I'm currently watching the 1998 movie Rounders. This scene occurs at the very beginning of the movie.

  • Mike McDermott (Matt Damon) sits under the gun at a 4-max table with As-9s. He raises 3x.
  • UTG+1 folds, but Teddy "KGB" (John Malkovich) in small blind calls with AA.
  • The flop brings A9X and Teddy checks and Mike overbets 4x pot size to fake that he wants to scare Teddy out of the hand.
  • The turn is another 9 and gives Mike a full house. Teddy checks and Matt checks assuming Teddy has a flush draw.
  • Teddy bets, and Mike raises all-in.
  • Teddy calls, shows AAA99 and wins against Mike's 999AA.

The question now is, that I thought about that play and it would never happen to me, because I would have re-raised preflop with AA. I have further thought that I could call as well, but the chance to bust against a lower pair that hits a set on the board is given and that's why I have always solid played good starting hands.

Is calling a preflop bet with AA profitable longer term?

In this situation it worked out, but in 1000 similar situations, would AA call be profitable?

Because I'm sure, in a real situation, Mike with A9 would have folded a raise by Teddy and the whole situation wouldn't have happened.

Teddy also leaves the table after the hand while other players still have a stack, suggesting it is a cash game. Would the type of game, cash versus tournament, influence the decision?

  • The thing that bothers me more about that scene is that Damon's character hasn't even showed or mucked when the goon starts raking in the chips. Aces full is not the nuts, pocket nines would be.
    – user1934
    Oct 13, 2016 at 21:14
  • I think you have to understand it's not a real representation of poker per say, but rather a story they wanted to tell with poker as a backdrop. I agree with you, in a normal setting this would bother me too, but from a movie point of view it helps show the impact or hit Mike just took. He's literally stunned
    – Grinch91
    Oct 14, 2016 at 10:27
  • @Grinch91 I DO understand, that this is not a real representation of poker but a movie. But the situation still kept me thinking and that is why I wanted to ask other poker players about how they feel about it
    – David Seek
    Oct 14, 2016 at 11:03
  • Why would you not include the hand up front if you want hand analysis?
    – paparazzo
    Oct 14, 2016 at 14:05
  • I dont get your question
    – David Seek
    Oct 14, 2016 at 14:06

2 Answers 2


You have to remember this movie was made in 1998, poker at the time was a completely different meta game and in general the knowledge of players was pretty appalling in comparison to even bad players now a days. Also it is Hollywood, it's not about being profitable it's about being enjoyable to watch.

We're introduced to Mike as someone who is amazing at reading people, yet for someone who is meant to be great at reading people he missed Teddy's strength. Mike figures the tell out at the end of the movie, but it was pretty obvious, and for someone who is meant to be good at reading people it's almost unbelievable that he missed it. But this was done for the sake of the movie.

Anyway getting back to your main question, the poker meta was extremely different at the time. I have dealt poker for years and seen all types of players, including some relics of pre-poker boom who haven't adapted. They would often tell you stories or rant about how crazy the games are now or how undisciplined these 'kids' are after their aces are cracked and the 'kids' are stacking their chips after getting a great price with their 9♥T♥ and just flopped well. In general poker pre-boom was tight, I mean super tight. That lead these players to often slow play the nuts to trap to get paid off.

Like I wouldn't be surprised to have players,at the time, think Mike is very loose for opening 4 handed with A,9 pre. Whereas nowadays because in general people have better knowledge and understand the maths better, they know it's a mistake not to play that strong hand 4 handed, with no open.

Another huge factor is to know the player sitting across from you. If the player is a maniac, and betting into you with any two, let them hang themselves. Perfectly profitable.

It's not a clear yes or no answer per say, because like everything in poker there are more variables than raw numbers and percentages to look at. We don't see enough poker in the movie to say it was a profitable play in the long run from Teddy, but given how tight people tended to be in general Teddy was probably pretty comfortable that Mike's range was top, and even though he lost to 9s it's pretty unlikely to be in Mike's range.

With all I've said it is never a mistake to raise with aces. Unless you know the player well or are extremely confident the other player is a maniac who will hang themselves, just bet it. Keep it simple, give yourself more information to work with on future streets. So in the long run, just raise it, you'll keep the coolers to a minimum, you'll make your life easier, and it's never a mistake to raise the Aces.

  • Thank you VERY much for this answer. Just like the movie it kept me thinking and was entertaining.
    – David Seek
    Oct 14, 2016 at 11:07
  • I think the most important statement of your answer for playing today is "it is never a mistake to raise with aces." I would say that the only times you should consider it is when playing against someone you often play against and you need to "mix it up" once in a great while. If you just call one time where the hand ends up going to showdown, now your opponent can't (in the future) always just automatically assume that you DO NOT have AA when you just call--that one time that you simply called with it will always stick in their head. Oct 14, 2016 at 15:32
  • @Dr.DrfbagIII And in that case you might have to call off a value bet on the river (if you know you are beat) just so you can show the aces.
    – user1934
    Oct 14, 2016 at 16:03

Not going to be profitable to flat AA out of position heads up pretty much ever.

KGB is only keeping Mike around if he is bluffing with air. Mike might open wider but never with air here. There is just not reason for it.

KGB could have popped it to 6 BB giving Mike 3:1 and he is getting a call basically all the time. Mike has position two handed. A small raise is not giving away the strength of KGB hand.

The way the cards were set up this is going in every time anyway with a check or 3 bet pre.

So many hands that he looses value. There are only two A9s hands that this works with. Mike could have had KK QQ that would have gotten it in pre. Mike could have had 200 hands that he looses value. He might have gotten some value from Mike flopping top pair but that is just going to be a small pot but he risks that Mike flops 2 pair+ and does not hit an ace and KBG looses a big hand.

If KGB is going to slow play AA then I get checking the turn.

Now if Mike had the AA hand KJB re-raised then maybe flat but still no. One problem with AA is that it is a blocker to a lot of the hands you could get value from. The Ax suited hands you don't have a blocker. Again you are hoping KGB is on a hand like KK QQ that you can get it in pre.

  • 1
    I read the first statement exactly how you explained it. I think the wording is just clumsy.
    – user1934
    Oct 14, 2016 at 16:03
  • Erm yes. My bad. I was exactly wanting to say that in my first statement. And the slow play is exactly the point of my question. Because slow play is only useful (in my point of view), with a made hand, not preflop when there is a chance of getting killed by draws and sets
    – David Seek
    Oct 14, 2016 at 16:54
  • I have edited the first statement, hope it does make more sense like this
    – David Seek
    Oct 14, 2016 at 16:55
  • @DavidSeek That is some strange semantics. Any made hand unless it is the nuts has a chance of getting beat by a draw. He like did get all the chips.
    – paparazzo
    Oct 14, 2016 at 17:00

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