Reprinted without permission
There's something perversely appealing to fresh-faced young actors about prowling the gritty alleyways of character: prostitutes, porn stars, cold-eyed con men. This month fellow Ivy Leaguers Edward Norton (Yale) and Matt Damon (Harvard), two of the most clean-cut guys in film, venture into the shady underworld of New York poker in director John Dahl's Rounders
Damon plays Mike, a gifted cardplayer trying to go straight in law school when he is dragged back into the poker world to help a downtrodden friend, Worm (Norton). Damon and Norton prepared for their roles by playing cards after hours, and ended up in a much-publicized casino-sponsored appearance at the World Series of Poker, in Las Vegas: $10,000 buy in, $1 million pot. So now that they're poker studs, would they ever wager something really important - like, say, Damon's best original screenplay Oscar? "No," Damon says, laughing in horror, then reconsiders:"Not unless the Red Sox were in the World Series."
The pair got spanked in Vegas ("It's strange," says Norton, "you just feel yourself getting beaten"), but they could certainly trounce their buddies now. Not that they would, of course. "I think Edward and I would rather play a friendly game," says Damon. "I'm not that interested in taking my friends' money." And - lest we're still worried they minimize both the seediness and the allure involved in being a pro. "Those guys are punching the clock," Damon says. "'It's very unsexy." Adds Norton, "Professional poker is not gambling; it's 95 percent skill. It's more like chess." Now that sounds like the boys we know.
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