When it comes to amazing bet stories, you’ll often find that there is more than an element of ‘fishermen’s tales’ involved, with players exaggerating the truth for dramatic effect. Yet, when it comes to the new movie Molly’s Game, the truth is far stranger than fiction.
The new movie is released at the end of November, and is written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, who won an Oscar for writing The Social Network as well as countless awards for The West Wing. But Sorkin’s screenplay is based entirely on the true-life memoir of Molly Bloom, the former Olympic standard skier who ran what is thought to be the world’s most exclusive poker games in LA and New York.
The book, titled ‘Molly’s Game: From Hollywood’s Elite to Wall Street’s Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker’, has a cast list that any Hollywood movie would be proud of. Her regular players included everyone from Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire to Hollywood’s best-known best friends, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.
The movie has a pretty impressive cast too, including Idris Elba, Kevin Costner and Jessica Chastain, whom Molly Bloom personally requested to play her in the film. In classic Hollywood parlance, however, the names of the players have all been changed to protect the innocent — and perhaps the not so innocent.
The story charts Molly’s rise from being waitress at a backroom poker game held at the famous Viper Room, to running her own tables at some of America’s most exclusive hotels. From being dumbstruck by the arrival of Leonardo DiCaprio, to rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous on a weekly basis, Molly’s story is one of meteoric success.
While most of us are happy to play our poker online, from the comfort of home, there is a certain visceral draw to the face-to-face game, especially when it involves egos as big as those from Hollywood or Wall Street. It was this dynamic that Molly exploited so well, pitching star against star and banker against banker.
At her peak, she was raking in $4m a year, with her poker games demanding as much as a $250,000 buy-in. She shopped on Rodeo Drive and 5th Avenue, drove a Bentley and chartered private planes to get around. Her games were the talk of the town and attracted the elite to be a part of the action. “The size of the game, how much money was at stake, was insane,” she comments in her memoir.
In LA, her film star clients would regularly play hands of up to a quarter of a million dollars, and when she moved her operation to New York, the numbers got even more incredible, with sums as high as $4million changing hands on the flip of a card.
Unfortunately, Molly’s largesse was ultimately her downfall, as she crossed the line to keep her games going. She was arrested in a dawn raid by 17 FBI agents wielding automatic weapons, and was ultimately fined $125,000 and given a year’s probation. More importantly, her assets were seized in the investigation, dwarfing the cost of the fine imposed.
Ironically, her plea of guilty to the federal charges meant that she almost missed the premier of her own life story at the Toronto International Film Festival. In the end, she was allowed into Canada for only 48 hours under a special pass.
Like all good poker players, Molly is picking herself up from her defeat, and she is now planning to use her experience to mentor young female entrepreneurs in how to succeed in a man’s world. After years of studying them up close at the table, she will surely have some interesting insights to share.
If you want to find out more about Molly’s Game, her book is out now, and the movie is due for release on 22nd November.