The 1998 movie ‘Rounders’ was successful in large part due to the rising popularity of Texas Hold’em, which became an international phenomenon as TV networks began broadcasting poker tournaments. Online poker advocates are optimistic the upcoming movie ‘Runner, Runner’ will also develop a cult following, and help popularize the digital version of the game, particularly in the US.
Runner, Runner will star Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake, and was recently given a September 27, 2013 release date. The movie will delve into the online poker world in much the same way as Rounders publicized the underground poker market. The script was written by screenwriting team Brian Koppelman and David Levien, who also wrote the script for Rounders.
Runner, Runner will focus on Timberlake, playing the character Richie, a Princeton college student paying for his tuition through online poker. The college student turned poker pro starts off the movie with an impressive stack of chips in his account, but quickly goes on a losing streak. He convinces himself that the site’s managers unfairly punished him for his previous victories. Richie then flies down to Costa Rica where the site’s servers are housed, and confronts Ivan, played by Affleck – who manages the online poker site.
But instead of a confrontation, Ivan sees himself in Richie and offers the younger man a job with the site. The two men develop a mentor/mentee relationship until they end up divided over how to operate the business, and tension quickly flares. The movie will allude to the Black Friday poker scandal of 2011 that shut down numerous sites operating in the US, which Ivan mentions he managed to avoid.
Online poker in the US is a divisive issue as some poker players want the practice legalized, while others remain opposed. Affleck and Timberlake are both in favour of online poker, and both men regularly participate in celebrity poker tournaments. The stars are optimistic that Runner, Runner will help convince anti-online poker legislatures that poker players already use the sites regardless of the laws, and that the US will keep millions of taxable dollars within the economy by legalizing the game.