From Riches to Untold Riches: The Rise and Fall of the Notorious ‘Poker Princess’ Molly Bloom

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📖 Published on: July 10th, 2024

✍️ Updated: July 10th, 2024

⏳ 11 mins read

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Molly Bloom might have forever changed the world of poker as we know it – but whether she changed it for better or for worse, it’s up to you to decide. But we can all agree on one thing: the girl’s got style and spunk! What motivated her, and why did she abruptly do an about-face from skiing to gambling, two wholly different worlds? Perhaps it’s the money, because Molly Bloom’s net worth today is reputed to be $500,000, but sources say this is not enough, especially when you consider her true earnings during her poker stint and her royalties for the book that she authored, which was subsequently turned into a Hollywood movie of the same title, Molly’s Game.

We’ll go on a fascinating, in-depth journey into Molly’s world – then and now – and perhaps, we’ll also find out the reasons why she became the so-called poker madam to the rich and famous.

As a young girl on the cusp of womanhood, Molly Bloom seemed to have it all. And, at one point, she did have it all: she was a well-known athlete, a competitive skier who had qualified to represent the US as a member of the National Ski Team, and she was being groomed to go on the Olympics. In fact, it was all but done, and Molly was on the verge of qualifying when all her Olympic dreams went down the drain as she suffered a devastating injury. That was the end of it, or so the general public thought. But what makes Molly’s story equally intriguing is that, in April of 2013, she was accused of operating an underground poker game from her home in New York – but her involvement with illegal poker stretched back for years before that, when she was reputed to run illegal gatherings with high rollers and A-list celebrities in LA. Her dealings with the rich and famous has since become the stuff of legend, particularly since she reportedly became rich herself - to the tune of $4 million per year at the height of the poker games’ notoriety.

What led to such an undertaking, and why did Molly do it? Maybe her early life will give us a clue, a glimpse into a high-stakes world fraught with intrigue and opulence at every turn.

 
 
 
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An early life full of promise

Molly Bloom was born to a professor and clinical psychologist father and a ski/snowboard instructor mother, who also had her own clothing line and was even a pro fly-fisher. From all indications, she was born into an upper middle-class family, with a Jewish father and a Christian mother to boot. Molly was a gifted skier, which comes as no surprise, having a mother who was also a professional athlete. But she wasn’t just athletic – she graduated BA Political Science at the top of her class (Summa cum Laude) at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

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As fate (and luck) would have it…

Molly had a somewhat mediocre start, because she came to LA in 2004 and eventually started working as a bartender. But in a twist of fate (or luck, whichever seems to fit best), she met Darin Feinstein, who was one of the infamous Viper Room owners, as he was looking for someone to host and manage a high-stakes poker game in the Viper Room’s basement. Feinstein was reportedly asked by Tobey Maguire, the actor, to hold the tournament – but it wasn’t just Maguire who was into poker at the time - industry bigwigs and other celebrities began to attend these poker games, including the likes of Macaulay Culkin, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and Leonardo DiCaprio, and a smattering of sports stars like Alex Rodriguez and businessmen such as Andy Beal. Of course, the games were frequented by famous professional poker players such as Phil Ivey and Rick Salomon as well.

And who was in charge of organizing and managing these events? No less than Molly Bloom herself. In fact, these poker events were such a big hit that she started her own foray into events and catering in 2007, primarily to host big-time poker tournaments. Molly Bloom came to be known as the ‘Poker Princess’ because of her lavish poker parties, cementing her reputation in LA as a games hostess. And it wasn’t long before Molly set her sights on The Big Apple, moving to New York in 2009 and setting up a base of operations there as well.

Perhaps it was a forerunner of things to come, but in 2011, one of the frequent players in Bloom’s LA events, Bradley Ruderman, was accused of running a Ponzi scheme. After he was convicted, the trustees of a bankruptcy case he was involved in found that he had been using a sham hedge fund in order to settle his gambling debts to Molly and a number of other players. He was sued by the trustees for $1.5 million, but there were no criminal charges.

As for Molly, it was said at the time that her poker hosting business was raking in big returns - $250,000 at every poker event. In fact, Molly made so much that the Mob wanted a share of her profits, too. They actually sent one of their own to ‘talk’ to Molly and ‘convince’ her to part with some of her takings - and this is when they, according to Molly herself in an interview with Steven Bartlett (the TV star and entrepreneur), put a gun in her mouth and beat her senseless.

Conviction for illegal gambling activities

But despite her massive takeaways from hosting and organizing these poker tournaments, the activities Molly was involved in were not destined to last. In the spring of 2013, Molly was arrested, along with 33 other individuals, over a gambling operation and money laundering scheme worth $100 million. 12 individuals were charged with racketeering, while the rest were charged with extortion, money laundering, fraud, and the operation of illegal poker rooms in the state of New York. Molly faced a serious penalty consisting of a $1.5 million fine (or twice the gains or amounts lost by the victims), a $200 assessment fee, and a maximum of 10 years in a NY penitentiary and 6 years’ probation or watched release.

It didn’t come as a surprise, therefore, when Molly pleaded guilty in December of 2013 to the charge of operating illegal and unregulated poker games. At the sentencing, Jesse M. Furman, the US District Judge in charge of the case, sentenced Molly to one year of probation followed by 200 hours of community service and a penalty of $125,000, but no jail time. Jim Walden, Molly’s lawyer, further stated at the sentencing that even though Molly made around $1 million in tips and her share of the pot, she distributed it as tips to the other workers and was, in fact, in debt up to her eyeballs. Walden also stated that Molly was ordered to go into the gambling business by one of her bosses at a real estate firm in LA.

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What lies ahead for Molly Bloom?

Since her conviction and sentencing, Molly Bloom has seemingly turned her life around and is now involved in legitimate pursuits, most notably a stint as executive producer and host of Torched, which is a 2022 podcast series about controversies surrounding sports events like the Olympics. As mentioned earlier, Molly’s story was turned into a movie, Molly’s Game, after Molly herself published an autobiographical memoir of the same title. Molly was portrayed by Jessica Chastain, and the film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Molly is also a mother to a daughter born in 2022, after a total of nine rounds of in vitro fertilization, which she talked about and shared extensively on her Instagram account.

There are still many whys to Molly Bloom’s story, but we can guess why she did what she did, in part. Molly made a huge amount of money from her earnings, which came mostly in the form of ‘gifts’ from the players, even though she never took part in the poker games herself. There is a lot of speculation regarding Molly Bloom’s net worth at the time, but rumors have it that at one point, she was worth $4 million to $6 million. She was reputed to be making up to $4 million a year while the poker events went on, and, for all intents and purposes, it seems like a greater portion of those funds made it through her ordeal and survive to this day.

But maybe it’s just not about the money per se. Maybe Molly Bloom also did it because of necessity, for survival – because it’s tough to try to make it in a cutthroat world and she did what she had to do - she grabbed an opportunity and ran with it. Or perhaps she felt the thrill of the game, a longing to be in the midst of the action. But we’d also like to think she did it for herself, and she knew all along that sooner or later, the sh*t was gonna hit the fan, so she might as well make the most of it. Whatever her reasons are, she is now reaping notoriety and her share of supporters as we speak.

It goes without saying that Molly Bloom’s life is a series of ups and downs and twists and turns, but we believe the moral of the story, after all is said and done, is that everybody has a chance to turn their life around and find their true calling – and even if it takes a whole lot of lessons, all you have to do is pick yourself up and dust yourself off – and try again.

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