When it came out in 2014, the book Molly’s Game pulled the curtains back on the high stakes poker world. Written by the ringmaster of those games, former Olympic skiing hopeful Molly Bloom, the story entranced both the poker community and the celebrity world as Bloom documented the exploits of celebrities and businessmen inside the high stakes poker games she ran. The story that Bloom told is now being challenged by a new book, with its author saying that one of the participants in Bloom’s game and he were the ones actually running the game as a way to fleece other celebrities and businessmen.
The Real Story Behind “Molly’s Game?”
According to former television producer (who also used to allegedly cheat at cards) Houston Curtis’ new book, Billion Dollar Hollywood Heist, he – along with his co-conspirator – were the ones who were running the game as a scam to get rich actors and businessmen to give up their money to them. Some of the targets of this scam, which allegedly included actors Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio and director Nick Cassavetes, played for nearly four years in the game (2005-2009). Curtis doesn’t waste any time in telling who his co-conspirator was…actor Tobey Maguire.
According to an interview with Curtis in the New York Post with writer Michael Kaplan, Curtis and Maguire would hold a Tuesday night poker game, bringing their fish to Maguire’s home in the beginning. But Maguire wasn’t comfortable holding the games in his home because of some of the peccadilloes of his playing mates; one person chewed tobacco and spit it into a cup at the table, while some of the other players would order pizza with meat, something that set Maguire (a vegan) off.
After Maguire told Curtis that he needed to “get these scumbags out of my house,” Curtis says that it was he who set up the games with Darin Feinstein at The Viper Room. Feinstein agreed to host the game and offered Bloom (whom Curtis says Feinstein called “a hot piece of ass”) as their hostess for their game at the club. Curtis then goes on to explain how, on several occasions, both he and Maguire ravaged their friends, sometimes for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Either Curtis, who hit some hard times in 2008 (and could have been his reasoning for writing the book), is embellishing the story or there’s a grain of truth to it. Kaplan and the Post attempted to contact those named by Curtis in his recounting of the tale; none of the people involved, including Maguire and Bloom, had comment.
Bloom’s Story or Curtis’ Story?
Molly’s Game, written by Bloom in 2014 after her arrest on gambling charges in New York City (as a part of a Russian gambling ring that ensnared poker professional Vadim Trincher, his son Ilya, art dealer Hillel “Helly” Nahmad, and others) in 2009 and her subsequent plea deal, opened the doors to the world of high stakes poker. But Bloom didn’t do one thing that Curtis did…name names. The only “celebrity” name she spoke of in the book was Maguire, and it wasn’t in the kindest of terms.
She noted how Maguire wanted to pick up the pace for the Bloom games, so he rented her his personal automatic shuffler. One fact that is mentioned in both the Bloom book and in Curtis’ recollections is that Maguire was supposedly jealous of the money that Bloom was making, so much so that, after one session, Maguire said he would tip her $1000 if she “barked like a seal.” Bloom states she didn’t do it and left it at that (she did comment on how offensive it was); Curtis says she didn’t do it, but Maguire still gave her the $1000 as an “insult tip.”
Bloom went on to have some excellent success with the book Molly’s Game and, in 2016, writer/director Aaron Sorkin chose the book as his first cinematic directing task. Starring Jessica Chastain as Bloom and Idris Elba as her attorney defending her against the New York gambling charges, the movie of the same name garnered excellent reviews for Chastain’s performance and kudos for the material when it was released in 2017. Chastain earned several nominations for Best Actress (including the Golden Globe Awards) and Sorkin earned nods for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Globes and the Academy Awards.
So, who is telling the truth? Is there something to the silence of the players in the game? Or are they hoping that Curtis’ tale simply drifts off into the night? It will be left up to the ultimate jury – the people – to potentially decide…or it could be an exercise in the old adage “three sides to every story.”