Molly Bloom’s Odyssey: One Woman’s Voyage though LA’s High Stakes Poker Scene
Depending on your frame of reference the name Molly Bloom either brings up thoughts of the classic novel “Ulysses” by James Joyce, or you may have seen some of the stories from the past few years about Molly Dubin Bloom running an underground poker game in Los Angeles. The game involved notable names such as Tobey Maguire, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. This article, as you’d probably expect, is about the second of these Molly’s.
Late last year, Molly Bloom had pled guilty to running an illegal high stakes poker game for a range of Hollywood movers and shakers. In Federal Court last week she was sentenced to a $1,000 fine and a year of probation for her part in running the game. She also agreed to forfeit $125,000 as part of her deal. 34 people, including well known poker player Abe Mosseri, were indicted in this case. The Russian Mob was thought to also have a hand in organising and running the game.
This June, Molly is releasing a book that exposes what happened at this celebrity filled game she used to run. The book isn’t being released by a small publisher either, industry heavyweight HarperCollins are behind the release. The HarperCollins led marketing machine kicked into gear pretty much straight after the court case had ended, and the New York Observer ran a rather large article that launched the marketing efforts for the book.
The Publisher’s website has the release date of the 24th of June, along with a synopsis of the book, which starts with this:
“Molly Bloom reveals how she built one of the most exclusive, high-stakes underground poker games in the world—an insider’s story of excess and danger, glamour and greed.”
“In the late 2000s, Molly Bloom, a twentysomething petite brunette from Loveland Colorado, ran the highest stakes, most exclusive poker game Hollywood had ever seen—she was its mistress, its lion tamer, its agent, and its oxygen. Everyone wanted in, few were invited to play.”
Although this publisher “blurb” makes the book sound like a plot for a trashy straight to DVD Romance Movie, what I’ve read and heard about the book says that it’s actually a pretty realistic portrayal of the poker scene. What the book doesn’t shy away from is, naming names. Apparently Ben Affleck and Matt Damon get treated well, but a lot of the negativity in the book is focused on Tobey Maguire.
Some of the juicy revelations in the book were hinted at in The New York Observer piece. It seems that Tobey staked some of his well known friends (such as Leonardo DiCaprio) to sit in the game, in order to attract some other players to the table. Who wouldn’t want to sit at a table that including some of the biggest names in Hollywood?
Tobey also a took on the large debts of a player, Houston Curtis. Curtis had lost close to a million dollars. Maguire bailed out the TV Executive, and Curtis continued to play in the games as Tobey’s staked player. His winnings in the game being used to pay off the large debt.
Curtis is a close friend of Molly Bloom, and apparently holds no ill will towards Maguire. He told the New York Observer:
“It’s very simple what happened. There was one bad night at the tables. We were playing poker and I got buried in a game and the games played big. That night I lost a million dollars. I met with Tobey about it and scratched out a deal that allowed me to keep playing. He didn’t pay the full million; he put up 600,000 of it. I would pay him 50% of my wins until he was paid back and then he’d also get 50% of my wins for a year after. He knew that long-term I was gonna win in that game cuz that’s what him and I did in that game – we won.
So my losses were on me; my wins went to both of us. Tobey makes good deals for himself, he prides himself on that. I paid him back in full within two months, but it became an impossible deal to keep playing under because think about it. I play one night and win $100,000 — $50,000 goes to Tobey. I play the next night and win $100,000 — $50,000 goes to Tobey. I play a third night and lose $100,000. That’s on me. So I win two of three nights but I end up with nothing and Tobey gets $100,000… “Eventually it got to where I couldn’t play anymore. At the very end of it, I owed him about $300,000 from the wins and I told him I was quitting. He told me, ‘listen, I was never going to keep all those wins anyway.’ I think for Tobey it was more the thrill of knowing he’d made a good deal. He knew I was having trouble with my business and said don’t worry about the $300,000”
Life wasn’t all a bed of roses for Curtis during this time. He suffered a heart attack, which some attribute to the deal he and Maguire come up with in order to manage hi losses. Curtis denies this, and says that his heart attack had much more to do with his stressful day job than his recreational poker dealings.
While Maguire may get the short end of the stick in the book for this kind of antic, his skill at the poker table doesn’t seem to be in doubt. Maguire’s Hendon Mob page may not have any entries since 2007, but it includes three deep World Series of Poker cashes, the biggest being a 292nd place in the 2007 Main Event for $39,445. His only title is shown as the 2004 Phil Hellmuth Invitational. This $2,000 + 80 event was designed for TV, but did see Tobey win $95,480 for being the last man standing.
It seems that the book is going to present Tobey as a Shark at this game, shooting angles in order to increase his edge. From what I’ve seen so far, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Yes, he staked his friends to play in the game in order to invite action, but creating a soft game isn’t that unusual. Just watch the pros flock to the soft tables with the rich businessmen next time you’re in Vegas. It makes a school of Piranhas look positively cute by comparison.
He made a deal that was significantly in his favour with a player who had just lost big. Seems to me to be a good bit of business, after all, no-one was pointing a gun at Curtis (at least as far as we know).
It seems this book is going to be deliberately sensationalist in order to sell copies, and with names like Tobey Maguire, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, it’s probably going to make both Molly Bloom and HarperCollins a lot of money.