Everyone in the poker community is enthralled with the legends that come out regarding high stakes cash game poker. Whether conducted in the dusty saloons and riverboats of the 19th century or online in the 21st century, these games still have the ability to draw people in, entranced by the millionaire (or billionaire) players throwing seven-figure sums about as if they were matchsticks. A recent book could have blown the lid off of these games but is a middling effort that could have been much better.
For almost a decade Molly Bloom, the sister of Olympian/football star Jeremy Bloom, acted as the organizer for the biggest cash game in first Los Angeles and then New York City. In the L. A. game businessmen, Hollywood’s elite (producers and actors) and professional players took part in the festivities; in New York, the “kings of Wall Street” were joined by professional gamblers of all sorts. Bloom attempts to capture her recollections of this nearly decade-long run in her tell-all “Molly’s Game.”
I will admit that I went into reading the book with a bit of reservation. I generally am not fond of “tell-all” stories simply because those that are named in the tome have no defense against what the author writes about. With this said, there were some things that I found in “Molly’s Game” that made it worth my time.
First off, Bloom hustled her ass off, making it seem as if she was born to be not only an organizer but an outstanding businesswoman. From the first time the game is plopped in her lap (by a boss that sounded somewhere between Captain Hook and the Marquis de Sade), Bloom showed that she was more than able to make the games work by keeping attention on the amenities that she provided. While it sometimes was simply food, drink and/or “attention” (I’ll let the reader discover what that entailed), it also stretched to organizing junkets to Las Vegas, where the money truly rolled, and making sure that each player was taken care of. This was something that I did find to be an admirable trait for Bloom in the fact that, as a businesswoman, she was constantly trying to improve the product while keeping the current customers happy.
For being the consummate professional “poker organizer,” Bloom was well-compensated for her role. She continually notes throughout the book that a rake was never taken (something that would have made the games illegal) but that some of the players in the game were more than generous in their tips (at some points, Bloom states she was pulling in six figures per game).
The problem that I had with the book was that it sometimes delved into almost “Dear Diary” entries about her rise. She constantly makes reference to where she came from (not exactly a poor background) and how she became intoxicated with the money, power, travel and the persons who participated in the game. Bloom was also wont to constantly talk about how her “face flushed,” her stomach had “butterflies” or how her personal and love lives were affected by her job (she goes into detail about romantic entanglements with the son of former Los Angeles Dodgers’ owner Frank McCourt and the youngest son of Vadim Trincher). These I could have done without as it would have given more time to the actual games themselves.
Coming off as the hugest douche of her group (according to Bloom’s writing) was actor Tobey Maguire. Bloom acquiesces to nearly all of his demands for playing in her game (knowledge of who was playing and usage of a shuffling machine that he provided for a fee, among others) and Maguire ended up screwing Bloom in the end. First, he attempts to force her to earn a meager tip of $1000 (with more than a quarter million of his money in the game) by making her sit on a table and bark for it. Then, he pushes her out of the game because he believes that she is making “too much” money through her tips. While Maguire has proven to be very impersonal during his trips to the World Series of Poker (to the point of being quite the jerk), these steps (if true) go way over the line.
The ending of the book isn’t the Cinderella-story that maybe even Bloom expected. Arrested as a part of the Russian sports betting ring in 2012 that saw nearly three dozen people taken into custody by federal authorities (in particularly in New York but stretching around the world), Bloom’s world suddenly came crashing down around her. In December 2013, Bloom pled guilty to a charge of misdemeanor illegal gambling and received a suspended six month jail sentence and probation (plus a sizeable fine) instead of any physical time in jail.
“Molly’s Game” is what you might expect from someone who, faced with the loss of millions of dollars in income, would do once they can’t perform their job. While Bloom is admirable in her acumen in becoming the “Poker Princess,” there isn’t enough meat to the stories she relates about her run. “Molly’s Game” isn’t the worst book about high stakes poker games that you could read, but it isn’t exactly one that “exposes” the high stakes world either.