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Manhattan Fold ’Em

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By then, most of what Bloom made in L.A. had evaporated. In June 2010, she was served with a $116,133 lien for unpaid taxes on her New York revenue, which she had declared as “catering” income.

The only way Bloom thought she could make money in New York, a source says, was to start as many smaller games as she could. The buy-ins went down to $10,000, then $5,000. That’s when the trouble began. The main problem, according to one source, was that her players were never rich enough. “She was dealing with a tougher crowd that needed financing, credit, that sort of thing.” Bloom started receiving threats, which she didn’t take seriously at first. “She didn’t understand until very late how deeply she was resented and how great the lengths were that people would go to stab her in the back,” says a friend.

In the fall of 2010, two men reportedly burst into her apartment and started beating her before she gave them what money she had lying around. Reports called the men Eastern European, but Bloom told one friend they were Italians, perhaps an unrelated criminal ring that she’d unwittingly upset. “She had black eyes and was black and blue all over her face,” says a friend. “From what I know, it was over some kind of raked game she was staging.”

By the next year, the Feds had begun to crack down on online poker sites across the country in an unprecedented sweep, making the demand for private games even stronger. And Bloom had allegedly forged alliances with a set of wealthier, more powerful partners.

Illya Trincher is seven years younger than Molly Bloom, but they both made their names in the poker scene at about the same time. No one seemed to know where the Trincher family’s money came from, but there seemed to be enough of it for Illya to buy his way into all the bigger tournaments at just the age of 18, without ever having worked his way up from smaller games. “The fact that Illya just showed up and the fact that he had all this money raised a few eyebrows,” says one source.

In 2007, Illya appeared on the Game Show Network’s High Stakes Poker and had become a regular t high-limit tables at the Borgata and the Bellagio in Las Vegas. “He was a pretty good poker player,” remembers Doyle Brunson, a legendary player from Texas. “We all bet on sports, too, and he was knowledgeable about that. I heard stories about his dad,” he says with a chuckle, “but as long as I’ve known Illya, he couldn’t have been a nicer guy.”

In L.A., Illya was welcomed at Bloom’s game. One player remembers Illya losing everything he had one night on a quarter-million-dollar pot. He wasn’t a regular, but he and other New York–based players came often enough to be remembered. The recession didn’t seem to slow the family down; in 2009, Vadim spent $5 million for a three-bedroom Trump Tower apartment. Twelve floors below that condo was a bachelor pad occupied by a young art dealer named Helly Nahmad.

Helly was a little older than Illya, but like him, he had a wealthy father: David Nahmad, the patriarch of a Syrian Jewish family that owns a tremendous collection of art in Geneva, estimated to be worth $3 billion. For several years, Helly, a Dalton dropout, has owned his own art gallery in the Carlyle Hotel, and he and his father are responsible for millions of dollars in art sales. The Nahmads also have an affinity for poker. Helly’s younger brother Joseph once said his father encouraged him to play poker in Monte Carlo when he was 16, as a way of learning about business. “He thought … I would learn a lot about life, about the real world,” he later said. “I really learned a lot of things—how people are, how people, when they are desperate and have nothing to lose, will fuck you over at all costs.”

Prosecutors say that Helly and Illya were friends and collaborators in an illegal gambling business that encompassed both sports betting and bookmaking. The money to finance the organization allegedly came from their wealthy fathers (though David Nahmad was not named in the indictment). Vadim is accused of laundering more than $50 million in sports-gambling proceeds through shell companies in Cyprus and the United States, and Helly’s gallery in the Carlyle Hotel stands accused of investing in the gambling business. Helly also allegedly oversaw wire transfers from his father’s bank account in Switzerland. While Helly’s involvement appears to be strictly financial, prosecutors say Illya helped with the collection of debts, allegedly through extortion and threats. He is accused of taking 50 percent of one debtor’s Bronx plumbing company in lieu of payment. And according to prosecutors, Vadim was taped on a phone call in which he warned a customer who owed money to be careful, lest he be tortured or found underground. The indictment includes a branch manager at JPMorgan Chase who allegedly helped Illya split up a big transaction into several smaller ones to fall below bank reporting thresholds.


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