Runner, Runner, the highly anticipated online poker movie starring Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake, is scheduled to debut in Canada and the US on October 4. While moviegoers will be most excited to see the two stars, poker fans should keep their eyes open to cameos from some of the world’s most famous players – including Phil Laak.
Laak, who also goes by his poker nickname ‘The Unabomber,’ was a late-entry into the film. The poker star is close friends with screenwriter Brian Koppelman, who wrote the script for Runner, Runner as well as Ocean’s Thirteen and Rounders, and was extended a cameo.
Laak offered to invite another poker star down to Puerto Rico to shoot the movie, which he credits for helping to secure the role. Laak convinced good friend and fellow poker pro Antonio Esfandiari to be a part of the film. However, the extended scene that featured the two was cut from the final take, and Laak expects only a quick cut of himself and Esfandiari when the movie is released.
Despite most of his work being removed, Laak enjoyed the experience as it reunited him with Affleck, who plays in many celebrity poker tournaments.
“He got a lot of his training from the casino. He was always trying to learn strategy. He absorbed everything.”
The movie also introduced Laak to Timberlake, who is less experienced in poker than his co-star. However, Laak learned that the younger star is just as passionate about poker as Affleck.
“He came over and was very personable. He’s a very funny guy. He actually made me laugh. He’s a bit of a comedian.”
Laak says he, Esfandiari, and many other poker stars are optimistic that Runner, Runner will expand the popularity of poker. The World Series of Poker named 2013 as the Year of Canada, and the US government is debating legislation that would legalize online poker across the country. Laak fully supports regulated online poker, and believes the movie will provide more incentive for political leaders to take action.