Leonardo DiCaprio bluffing against a Russian mobster. Looks like a movie scene? Wrong. It’s a common situation in Molly’s game room. Unfortunately, it no longer exists but what a life it was! Why do Hollywood movies happen IRL, why did a perfect plan fall apart and, most importantly, why should you never do things like Molly Bloom? Wait, we’ll come to this a bit later. Because at the end of the day, the true reason is hidden somewhere at the beginning of the game.
Colorado is a mountainous state in America. If you were born in a small town called something like Loveland, you might think that you’ve had a little less luck than kids born in California. But think again. It is a place where many rivers begin their journey through the continent – North Platte, South Platte, Arkansas, Rio Grande del Norte, San Juan, Colorado, Yampa, to name a few. Isn’t it a magical place to begin your life journey? Then again, other people could say that you had your head in the clouds, and it would be true – Colorado boasts about 550 peaks of more than 4000 meters (13,123 ft) height above sea level.
Since Molly Bloom was born, the future poker princess strived to reach the top of the “mountain,” whatever that was – the skiing championship or, let’s say, an illegal extra-high-stakes poker room where politicians, movie stars and gangsters showed their skills. Did you know that the biggest hand ever won on the World Series Of Poker in Vegas was $18 million? Well, that doesn’t sounds like too much, compared to the $100 million that He Who Must Not Be Named once won over the course of one night at Molly’s.
One of her brothers was a twice Olympic champion, the other a heart surgeon. Her father was a professor of psychology and her mom owned a line of clothing. Obviously, Molly didn’t want to live an average life either. But eventually, her good education helped her play a mean game in the world of rich kids and professional fraudsters who had all already managed to master the art of the strategic bluff. Both players types knew little, if anything, about ethics and other people’s feelings. So, was it the right decision to host the kind of game that was seemingly, but not completely, legal? And did she even have a plan? We’ll find out.
When the buy-in stakes were made and the first three cards dealt, Molly got excited, just like any 26-year-old woman, sitting dangerously close to Leo DiCaprio. The thing is that excitement might be the primary reason why people play poker. But regardless of that, all those reasons were different from those of our heroine. What excited her the most was the high level of it all. Celebrities, sports legends, billionaires from the biggest international companies, sports teams owners, princes, magnates, and mobsters – they all poured enormous money into this poker game. They could win or lose a fortune in a few hours. All in all, they were just one of a kind personalities. But did they play just for the thrill of it?
They were immature and addicted – no question of that! But at the same time, those players were still pros at making big money in other-than-normal ways. For example, if you suddenly get a suspiciously big amount of money, isn’t it a good idea to launder it through the underground poker room? Actually, it’s not; but the FBI thought it was a good idea to catch the fraudsters by incriminating them in this poker game. We can understand the agents – what else they had to do if the hedge funds the key persons owned were crystal-clear, and people who knew something were either part of the business or dead? Well, there was also the third type of person – Molly!
The bad guys had some special sympathy for her. She was beautiful, smart, and never knew too much about the Cosa Nostra. And she never knew if a pair of old sharks decided to play against another one who had money to spend. That was all until it turned out that the losers had no money and they took their chips in a rush of play. So what did Molly do? She started acting as a bank, lending them money, which turned out to be her fatal mistake.
Molly Bloom was an assistant for one of the co-owners of a luxury restaurant in Los Angeles for quite a long time. That was the place where she got all her celeb contacts, and figured out how to host a game like poker with some of the people who made 1% of the wealthiest ones in society. Later, according to the memoir book and the movie “Molly’s Game” by Aaron Sorkin, starring Jessica Chastain, the guy fired Molly; and then the cutest celeb of all prepared everything for the Hollywood underground poker team, so they could play without her. So, Molly had to move to New York and launch a new game room, which belonged solely to her. She even registered a Molly Bloom Inc. and paid taxes to her workers, remembering the times when she herself worked illegally and could have been kicked out anytime. But she failed to realize that “fair” is just not how it works in underground poker.
The FBI was hunting the big fish. Rich kids and even swindler businessmen interested them, up to the point where they were even contacting some very influential mafia bosses. Molly, who up to now had merely been a host of this big and often unnoticed game, wasn’t too important to catch either. They watched her for long before they thought it was right to make a showdown. And Molly’s poker room was a perfect place where all the interesting people gathered on neutral territory, vulnerable and relatively unprotected.
The book and the movie say that the FBI arrested 125 mobsters when she was hiding at home, waiting for her bruises to heal after being visited by a shady guy who stole her cash and insisted on protecting her business interest in exchange for the life of her mom. Molly got arrested quite a while after those events, and she didn’t tell a single thing about anyone who played her game. But does this really look like the truth? Or does it look more like she was recruited by the FBI beforehand, facilitated a mafia mission, and then got permission to tell a certain story?
And, finally, why should you never do it like Molly Bloom? The answer is simple. Because she kept on being an observer of the game, instead of taking an active part in it. It’s not that we say she should necessarily have played poker. But she ended up being someone like a highest-class waitress who catered to the addiction cravings of the richest men on Earth. And there were many times that she failed to play with the same wit and forward-thinking that her players had. That’s why Molly became the “bank,” lending money and never receiving it back. Also she eventually got exposed to the public for all the good or bad things she did, while her players stayed in the game and no one really stopped them from doing what they were doing at the times of Molly’s Game (illegal businesses). And, who knows? Maybe now there’s another secret poker room that they attend weekly, while Molly Bloom is broke and has a huge debt to the government. So the lesson of the story is this: don’t play by the rules of the games of others. Play your own game!
A lot of people keep asking us: “Does this book tell us the truth about Molly Game? Did celebs like Ben Affleck and Tobey Maguire really play underground high-stakes poker?” And the answer is yes: the story of the 26-year-old assistant in the most exclusive poker games of the world really did happen in real life. But you have to understand that many names were changed in the story for the sake of privacy. Also, the film carries some dramatic exaggerations that Aaron Sorkin thought would be more suitable for portraying the story the way he saw it.
Viper Room club is famous place where Hollywood elite like Jennifer Aniston, Angelina Jolie, Jared Leto spend their time. In the 1990s, it was partly owned by the actor Johnny Depp; but he relinquished his ownership, after a lawsuit about the disappearance of one of the co-owners. Right now, Viper Room continues to be a venue for music concerts, including mostly underground music. In the basement where Molly’s poker took place, is now a whiskey bar.
She was sentenced to a year of probation, a 200,000 fine, and 200 hours of community service.
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