Underrated Matt Damon-Starring Gem Had the Best Opening Line Ever

Underrated Matt Damon-Starring Gem Had the Best Opening Line Ever
Image credit: Legion-Media

Right in the opening lines, Matt Damon perfectly set the tone for a film that ended up helping popularize the game of poker for mass audiences.

The film was Rounders, a 1998 cult classic starring Damon and Edward Norton early in their career.

It follows high-stakes poker player Mike McDermott (Damon), who leaves the world of gambling after losing his savings. When his old gambling buddy Worm (Norton) gets out of jail with a massive debt to pay, he's dragged back into life on a high-octane gambling binge.

The film's first line encapsulates the entire theme of Rounders:

"Listen, here's the thing. If you can't spot the sucker in your first half hour at the table, then you are the sucker."

Immediately, you're sucked in.

Underrated Matt Damon-Starring Gem Had the Best Opening Line Ever - image 1

McDermott continues by giving his rules: Get money in when you have the best of it; protect it when you don't. "That's how I've paid my way through half of law school."

Both Damon and Norton were in the midst of becoming megastars when they shot Rounders. Damon was an overnight sensation with Good Will Hunting and shot up to another celebrity stratosphere when he appeared in Steven Spielberg 's Saving Private Ryan. Norton was still relatively unknown but was just months away from starring in American History X and Fight Club in back-to-back years.

Even Supernatural' s Creator Thinks These 5 Episodes Are a Waste of Time

Rounders was a bit of a backstep for Damon. It received mixed reviews and was yanked from theaters after only a few weeks. It was produced by Miramax, with whom Damon had worked consistently from 1996-2005 – including on Good Will Hunting. With the upcoming Talented Mr. Ripley set for release the following year, the studio wanted to protect Damon's image from any poorly received films.

After two-and-a-half decades, Rounders has since become a cult classic for poker lovers. It came right at the start of the game's popularity boom, which saw the World Series of Poker grow from a few hundred participants in the main event to just shy of 10,000 last year.

Then and Now: See the Cast of Scrubs 20 Years Later

In fact, Damon and Norton both entered the World Series of Poker in 1998 after studying up the game for their roles in Rounders. Damon has since appeared in the tournament several times, since renowned as one of the most recognizable poker players in the world.

As with many films from the pre-streaming era, Rounders was a casualty of niche films unable to find their proper audience in their theatrical release. But with time, it eventually found its audience – and its opening line will live on among film buffs as one of cinema's finest.