runner-runner-featureYou can’t just make a movie anymore; you have to tie it in with some greater event to milk all the publicity you possibly can from it. With that concept in mind, the writers of the poker classic Rounders have teamed up again for the screenplay of a new poker film called Runner, Runner, which will showcase the trials and tribulations of several Costa-Rica-based online poker sites, as well as feature megastars Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake.  And to get the absolute most bang for their buck, the movie’s producers are cleverly planning a release date of September 27, just in time to build up lots of buzz before the “November Nine” of World Series of Poker’s final Main Event table hit ESPN and somebody walks away with a cool $8 or $9 million.

An added bonus, if all the stars align, will be if Nevada’s online poker business happens to be kicked off by then.

Plot Summary

The movie’s title, of course, refers to what happens when the last two community cards on the table in Texas Hold’em – known as either the “turn and river” or “fourth and fifth streets,” either make or break your hand, which sort of sums up the glory and agony of poker in one frequently used player expression.  Timberlake apparently plays a college brainiac who pays his Ivy League tuition by grinding online poker cash games on a Costa-Rican site, while Affleck, we gather, plays the ubiquitous Russian mobster who owns said site. Affleck looks about as much like any Russian mobster we’ve ever seen as Timberlake looks like a black guy in the hood, but this is Hollywood and hot guys with bankrollable names draw investors, so we won’t quibble with this minor detail too much.

On the Set

Although it’s supposed to take place in Costa Rica, Runner Runner was actually filmed in Puerto Rico, and makes generous and good use of recent online poker history, with references to Black Friday, recently indicted “poker princess” Molly Bloom (who ran some of the high-stakes games of which the film’s producer, Leonardo DiCaprio, was reportedly a frequent host, and at which Affleck was said to be a frequent player). In an odd “life imitates art” twist, Bloom’s recent indictment was part of a much larger Department of Justice roundup of some 34 Russian mobsters with, whaddya know, some pretty extensive big-time online gambling ties.

‘Twill be interesting to see how Runner Runner plays with the masses, now that Black Friday is largely wrapped up; with Ray Bitar’s recent $40 million cash and asset forfeiture, all the while as he awaits a much-needed heart transplant.

Now that’s a plot twist that would be hard to believe, if it weren’t real life.