it, it’s like Harvey and Bob’s game, let’s do it.’ We played that night doing sort of Mike and Worm’s signaling system.

“And it worked enormously well. Matt was sort of getting the cards, so then I was like pumping up the bets, and seeing what he had, then folding out. And we went out when it was all over and chopped it up.”

Cult Classic Still Holds Up

The film recounts the tale of Mike McDermott (Damon) and his degenerate hustler friend “Worm” (Norton). Mike is torn between dreams of poker greatness and giving up gambling altogether for the sake of his girlfriend. He also fantasizes about revenge against the Russian gangster, “Teddy KGB,” who takes him for his entire bankroll at the beginning of the movie.

When Worm is released from prison and confides he owes money to the wrong people, the two hit the tables in a bid to pay off the debt, ultimately leading to a final showdown with TeddyKGB. Confronted with the choice of poker or a “normal life,” Mike chooses poker, and heads to Vegas to seek his fortune.

Damon and Norton’s hard work and research paid off in more ways than one. Twenty years on, Rounders still holds up as arguably the best and most authentic poker film ever made.