With a new baby and wife to support, out-of-work filmmaker Matt Gallagher tries his hand - and some would say “luck” - at playing poker for a living. Grinders is the director’s inside journey into the unconventional, often bizarre, underground world of illegal poker clubs.
It’s a world populated by colourful characters, straight out of central casting. A world where the workday starts at midnight, runs strictly on cash and can change forever with the simple flip of a card.
Playing poker to pay the bills means living side by side with risk. Although Gallagher was always a pretty good poker player, counting on winnings to pay the mortgage and to buy his daughter’s diapers takes the game – and the idea of risk -- to a whole new level.
But, as he soon discovers, the real meaning of risk lies far outside the poker room – and can strike in the most personal way.
Matt’s intimate, first person narrative is joined by the voices of other grinders -- poker players who make a small but sustainable living at the poker table. These aren’t the guys you see on TV playing the glitzy million-dollar tournaments. These are guys grinding it out in the trenches, just looking to make enough dough to cover the bills.
And, as he discovers, their stories range from tales of ultimate success to personal disaster.
One of those grinders is Danny -- a family man like Matt -- who battles his own demons on his quest to grab the golden ring. There’s also Andre, a self described “degenerate” who, at 25, is already crumbling under the ill effects of the grinders’ nocturnal, rollercoaster lifestyle. We also follow underground club owner Lawrence as he struggles to stay positive while his entire personal universe comes crashing down.
And on a trip to Las Vegas -- the Mecca of gambling -- Matt drops in on Daniel Negrenau, a former Toronto grinder who now lives the highlife of a celebrity, multi-millionaire poker champion.
For the first time ever, Grinders pushes past the conventional curtain of mainstream poker and brings the camera inside the underground poker circuit and into the lives of those chasing the elusive – and often destructive -- dream of the grinder. Along the way, Gallagher comes face to face with the true meaning of life, risk, fatherhood...and the secret art of poker.