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The high-stakes life of the poker scene can be too much for ordinary people but never for Poker Princess, Molly Bloom. Without even having the slightest knowledge of the rules of poker and how it is played, she single-handedly dominated the underground poker scene and built an empire of her own.
Who is this so-called ‘poker princess’ who ruled the zero-sum underground casino industry? Find out about her story and which of your favourite celebrities frequented her poker den.
Since they were young, Molly’s father, Larry Bloom, made sure that Molly and her brothers were all top-notch qualifying athletes in their respective sports.
Molly had a blooming career in sports, ranking third in the North American Cup for freestyle mogul skiers and even managed to be part of the US ski team. However, due to a life-threatening accident that injured her back, her dreams of becoming an Olympic athlete came to a halt.
She recovered from the injury but it made her reassess how she wanted to continue on with her life. It was then that she realised there’s more to life than skiing and being in the shadows of her brothers.
Right after graduating summa cum laude in BS Political Science from the University of Colorado, she jumped into her car, went to LA and started waitressing in high-end restaurants for celebrities and rich influencers.
It wasn’t easy for Molly to move to Los Angeles but there was no other option left for her. At first, her goal was to establish herself before starting Law School until the glitz and glamour of the city made her stay for good.
After moving into a new city, she met Darin Feinstein, the co-owner of the Viper Room in 2004. However, she never mentioned Feinstein but referred to him as Reardon Green in her memoir, ‘Molly’s Game’.
The Viper Room was a prominent club in Los Angeles where A-list celebrities and business moguls spend their money on drinks, women and poker. It was originally co-owned by Johnny Depp in the late 90s but the ownership often changed until it was handed over to Feinstein. He managed to build a small poker game room in the basement with different celebrities coming and going every week.
Molly’s mentor, Feinstein, was not a pleasant employer as he often screamed at her when she made small and simple mistakes. In Molly’s recollection, she often said how he was hard on her and never gave her slack while she was working for him as an assistant.
Molly had no prior knowledge of poker and the underground scene. So, it came as a surprise to her when Feinstein gave her the Viper Room poker game around 2005. She started small by organising the game’s music, food, and sending invites to the most famous people in Los Angeles.
In the first poker night she hosted, Molly met celebrity poker players Toby Maguire, Leonardo di Caprio, and Todd Philipps, and billionaires and business moguls like Bob Safai and Philip Whitford who all ruthlessly played poker in the basement of the Viper Room.
At first, she had no idea what blind bets were, let alone the community cards dealt during the flop, river and turn. However, that didn’t deter her from learning. While the game went on, she kept tabs on the buy-in and googled terms she was unfamiliar with.
The more she organised the games for her mentor, the deeper she got into this whirlwind empire of the underground LA poker games. On her first night, she earned US$3,000 in tips and then a lot more in the succeeding poker tournaments.
It didn’t take long for Molly Bloom to take over the Viper Room game. One day, instead of handing it over to Feinstein, she went behind his back and organised a game in the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills. The bigger her game became, the more prominent her reputation grew thus earning the nickname Poker Princess from the press.
Through her achievements, she eventually earned Feinstein’s respect. She was able to recruit a lot more A-list celebrities as regulars and edged him out of the game in the Viper Room basement he owned, which impressed him.
Tobey Maguire, who caught the hearts of millions by playing Spider-Man, was one of Molly’s most frequent players and who she considered as one of the most influential people in her game.
Stone-cold and ruthless, Maguire relished in cold-blooded victories against his opponents, as described by Molly. She even included in her memoir that he once offered her a US$1,000 tip if she would embarrass herself and bark like a seal atop the poker table.
Movie A-listers like Ben Affleck and poker legend Rick Salomon were also part of Molly’s infamous game. Salomon, who became popular after his illicit video with Paris Hilton went viral, made advances on Bloom but she turned the offer down.
Her luck eventually ran out in 2009 when Tobey Maguire pushed her out of the LA poker scene. One night, all her regulars decided to continue the game at someone else’s house instead of joining Molly’s organised game at the Beverly Hills hotel.
Molly recalled that the actor was even gleeful as he told her that she got kicked out of the game she had so desperately built from the ground up in the Viper Room.
Molly Bloom managed to get back on her feet and continued her reign as the Poker Princess. Leaving her painful memories in LA behind, she then moved to Manhattan, New York a few months after she was ousted out of her own game in 2009.
With the help of Wall Street tycoon, Kenneth Redding, she met the top executives of the New York gambling scene. It wasn’t easy but she reestablished her status as the Poker Princess by hosting games in the Four Seasons located downtown.
With her top promoter girls and professional card dealers, she once again dominated the poker scene in New York, bigger than how she did in LA. The revered Poker Princess found herself running different poker games every week and with a little bit of sports betting on the side.
Her poker ring included the biggest businessmen in the United States, especially since Wall Street was right around the corner. However, trouble brewed when Molly got tied with the Russian mafia in 2010.
When her New York games were gaining prominence, two Russian men Molly named ‘Nicky’ and ‘Vinny’ in her memoir approached her for a partnership. The men offered her services that included street protection both from criminals and authorities. They were also extending help in collecting payment from stiff gamblers for a cut of a portion of her profits.
After getting tangled up with the Russian mafia, the poker princess found herself down to her knees with a gun to her mouth in her own apartment after one of the mobsters was displeased that she refused to partner with them for protection.
According to her memoir, the mobster entered her apartment, threatened her life and stole her jewels and cash. However, Molly Bloom wanted nothing to do with their business. Luck was on her side because a few weeks after her brush off with the mobster, the FBI arrested the mob network in 2011.
All victories eventually come to an end even for Molly Bloom, Poker Princess. Her famous game that lasted from 2005 up until 2011 was raided by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) forcing her to flee from New York and move back home to Colorado.
Moreover, the government took her money, making it hard for her to gather funds for her arraignment. All her years of hard work in the poker scene were lost after the formal hearing of her case. However, she was lucky enough to only be sentenced to one-year probation with a US$1,000 fine and 200 hours of community service.
She decided to put all of her poker adventures behind and wrote a book entitled ‘Molly’s Game’ detailing her blissful days as the reigning Poker Princess. Eventually, Hollywood auteur Aaron Sorkin took notice of her story and turned it into one of the most compelling casino movies in 2017. The movie earned an Academy Award for best screenplay the year after it was released.
Now, Molly is living her best life away from it all, relishing the old days when she ruled the underground poker scene during her talks as a motivational speaker.
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Words by: Sunday Carreon