Leadership

Molly’s playbook: Life lessons from the world’s most exclusive poker game

October 19, 2022

Molly’s playbook: Life lessons from the world’s most exclusive poker game

Molly Bloom

Entrepreneur, Speaker, and Author

Entrepreneur, speaker, and author Molly Bloom discusses how she first came to national attention running a high-stakes poker game.

On today’s Walker Webcast, Willy is joined by entrepreneur, speaker, and author Molly Bloom, who first came to national attention running a high-stakes poker game in Los Angeles’ Viper Room. She turned her story into the 2014 memoir Molly's Game, which was adapted into an Academy Award-nominated film. Since then, she’s built up a prolific speaking career and now hosts a podcast, Torched, about “the heat of competition, the cost of greatness, and our universal love for sports—and their inherent drama.”

Molly starts off with her upbringing and how it affected her career trajectory. She grew up in Colorado, graduating from the University of Colorado and training to be an Olympic skier until she was injured during the qualifiers. Growing up with two successful and intelligent brothers, she says, inspired her to do something that would have an impact on the world.

She moved to LA and worked odd jobs, including for a “tyrannical” real estate investor. These experiences taught her how to deal with unfair treatment, push herself to learn new things, understand service, and have an unrelenting work ethic.

Most importantly, she says, she learned how to solve problems and build relationships through “listening authentically and asking questions.” This skill was invaluable in growing her poker game in Los Angeles and then New York. “Even among celebrities and the super wealthy, all humans just want to feel understood,” she says, adding that she began to base her own success on how other people felt in her presence.

Success brought about “a manic desire” to keep moving up—as did the “obvious sexism” she noticed in the game of poker. She used the hurt and anger to make herself even better. And as her earnings soared, she felt “less powerless and more like a true entrepreneur.”

After the government set this new precedent for criminalizing poker, they seized all of Molly’s assets and began building a case against her. (Her poker game was only considered a crime when she began taking a portion of the pot, Molly explains.) Two years later, 17 FBI agents with machine guns came to her door to arrest her.

Fortunately, she says, her lawyer, Jim Walden, recognized she needed a second chance. “In my most vulnerable times, he brought me back to a place of integrity and optimism.” For example, when the justice department urged her to wear a wire to capture evidence against other players, she “said no from a place of integrity.”

In May 2014, after pleading guilty to reduce charges, Molly was sentenced to one year of probation, a $200,000 fine, and 200 hours of community service. She was initially relieved at not being sent to jail—but then realized her entire network and career had been ruined and that she had to get strategic in her next move. The book and the film provided that second chance. So did sobriety. She tells Willy, “For me, being sober meant facing the reality of the choices I had made and how I needed to change.”

Today, Molly is a public speaker who spreads awareness on “the importance of believing in yourself, cultivating authentic relationships, and having a growth mindset.” She and Willy close out the conversation with her sharing what she sees for her next chapter.

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