The life and times of Molly Bloom are so unique that it’s little wonder they were immortalized as both an autobiographyand a Hollywood movie.
Today, the 43-year-old is an entrepreneur, and the creator of a network designed to assist businesswomen in their endeavours, but this wasn’t always the case. In the past, her chaotic life led from a run as one of the most talented young ski stars in America to the hosting of a celebrity poker game in Los Angeles and beyond.
In the midst of all that came a court case like no other, with Hollywood stars, sporting legends, and other high-profile figures implicated in a $100m money-laundering suit.
It sounds like the sort of thing dreamt up by a particularly imaginative scriptwriter, but the life and times of Molly Bloom are a nod to what can happen when ordinary people get entangled in the most extraordinary world.
But what’s true and what’s fiction? Let’s dive into the facts.
Bloom was indeed an Olympic-level skier from a highly talented family.
Her mother was a professional ski instructor and businesswoman, and her father was a clinical psychologist – together, they trained Molly to the point of almost representing the USA in the downhill skiing event at the Olympic Games.
A serious ankle injury ended her career, however, and suddenly Bloom had to find a new path in life before she was barely out of her teens.
What must have made this even more difficult was that she was surrounded by high achievers. Her parents’ successes are well-documented, but to add insult to injury, Molly’s brother Jeremy did compete in the Olympics as a skier and also played in the NFLfor the Philadelphia Eagles, while her other brother Jordan is a surgeon in Massachusetts.
Talk about big shoes to fill...
Seeking a new direction in life but seemingly not knowing what to do, Bloom moved to Los Angeles in 2004 and found odd jobs as a bartender and waitress.
It was here that she met Darin Feinstein, who would become a pivotal figure in her life. Feinstein co-owned the notorious Viper Room, a hip-and-happening nightclub on the Sunset Strip, and had plenty of connections as a result.
One, the Spider-Man actor Tobey Maguire, approached Feinstein about hosting a high-stakes poker game out of the club’s basement, and the impresario agreed.
Seeking a host for his twilight endeavours, Feinstein approached Bloom – glamorous and intelligent – to manage the operation, and for a number of years they enjoyed tremendous success, attracting mega stars who are alleged to include Ben Affleck, Leonardo DiCaprio, Alex Rodriguez and the Olsen twins, as well as other stars from the world of sport, culture, business and politics.
This, remember, was largely in the days before high-roller online casinoswere widely available on mobile devices, and while the gatherings were also partly a social occasion where the great and the good could network, the truth is that most enjoyed nothing more than defeating their fellow famous faces on the felt.
Before long, Bloom was making plenty of money in tips, and she decided to strike out on her own after seeing the game’s lucrative potential.
It was no surprise when Molly Bloom Inc. was registered in 2007, and she took the VIP standards delivered in LA and expanded her empire into California and New York City.
Soon, her games were attracting stakes as high as $4m per hand, though this led to some rather nefarious characters joining the table, including money-laundering mob members.
One violent altercation with an alleged Mafia member left Bloom questioning whether hosting continued to be a worthwhile occupation.
How close Molly came to shutting down her empire only she knows, but it wasn’t too long before the decision was taken for her.
Bradley Ruderman, a high-profile businessman, was a regular player at Bloom’s LA table.
Unfortunately, and unbeknown to many, Ruderman was operating a Ponzi scheme, and some of his chip money is thought to have come from his ill-gotten gains.
A bankruptcy investigation saw Bloom implicated, and while no charges were brought against her on this instance, it wasn’t long before the authorities came snooping once more.
In April 2013, Molly and a 33-strong collective were all arrested as part of a $100m money-laundering sting, and there were also separate charges of racketeering and running illegal sports betting operation.
After more than a year of legal action, Bloom pleaded guilty to one of the lesser charges on the rap sheet and was sentenced to serve a year’s probation, 200 hours of community service, and to pay back $125,000 of her profits in fines.
Molly published her memoirs shortly after the legal proceedings ended, and they were subsequently made into a Hollywood blockbuster starring Jessica Chastain (as Molly) and Idris Elba as her lawyer.
Having crammed all of this into the first four decades of her life, it’s little wonder that Bloom has sought a slightly slower pace since.
Today, she is working in the business field, developing localized co-working spaces for women who need a foundation for launching their own companies.
Her One World Group podcastwas a treasure trove of information for those seeking help in times of adversity, and she has spoken at a number of events about her life and her learnings along the way.
In recovery after becoming addicted to drugs during her stint as the ‘Poker Princess’, Molly – along with her husband, who is also a recovering addict – is set to launch an app that will help those suffering from similar afflictions to seek the help and guidance they need.