Matt Damon and Edward Norton played the $10,000 buy-in Texas Hold 'Em(No Limit) championship event at the 1998 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. During the first of four days, Matt Damon had pocket Kings and was knocked out by former world champion and poker legend Doyle Brunson who held pocket Aces.
Despite the rise in No Limit Texas Hold'em interest in conjunction with this film's release, the characters play a wide variety of poker variants: No Limit Hold'em is played with Teddy KGB at the beginning and end of the film, the Judge's game is a 7 card Stud game, the College Boys are playing Stud variants (notably Chicago), when Worm and Mike go the Chesterfield the first time the game is Forced Rotation (alternating hands of Hold'em, Omaha, Razz, Stud usually), Worm plays 7 card Stud later at the Chesterfield, the Taj Mahal game is Limit Hold'em, the Union game is a Draw or Stud game, Mike plays Draw or Stud (it appears in the short scene)with the Greeks, the Cigar Club game is 7 card Stud Hi-Lo, the Golf pro game is a Pot Limit Omaha/Stud game, and the State police game is 7 card Stud. All the games played are part of the World Series of Poker competition (though the main event is No Limit Texas Hold'em)
Early on, Mike is seen taking money out of a poker book called "Super System", which was written by poker legend Doyle Brunson. He later pulls quotes from the book with the lines "Texas Hold 'em is the Cadillac of poker games" and "The trick to no limit is to put a man to a decision for all his chips."
Matt Damon said in a interview that getting John Malkovich was a big deal for the film, so much so that on the first take John Malkovich did a very cartoonish and over the top performance at the end of which the whole crew applauded and praised him for how brilliant it was. At which point Matt Damon looked John Malkovich very confused, John Malkovich seeing him looking confused leaned over and said "I'm a terrible actor." Matt Damon said John Malkovich was trying to show him that "if you get to that point where no one gives you a straight answer, it's dangerous"
The playing cards used during both games at KGB's place are a deck of red and a deck of blue backed Arrow-design, standard index, wide plastic cellulose-acetate cards of the KEM range manufactured by the United States Playing Card Co.
The playing card brands used throughout the film, in order are: - Teddy KGB's place: Kem cards - Professor's game: Bicycle cards - Frat house game: Bicycle cards - Chesterfield's: Kem cards - Taj Mahal casino: casino branded cards - Union game: not identifiable - Cigar shop game: Bicycle cards - Coffee shop: not identifiable but "made in USA" (possibly Aviator cards, which has an Ace of Spades that resembles the one partially seen) - Golf club game: Bicycle cards - Cop game: Bicycle cards - Matt Damon vs Jon C. Chan: casino branded cards - Final game at Teddy KGB's: KEM cards.