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Manhattan Fold ’Em

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Poker was experiencing a TV moment, with shows like Ultimate Poker Challenge and Celebrity Poker Showdown. Everyone in Hollywood with the cash wanted in on the old Viper Room game. A few famous players, like Illya Trincher, found their way into Molly’s game. So did Illya’s brother Eugene and Eddie Ting. “They’re all from New York,” a former regular says. “And anyone who came into the game, they either had to know Molly or, if a player brought them in, their names would have gone into Molly’s Rolodex.”

Other players, like Bradley Ruderman, were recruited directly by Bloom herself. Ruderman was a hedge-fund manager with his own company and a house in Malibu near Rick Salomon’s. He met Bloom when she arranged some games at Salomon’s house. He was a handsome guy but awkward with women (a friend of Bloom’s says she eventually even tried to set him up on dates). He played for almost three years. He never won, and some nights he would lose six figures—at one point Maguire tried to get him a few books on poker. To settle his debts, Ruderman wrote checks, but he never brought checks to the game; everyone knew Molly would get the checks over to them in a couple of days. “I think Bradley Ruderman’s introduction was when it left the entertainment industry,” one player says, “and all of a sudden you had money guys and real-estate guys and it became something that it wasn’t.”

Friends noticed how Bloom’s life was changing, how ambitious she became. She dated Drew McCourt, whose father formerly owned the Los Angeles Dodgers. “I heard that kid was in love with her,” a friend says. “He came by sometimes, he never played, sweet guy. I think Molly was wrapped up in the fact that she was making her own money. Once you’re making $30,000 a night in tips, you don’t want to lose that, and you’ll do anything to protect it.”

Inevitably, a few players started to grow suspicious of her. According to at least one source, the player who started to cool on Bloom the most was Maguire. Sure, she wasn’t raking, not formally, but the fortune she was making in tips was starting to seem like a rake. “Some of the guys in the game were getting agitated about the amount of money that was being made,” one regular says. “People said, ‘The big tipping’s got to stop.’ ” Bloom felt like she was being edged out. “Molly was not being treated properly in L.A.,” a close friend says. “There were a lot of people that were jealous.”

When she announced she was moving to New York City to manage poker games there, the game she’d made famous moved back into private houses. Everyone was relieved: Once again, she had taken care of every detail for them.

New York didn’t turn out the way Bloom had planned. She had a few contacts from the L.A. game, including one older Wall Street guy who had been hosting an informal game of his own for years. But Bloom soon learned how unique Maguire’s game had been; there was no such thing as a game with a $100,000 buy-in in New York. The New York players who encountered Bloom were impressed by her legend at first, but they found her a little too brash. “She was aggressive about maximizing her personal earnings from the games,” one player says. “She would be forthright in letting players know what she expected in terms of tips.” So for the first time, she started running raked games so she could make something approaching what she used to make in L.A.

Then, in 2011, she became more notorious than she’d ever wanted to be. Ruderman had turned out to be a mini-Madoff, the architect of a $44 million Ponzi scheme, and his creditors were going after her, Maguire, and a host of other players to collect more than $5.2 million from the L.A. game. The lawsuit claimed that because Bloom was not a licensed poker-game operator, the “winners” of the games had no contractual right to their take. In a deposition, Ruderman named Maguire, Cassavetes, and A-Rod—the only player to consistently deny his involvement. (Maguire may have been comforted, at least, when Ruderman told the FBI that the star was the best player among them.) Bloom named Salomon, Maguire, and Joe Francis in her deposition. Nearly all of the defendants settled.

As for Bloom, Ruderman accused her of being “very aggressive to get me to keep playing,” taking advantage of him because he was “not a good gambler.” Ruderman’s creditors were going after the $473,200 he allegedly paid to Bloom in various checks. (She settled for $30,000 in early 2012.) “The checks to Molly were probably just a pass-through to repay others in the game,” one former L.A. regular says. “She was simply helping do the books. He put her in that position. And the people in court, they didn’t care about that. They treated her just like the players.”


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