Damn, is Matt Damon cool in Rounders or what? The guy’s a genius lawyer-to-be kicking ass in the courtroom, but then he returns to his grimy back-room poker roots and gets his hands dirty, just to save an idiot friend Ed Norton who can’t stop cheating and getting beaten up by enormous dirtbags who have offices in basements. Damon doesn’t even need to keep the girl at the end — that’s how cool he is.
Perhaps the ultimate cool-guy Matt Damon scene in Rounders, though, is easy to miss: when Damon, in desperation for a bankroll to take down the evil Russian Oreo-ad underground poker boss John Malkovich, tells his mentor John Turturro about bluffing the best player in the world at the time, Johnny Chan, for no reason other than a weird, sexy twist on the classic badass mantra: because Johnny Chan was there.
This undeniable, gnawing need to force other men to back down using only Jack and Shit as persuasion is why the bluff exists. This doesn’t mean it’s a good idea, especially if you’re going to base all of your poker playing on Rounders, as we are. The idea in Rounders is that Damon might be a better player than Chan, he just doesn’t have the bankroll or the prestige. This makes bluffing the perfect, coolest way to win. Because that’s all we really want, isn’t it? To bask in a little Matt Damon poker badassery?
1 Play poker. In Damon’s Rounders story, he’s in a casino, but look: you don’t have that kind of cash to blow right now. You’ll get your enjoyment out of the mad-rush bluff because you’re beating your friends, not because you’ll be able to buy a new Toyota Camry with the winnings. Also: you know how to play poker, right?
2 Know who Jonny Chan is. Not, like, the actual Johnny Chan. He is the champion WSP player. No, the Johnny Chan you’re looking for is the hotshot player at your table. He has a lot of chips, a lot of swag, and he’s likely wearing sunglasses. And you’re going to kick his ass. In poker.
3 Be the teeny tiny small stack. This makes you an awesome underdog character. With a lot of Guff. It also works toward actual poker theory on how to make a good strong play against a big-stack thug like Mr. Chan, since small stacks have the advantage of picking their spots and then pushing all in for leverage.
4 Wait. Bide your time and wait for the perfect opportunity to come. That is, he seems to have really good cards, and you have what Damon calls “rags”, or bad cards. Ultimately, you’ll want to have 2 through 7 unsuited, the worst hand in poker. If you bluff with this, you’ll feel the guff fermenting inside you and turning into a potent brew of badassery.
5 Outplay him. This is pretty straightforward, because again: you know how to play poker. When he raises, you re-raise. He might even come back at you with another raise; this is prime Johnny Chan behavior. No matter what, continue to re-raise him. Rely heavily on your guff here, and that you are the Matt Damon of this Rounders reenactment, and that therefore you will win.
6 The Kicker Line. You did it, you sonofoabitch! Hell yeah! Now: calm down. Restrain that fountain of guff inside you that’s threatening to burst out in a scream of “Suck it bro, you just got BLUFFED!” in the Johnny Chan sucker’s face. This is in fact the hardest part of the Matt Damon Rounders Bluff.
Don’t be confused, though: you are not humble. Instead you will gloat the cool poker guy way, with maximum smarm. When Johnny Chan sucker-guy asks you “if you had it”, a.k.a., if you weren’t bluffing at all, you sit back a little, crack a grin just tiny enough to show your inner smarmy guff, and give a response that tells him nothing and therefore makes his loser blood boil. The best form of insult in this case would actually be a really lame comeback in normal life. But this is not normal life, remember — this is a rounder’s reality. In the heat of the moment, feel free to borrow Damon’s line, with the right twerp-y little inflection: “I’m sorry, John. I don’t remember.”
7 You have won. Drop out of law school, say goodbye to your sweetheart, and head to Vegas, baby. There are a lot more Johnny Chans where that one came from, and you’ve got plenty of guff to go around.