The movie Molly’s Game has been in US theaters for just over 3 weeks. For those that don’t know Molly’s Game is a movie that chronicles the story of the high stakes poker game runner Molly Bloom. It is based on her autobiography titled cleverly enough Molly’s Game. Admittedly I have not read the book but I did see the movie. Some rave over its story, with a few even calling it the best poker movie ever. I found it to be an ok movie, but its overall impact on the poker world and the women in poker will likely be negligible; I could even go so far as to say it downgrades female poker players and contributions to the male dominated profession?
Molly Bloom was a US Olympic Skier who endured a career ending spinal injury. The movie opens with her as a child, practicing and then fast forwards to the ski accident. With her career over, Ms. Bloom moves to LA where she begins working for Hollywood power broker. As part of her duties she organizes a weekly poker game between some of the biggest actors, movie agents and Hollywood executives in the business.
Her boss soon fires her, but before doing so she hijacks her bosses list of Hollywood’s biggest poker players. She begins running a high stakes games at a 5 star hotel, working solely on tips and never taking a rake. According to the film she entices top business executives, and hedge fund managers with opportunities to rub elbows with some of the most famous movies stars in the world. And she did that for almost two years, until her she ruffles the feathers of a top movie star, (who is never named in the book or the movie). But during her time running the game in LA she manages to save a few hundred thousand dollars on tips from winning players.
With her LA prospects terminated Molly then moves to Manhattan and sets ups another high stakes poker game. This time she entices potential players with high stakes and beautiful women. The game gains traction and becomes possibly the biggest high stakes game on the eastern sea board. All the while Ms. Bloom stays above board never taking a rake on the game and working exclusively on tips.
The game becomes so popular that it attracts very high stake players. This includes business men, CEOs, Pro athletes, old money heirs and of course the biggest players in the criminal underworld; though Molly claims that she had no idea who these members of the nefarious enterprises were.
Molly extends credit to players and is leveraged to the point that she decides she has mediate her risk by taking a rake on the games. This is when she breaks the law and the feds come after her. There are some additional odds and ends but this is a general summary.
Ms. Bloom’s success was predicated on her sexuality. It’s as simple as that. She was an early 20s athletic brunet bombshell who was taking a couple of years off before going to Law School. The story itself has no real value. There is no underlying theme to the story. There is no good versus evil, no coming of age, no underdog aspect that a movie patron can grab a hold of. There is simply a sexy woman who ran poker games. The movie orbits around how she was unwilling to name the people at her poker games. Well unfortunately getting paid (exceptional amounts of money) to not see things is not a special skill. A friend of mine once worked in Butler Services at CAESARS Palace in Las Vegas and he says the things he saw and who he saw doing them would astonish you. People in those positions are paid not to remember things.
Molly’s Game regulates women to supporting roles in the poker world. Hostesses and pretty faces is what Molly’s Game displays women as. There is a feeble attempt to make Molly Bloom to be a brilliant business minded women, with a superior intellect. There are shots of her skimming over law books and reciting passages from classic plays in an attempt to portray how smart she is. Ms. Bloom is a hustler. It’s as simple as that. No elusive skill set was used attain her position. Using pretty girls to get what you want from wealthy and powerful men is nothing new. The honey trap is a well known tactic among government intelligence agencies, because it works.
There things that the movie touches on that anyone who has spent even a small amount of time in gaming are well aware of; as well as things that can be pretty reasonably derived from anyone who thinks about gaming for even a few minutes. The first is high stakes poker games exist. Next—degenerate gamblers exist and often ruin their own lives as well as the lives around them. Another thing is that cheating exists. Lastly, anytime you are dealing with large amounts of cash, you are going to mingle with the criminal element of society, and often times it’s the biggest criminals in society.
Some of the elements of the original story have likely been embellished for cinematic value, this is expected. The core story is unoriginal and doesn’t give any insight into the world of pro gambling. Will it help poker? Maybe, maybe not; what we do know is the movie struggles to recoup its 30 million dollar budget, yielding only about 16 million in ticket sales to date. If you do see it, don’t expect too much and you will not be disappointed.
Author: Nicholas G. Colon Nicholas is the Managing Director of Alea Consulting Group, a casino gaming consulting firm with a player centric philosophy. It is staffed with world class players, gaming authors, mathematicians, top legal minds and a variety of industry professionals. He is also a leading casino gaming industry writer.