Feature photo credit: Illustration by DarrowAAxioms sound simple in theory, but prove difficult in practice. Mindful mothers warn: “If you play with fire, you’re bound to get burned.” “Much wants more and loses all.” “You can pick your friends and you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose.” In her newly released tell-all “Molly’s Game,” Molly Bloom succumbs to those nasty little boogers greed, pride and envy. She does a good job of staying out of other people’s affairs – keeping her fingers out of their noses – that is, until the release of her tell-all book.
Molly’s memoir, which details her run as the organizer of high profile, high stakes private poker games, gets all up in the olfactory orifices of heavyweight hitters from Wall Street to Hollywood. She mines gold with some, and others – namely one Tobias Vincent Maguire – she digs till it bleeds.
A native of a small town in Colorado, far removed from the Los Angeles, New York City, Hamptons and Las Vegas she jet sets between in her account, Bloom grew up in a supportive, competitive environment. Her father, a psychologist, pushed her and her brothers Jeremy and Jordan to succeed. Jeremy became an Olympic skier, professional football player and Abercrombie & Fitch cover model. Jordan chose medicine.
The typical suitcase and a dream plot device, poker players would call it a chip and a chair, Molly moved to LA in 2003 and took a job as a waitress at a restaurant she calls Boulevard with a proprietor she calls Reardon Green. She soon became Reardon’s; real name Darin Feinstein, personal assistant. Feinstein, a real estate investor, had just purchased a stake in the Viper Room, the famed Sunset Strip nightclub. He charged her with organizing a No Limit Hold’em game in the basement with blinds at $50/$100 and guests including Tobey Maguire, Leonardo DiCaprio and Todd Phillips of “Old School” and “Hangover” notoriety.
Knowing next to nothing about poker, enterprising Molly made herself valuable in other ways by providing music, food, drink; ambiance. That first night, she pocketed $3,000 in tips and instantly, the 5’4 buxom brunette fell headlong into to her new role. She treated the ensuing games as a “lesson in economics, in psychology, in entrepreneurship, in the American dream.”
She soon removed herself from underneath Feinstein’s thumb and took on the role of a one-stop-shop concierge. Reservations for players at much talked about restaurants, Playboy Playmates as bartenders and a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel as a site to host games. She became the ultimate “yes” woman, accommodating the loftiest requests including those of mucho-millionaire Tobey Maguire who demanded that she use his $17,000 Shuffle Master and then further demanded that it come at a $200 per game rental cost. The hospitality and what had to have been multiple instances of tongue biting paid off. Molly began regularly pocketing $50,000 in tips a night.
The criminal lawyer she hired early on as a prophylactic, Wendall Winklestein she calls him in the book, told her “What you’re doing is in what we call a ‘gray area.’ It does not violate state or federal statutes, but it’s a bit undefined. You need to keep your nose clean. No drugs, no hookers, no booking sport bets or hiring muscle to collect debts…” This first indication of flames beginning to lick didn’t deter the very determined “poker princess.” Not when her bank told her to close out her account because “We just don’t want your kind of business” did she turn and run. When banks, ipso facto, don’t want your money, that’s a pretty big, bright wavy red flag.
When her professional obligations sent her romantic involvement with Drew McCourt, son of billionaire LA Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, down the crapper, she double flushed. When Tobey, whom she’d taken to calling Hannibal Lecter because of his uncanny ability to push a player off of a stronger hand, utterly demeaned her by commanding her to bark like a seal for a $1000 chip, she stayed. When he managed to black list her from the game she helped to cultivate, she picked up and started anew in New York. Not when a mafia hit man broke into her Manhattan apartment, beat her up and robbed her of her grandmother’s heirlooms did she douse the fire. She even began unabashedly participating in the illegal acts of raking and staking players.
It took the FBI at her door and an 84-page federal indictment naming 34 individuals in a racketeering conspiracy for Molly to finally fold her hand. The document charged a Russian-American organized crime enterprise with illegal sports betting and money laundering. Molly, the only woman on the list, once dated fellow defendant Eugene Trincher, son of the leader of the organization. And if that didn’t seal her coffin, another regular player at her game, hedge fund manager – and according to Molly, the “worst poker player I had ever seen” – Brad Ruderman used the money flush games to bolster a $26 million Ponzi scheme.
Molly pled guilty to charges related to her involvement in December of last year. The 36-year-old faced up to five years in prison but instead received no jail time. She forfeited her money to the tune of $125,000 and moved back to Colorado where her mother, upon welcoming her proverbially singed daughter with open arms undoubtedly said, told you so. “Molly’s Game” reads as an easy, interesting and informative cautionary tale. Worth buying, if for nothing else than girl needs the sales revenue.